Our last full day in Cracow and we decided to walk south of the river. We crossed over the Wisla by a imaginative foot bridge, whose suspension struts were adorned by large figures of gymnasts and acrobats. Turning east we walked past remnants of the ghetto, ending at the Eagle Pharmacy, which is now a small museum with very moving exhibits.
When in 1941, the Nazis created the Jewish ghetto, the pharmacy was at the heart of it. The owner and his staff were the only Poles allowed to live in the ghetto and did so for another two years. The Apoteka Pod Orlem became the centre of social life, an aid in aquiring food and medicine, falsified documents and avoiding deportations. Most of these operations were clandestine and the pharmacy bore witness to the tragedy unfolding before it and the eventual liquidation of the 15,000 inhabitants of the ghetto.
On the square outside, there’s an art installation of 33 cast replicas of chairs. Known as the ‘Ghetto Heroes Square’, the chairs represent the destruction of Jewish property when 20,000 people were forced to live where previously only 3,000 had. Furniture was thrown into the square to be stolen or destroyed as families were crammed into apartments, three families in each one.
We made our way back to the bridge via the riverbank, dragging our feet, partly because of the heavy thundery weather but also because of the suffering we had learnt of and in part shared. That evening we had a quite violent thunderstorm which cleared the air but couldn’t rid us of our sad thoughts….