iIt's been a little more than 48 hours in real time and yet it feels like a lifetime. I arrived in Frankfurt and joined 5 of the 16 Hadassah Fellows to continue our journey to Kraków. I felt like I was meeting with close friends I hadn't seen in years, even though the reality was that we had only met a few months earlier in person. The rest of the relationships were built online through our mutual love of Hadassah and our preparation for this trip.
After a quick hotel stop we began touring taking in the sites of Kraków. First stop: Schindler's Factory. Made famous by the Spielberg movie, Schindler's List, it is now a museum illustrating Kraków, before, during and after the Nazi rise to power. The was a strong emphasis from all our Polish guides that we understand and more importantly believe, that Poles suffered too, that Poles were victims not willing participants. What they fail to understand is that Poles were imprisoned and murdred because they were in the way. The invading Germans needed their homes. Polish Jews on the other hand were ear marked for extermination, their only crime was being Jewish.
Poland fell to the Germans in 2 weeks. They seemed to want, perhaps need, a validation from us that we believed that they weren't responsible for the deaths of 3.5 million Jews. It wasn't their fault that the Germans invaded. It wasn't there fault that they didn't put up a struggle. What they don't understand is it is not our place to give absolution. In reality, as I now understand better, Nazi Germany found Poland to be a convenient annex for them. A place no one else seemed to care much about, that could be the location, to carry out the final solution. As a result while many work camps and ghettos were in other countries, all the extermination/death camps were in Poland. The clarifation our Polish friends would have us remember is that they were German death camps in Poland, rather than Polish death camps.