Following the German invasion of 1939, the southern Polish city of Krakow was under military occupation and its Jewish population was subjected to particular persecution. The city’s population of 64,000 Jews was reduced to around 15,000 after the first round of expulsions, which began in 1940. In 1941, though, the Jews of Krakow and surrounding areas were herded into the Podgorze neighbourhood, denoted by the German authorities as a ‘sanitary living area’. Twenty thousand Jews were crowded into this ghetto, an area which had previously accommodated only 3,000 inhabitants.
The Krakow ghetto was to last for two years, before its ultimate liquidation in the spring of 1943. Although many of the inhabitants had already been deported to Nazi death camps during 1942, the liquidation on March 13 and 14 was a terrible two days for those who remained.
The able-bodied, numbering around four thousand, were taken to Plaszow concentration camp as slave workers, whilst over two thousand perished in the gas chambers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. Thousands of the sick, elderly and young children were simply massacred in the streets by the SS in the ghetto itself.