Salt carving of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus fleeing to Egypt
This morning (June 24) we took another tour with "Cracow Tours" to the Salt Mines in town (by the way, there are several ways to spell the name of this town--all of which are acceptable and there are several ways to pronounce the name of this town--all of which are acceptable). The Salt Mines are not too far from where we are staying near the old city. They have been mining salt in this mine for over 700 years but today the place has become simply a tourist spot. What makes it so interesting for tourists is what the miners have done to the place over those centuries. Poles are a very devout people (90% are Catholic). And they have learned how to carve things out of solid slabs of salt. Among the things they have carved are statues of their leaders, scenes from their history and, most interesting of all, an underground cathedral. And on the walls of this cathedral they have carved scenes from the life of Christ (see above).
Following our tour of the Salt Mines we were brought back to our hotel and since it was only 1:30 PM we decided to take another tour--this time on foot (our favorite means of transportation), so we got out our map and found that they still have the old factory of Oscar Schindler over in the old Jewish ghetto area from World War II, less than two miles from our hotel. For those of you who have seen "Schindler's List," the movie Steven Spielberg made about Oscar Schindler who saved about 1,100 people from the gas chambers--part of it happened here in Krakow. When Oscar Schindler set up his enamelware fabrication factory he employed hundreds of Jews who were locked into a walled up area of town (the Jewish ghetto). In employing them as his workers he kept them from the gas chambers (where almost everybody went who were kept in the ghetto). They have made his old factory into a holocaust museum detailing the sufferings of the Jewish community in the Krakow ghetto. It is a wonderful use of this old building. It is, what must be for the citizens of Krakow, a very moving story of the sufferings of the citizens of the whole town, not just the Jews. The Nazis began the shooting war in Europe on September 1, 1939 when they set up their artillery opposite the city of Warsaw and nearly blew it off the map. The next day they marched into Poland and occupied the whole country. They began transporting every Jew they could find into controlled areas (called ghettoes) and eventually attempted to murder every Jew in Poland (and other countries too). That's why today the Jewish section of Krakow consists of only a few thousand Jews when originally it consisted of hundreds of thousands before 1939.
The truth of the matter is that although there were many like Oscar Schindler who attempted to save the Jews from extinction in Europe there were many more who just went with the flow and chose the easy route around their consciences and informed on the Jews and those who were hiding them. And that is why the last room in the Krakow museum (spoken above) has just two books in it--one, the book of "righteousness" and the other, the book of "shame." And their are many entries in each book with names, dates and places. Tell it like it really is they say.