So firstly, I have not posted in a long while which I feel great disappointment for but owing to various circumstances I am not entirely surprised. I will now however endeavour to become as prolific at posting as I was a while ago. GCSE’s went exceedingly well and I have now progressed to A-level so one would hope that my skill at writing would be greatly improved.
In October last year I went on a short history orientated visit to Poland, which I found to be greatly influencing in terms of my outlook upon history itself. Many would know that I am first and foremost an ancient and medieval orientated historian, however on this particular trip with my philosophy and ethics class we were swamped by all too modern history. Despite this I couldn’t help but come to the realisation that we are so much more emotionally attached to the history of our grandparents and great grandparents time, that we can associate so much more easily emotion with a historical event, yet when asked to think of for example how the soldiers of both sides felt at Agincourt, it is so much more difficult to feel empathetic. But why is this so? Chances are that at many of these events we had relatives involved however distant… is it perhaps because however much we may have said ‘Never Forget’ that time fades our link to events in our ancestors past. In this case I feel that for myself at least I have found a way in which modern history can perhaps appeal to me more, and that is through the transfer of emotion from such events into those of ancient or medieval history, because although the events may not be the same… humanity at least in many cases is.
Now on to the history, as this is after all a history blog. Kraków is a city bursting with history, but the era which was most evident to us was that of the Second World War. From the 4th November 1939 it became the capital of part of Nazi Germany’s General Government which was headed by Hans Frank who was based in Wawel Castle within the city. The majority of the cities populace at this time was made up of Jews and Poles, in order to turn Kraków into the entirely German city that the Nazi’s envisioned these sectors of society were removed, this also meant the renaming of many locations and streets into German and waves of propaganda in an attempt to portray Kraków as a historically German city. Culminating in an operation called Sonderaktion Krakau more than 180 academics were arrested and sent the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. The Jewish population of the city was also confined to a ghetto (part of the wall of which still stands) where a great many died from both starvation and illness. Of those who did not die in the Ghetto many were subsequently murdered or sent to the concentration camps of Płaszów and Auschwitz. One key resident of Kraków was Oskar Schindler who is credited with saving a great many lives through selecting employees from the Ghetto to work in his enamelware plant thus saving them from the horrors of the concentration camps. Although looted Kraków remained quite undamaged by the end of the war and thus much of the cities historical legacy was saved. On the 18th January 1945 Soviet Forces entered the city, and freed it ultimately from German occupation.
My visit to Kraków and the areas other historic sites was certainly enlightening and the vast architectural heritage which it preserves makes it a destination worth visiting whatever era of history is of most interest to you. One thing which is certain is that with a visit to a city such as Kraków is liable to come a more in depth understanding as to what history itself is, a study of humanity.