Podgorze Ghetto in Krakow

A brick wall was constructed around Podgorze Ghetto

In the Stephen Spielberg movie, Schindler's List, the Jews in the Krakow area were herded into a walled ghetto in the Podgorze district, which is just south of Kazimierz and across the Wisla river, known to Americans as the Vistula. The old photo above shows the Jews being forced to build a wall around the Podgorze Ghetto in March 1941. The ghetto wall looked as though it had been made with tombstones put close together. Living behind a wall that looked like tombstones was psychological torture for the Jews.

The photo below shows the gate into the ghetto, which was reconstructed for the movie, Schindler's List.

Scene from the movie Schindler's List

Since Krakow was the capital of German-occupied Poland, the governor of the occupied territory, Hans Frank, had ordered in April 1940 that the city should become Judenrein, or "clean of Jews." All the Jews were required to move to the Podgorze ghetto, which was outside the city limits.

On March 21, 1941, the borders of the Podgorze ghetto were closed and over 50,000 Jews from Krakow and the surrounding area were confined to 320 buildings centered around the Plac Zgody (Peace Square), according to a guidebook which I purchased from the Pharmacy Museum in the former ghetto.

Among the Jews who were forced into the Podgorze Ghetto were 3,000 from Kazimierz, almost two-thirds of its population. The old photo below shows the Jews on their way to the Podgorze Ghetto while German SS soldiers march alongside them. Notice that they are wearing arm bands which identify them as Jews.

Jews walk through Krakow to Podgorze Ghetto

The Podgorze Ghetto was half the size of Old Town Krakow, so it was not as crowded as some other Jewish ghettos. According to the author of the novel, Schindler's Ark, on which the movie Schindler's List was based, some of the Jews didn't mind moving from Kazimierz across the river to Podgorze because the Nazis promised to protect them from Polish nationalists who were also their enemies. The following quote is from the novel Schindler's Ark, which was renamed Schindler's List after the movie came out:

"Oskar began to get hints from his SS contacts at Pomorska Street that there was to be a ghetto for Jews. He mentioned the rumor to Stern, not wanting to arouse alarm. Oh, yes, said Stern, the word was out. Some people were even looking forward to it. We'll be inside, the enemy will be outside. We can run our own affairs. No one will envy us, no one stone us in the streets.The walls of the ghetto will be fixed. The walls would be the final, fixed form of the catastrophe."

Only a small fragment of the original six foot high wall, that enclosed the ghetto, remains. For the movie Schindler's List, Spielberg recreated the gate into the Krakow ghetto; the original gate is shown in the two photos below.

Original gate into Krakow ghetto

Gate into Podgorze ghetto in Krakow

The photo above shows the gate into the Podgorze ghetto. Above the entrance are the words "Yiddisher Woynbezirk" written with the Hebrew alphabet. This means "Jüdische Wohnbezirk" in German and "Jewish Residential Area" in English.

The Jews in all the ghettos were humiliated by being forced to do manual labor. As the old photo below shows, the German guards found this amusing.

Soldiers laughing at Jews who are forced to work

The photograph below shows Jews being forced to shovel snow on Sw. Krzyza (Holy Cross Street) at the corner of Mikolajska street in the Stare Miasto (Old City) of Krakow. Stephen Spielberg recreated this scene in his movie Schindler's List where he showed Jews shoveling snow on Poselska street.

Jews being forced to shovel snow in the Old City of Krakow

Podgorze Ghetto, continued

Memorial to the Heroes of Podgorze Ghetto

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This page was last updated on March 1, 2009