News from Galicia

Kazimierz Smoleń the former prisoner of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and long time director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum passed away on January 27th,2012. Kazimierz Smoleń was arrested in April 1940, deported to Auschwitz on July 6th, 1940 he was given a KL Auschwitz number 1327. He survived the camp for the next almost five years. On January 18th, 1945 with Auschwitz evacuation he was deported to Mauthausen. Finally Kazimierz Smoleń was liberated on May 6th,1945 in Ebensee, a sub camp of Mauthausen, over 5 years after his imprisonment. After the war he was working in the Commission to Investigate the Nazi Crimes in Poland and participated as a witness and expert in trials of SS staff of Nazi Concentration Camps. Kazimierz Smoleń was one of the creators of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau established in 1947 and from 1955 till 1990 he served as the director of the Museum. After retirement he was still devoted to the Auschwitz education and worked witnessing about the camp history to younger generations till his very last days. Blessed be his memory.

January 20th, 2012 was the 70th anniversary of Wansee Conference at which the German Nazis took the decisions about the ultimate shape of the "Final solution to the Jewish question" in Europe. There were 15 high ranked German Nazis participating in Wansee, at least eight of them with PhD titles. Within a few weeks after the conferance the first mass transports of Polish Jews were sent to Death Camp of Belzec. The first mass transport of Jews to Auschwitz arrived on March 26th, 1942 from Slovakia.

In late January 1945 Auschwitz SS administration started the evacuation of 58 thousands of work capable prisoners into the III Reich interior, this initiated the infamous Auschwitz Death Marches. The hectic evacuation of the camp due to the fast approaching Soviet army was also encompassing the massive destruction of physical evidence of mass extermination project carried at the camp grounds from spring 1942 till late 1944. This included mass burning of camp records, removal of buried corpses and ashes, burning of Canada (prisoner's property) barracks. Finally on January 20th the SS blew up Crematoria, Gas Chamber number II and III and on January 26th the same was done with Crematoria, Gas Chamber number V. The similar building number IV was previously damaged and partly burned after the mutiny of Sondercommando prisoners on October 1944. 

On the the 27th of January 1945 the Red Army troops entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau grounds liberating the entire large complex of camps with over 7000 emaciated prisoners still alive. This event gave an end to almost five years history of German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau which took lives of up to one and a half million of human beings, mainly Jews.

Pictures taken on October 4th,2012 of the least visited and commemorated of the Reinhard Action Death Camps where 250.000 to 300.000 Jews from Poland, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Czech Republic and Jewish Soviet POW were killed from April 1942 till October 1943. 

You can find the pictures at PolinTravel.Guide.Genealogy.Poland 

Last year the first volume of Sobibór first monograph was published by Marek Bem in Włodawa.

This year in the 70 Anniversary of Wansee Conferance and Action Reinhard POLIN TRAVEL was making a photo documentation of all camps , ghettos and Nazi decision centers in former Nazi Lublin District. In case of anybody interested in photos we will be glad to share.

Sobibor Rail Sign October 2012

Sobibor Rail Sign October 2012

In June 2012 the Synagogue in Dąbrowa Tarnowska was opened after major renovation works carried by the local municipality and financed from the city budget and EU funds. The restored building is housing the Center for the Meeting of Cultures in Dąbrowa Tarnowska with an extensive exhibit dedicated to the history of local Jewish community.

The Dąbrowa synagogue dates back to early 1860s when the growing Jewish community decided for this monumental structure along the main street in the city. It was build according to the plans of Jewish architect Abraham Goldstein. Funds were mostly provided by Izaak Stern, a local Jewish philanthropist whose donation was recognized in the Hebrew inscription in the upper part of the eastern wall. Construction and finishing works were conducted from 1855 to 1865. In early XX century a small synagogue for Orthodox Jews and Mikveh were build adjacent to the main building. During WW I the complex suffered some destruction because of the vicinity of the Russian-Austrian frontline and was restored with the donation of a local resident named Gold. Another, more extensive and throughout renovation was conducted from 1936 to 1937 under the supervision of Dora Mertz from Tarnów. A characteristic three-storey gallery flanked with two towers containing staircases was added at that time. Near the top of the towers there are four bas-relief sculptures of biblical animals with Hebrew inscriptions: be brave like a leopard, be light like as eagle, be strong like a lion, be nimble like a deer.

During WW II the synagogue was changed into warehouse by the German Nazis and in spite of some reconstruction attempts undertaken in the 1970s it had to wait as ruin until 2008 when the just finished major reconstruction was undertaken.

You can find the pictures at PolinTravel.Guide.Genealogy.Poland

Dabrowa Tarnowska Synagogue

Dąbrowa Tarnowska Synagogue October 2012