Monday, October 18, 2004


Oświęcim : crowds of bored-looking Israeli teenagers. Our guide tells us they spend a week or so going round all the sites. Birkenau (or Auschwitz II) is really sinister : open, windswept, the railway line disappearing into the trees where most of the murdering took place. The Rough Guide to Poland also recommends a visit to Birkenau to understand the scale of what happened.

Strangely enough, on returning home, the FT magazine had a piece by Monica Porter : ‘Our English-speaking guide… difficult to hear above the cacophony of guides holding forth in Italian, Polish, French, Japanese and German in the brick blocks where once the inmates lived and died in agony.’ There again, she went in July.

Kraków : a huge steelworks was built at Nowa Huta on the outskirts of the city, with the idea that the ’working-classes’ would provide an ideological counterweight to the conservative and Catholic intellectuals who dominated the old University. Of course though, they did not give up their Catholicism. The planning for housing etc. did not include any churches. However, eventually the authorities allowed a church to be built and consecrated around 1975-7. This was at the time when Karol Wojtyła was bishop of Cracow. There is a photograph in the museum of his birthplace, with apartment blocks in the background and a sea of umbrellas in the open area around the church.

I couldn’t find that picture, but here is another (credit) :

There is a better account here.


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