Eastern Europe, Day 7-Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Krakow, Poland to Auschwitz

We had a free morning in Krakow.  Before our trip began, we learned of a portrait done by Leonardo DaVinci called Lady with an Ermine. We decided to go to the National Museum to see it. Lady with an Ermine is fascinating for many reasons. The subject, sixteen-year-old Cecilia Gallerani, was the mistress of Leonardo’s employer. Her body is turned toward her right, but she is looking over her left shoulder. Cecilia is quite attractive, but the ermine, not so. She is stroking the ermine with her right hand, but  her hand seems  too large for her body. Unfortunately,  black paint was put atop the original background in the 1800s, so we will never know what it originally looked like.

We explored more of the museum. They had a collection of women’s clothing from 1850-1925. It seemed the women in Downton Abbey wore all the fashions of the later years.

Then we walked back to the town square for a quick lunch. Nick ordered smoked salmon salad, and I, baked brie with cranberry  jam. So good! Next it was time to return to our hotel to meet our fellow travelers. We boarded our bus and headed to the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau. We met with our local guide, who took us under the sign  “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which translates to  “Work Will Make You Free.” An average of 14,000 prisoners were kept at Auschwitz at a time. Birkenau was much larger, holding up to 100,000 people. At least 1.1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz between 1942 and 1945. Approximately 960,000 of then were Jewish. The lives of men who could do heavy physical labor were prolonged, but the elderly, women, children, and people  with  disabilities were all unnecessary  to the Nazi cause and were the first to be eliminated. Roma people (then called Gypsies) were also considered undesirable. Eventually,  being Polish was  a reason  for elimination.

We saw many of the  horrors with which we were familiar at Auschwitz and Birkenau, such as the unheated bunks in which the prisoners were kept. We learned of many horrors that were new to us, such as  long hair that was removed from the women prisoners to be sewn into the coats of the Nazi soldiers to keep them warm. We’ve posted photos here. Recently I saw Rick Steves being interviewed on TV, and he said he sends as many of his groups as possible to Auschwitz and Birkenau, and we understood why. As painful as this visit is, we must all know that it happened, and we must never let it happen again.

Back in Krakow, Nick and I had a quiet dinner together.

20,000 steps

1 thought on “Eastern Europe, Day 7-Tuesday, May 21, 2019

  1. I went to Thierrsenstraat near Prague which is the camp made to show Red Cross the camps were not so bad Paintings child play groups etc Pianos and music Of course they didn’t see the rest Loving this beautifully written blog

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