In late August and early September, 12-13,000 Jews (many originating from Kraków) were also sent to Bełżec as the ghettos in nearby Słomniki and Wieliczka were liquidated. Following these brutal events, the correlation between deportation and death became fully understood perhaps for the first time in Kraków. In October the Germans announced that the Kraków ghetto would be consolidated again and selections began anew, with no regard toward employment status, age or health. Another 4,500 victims were sent to their deaths in Bełżec, while some 600 were shot inside the ghetto. With the liquidation of the ghetto hospital, orphanage and elderly home, many orphans and invalids were sent to the newly established Płaszów labour camp, only to be murdered on arrival. Afterwards the area east of Plac Zgody ceased to be part of the ghetto, and a month later the remaining territory was divided into two sections: Ghetto A was reserved for the healthiest, most able-bodied residents, and Ghetto B for those less desirable and destined for deportation. Residents of Ghetto A began commuting daily to work on the construction of Płaszów labour camp, and after Amon Goeth arrived in Kraków as its new Camp Commandant the pace of the camp’s development hastened the ghetto’s demise.
As soon as enough barracks had been built, Goeth ordered that the inhabitants of Ghetto A permanently relocate to Płaszów, and on March 13th 1943 local SS Commander Julian Scherner ordered the final liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto. Carried out in two phases, at least 6,000 Jews (some sources cite up to 8,000) from Ghetto A were immediately transported to Płaszów; residents of Ghetto B and all children under 14 were ordered to assemble on Plac Zgody the next day. Despite likely knowing what lay in store, many mothers stayed behind when Ghetto A was liquidated, refusing to abandon their children.
March 14th 1943 was likely the bloodiest day in Podgórze’s history. The ghetto - which at that point essentially consisted of only Plac Zgody and the block of buildings just south of it – was surrounded by German troops who attempted to herd its residents to the transports leaving from the square. Chaos reigned and those who resisted or attempted to escape were shot. Over 1,000 people were killed in the streets (some estimates are as high as 2,000) and the 3,000 that left via cattle car went almost directly to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. After this final deportation, the Germans cleaned their mess, looting the houses, stripping the luggage strewn everywhere of anything valuable, and taking down all the barbed wire. The Kraków Ghetto disappeared leaving almost as little trace as the Jews who lived there.
What To See
Though it existed for only two years, history has a long memory and some evidence of the ghetto still remains. The district of Podgórze has been slower to develop than other parts of Kraków and a walk around the former ghetto gives one the impression that these events could have taken place not long ago at all. All of the following sites are within walking distance.