About Plac Bohaterów Getta
Plac Bohaterów Getta, or Ghetto Heroes Square, is a public forum in Krakow on the site of the former Krakow Ghetto in Podgróze. Used in World War Two to house Krakow’s Jewish population during Nazi occupation, a poignant memorial to its inhabitants now occupies the spot where they gathered before transportation to various concentration camps.
Plac Bohaterów Getta history
On 20 March, 1941 the Kraków Ghetto was officially established, designed by the Nazi regime to eradicate Krakow’s Jewish population from its city centre and into cramped and unsafe living quarters.
Life in the ghetto was bleak, with many Jews living an isolated and hopeless life. Plac Bohaterow Getta, then known as Zgody Square, allowed Jewish residents to meet with one another, trading food, information, and friendly exchanges. This socialisation alongside fresh air and open space was often a much-welcome relief to the ghetto’s residents.
From 30th May 1942 onwards, the square would become a place of deep despair however, when the Nazis began mass deportations out of the ghettos to the surrounding concentration camps. Zgody Square became the meeting point for such deportations, where queues of Jewish residents gathered to await their forced departure. On 13–14 March 1943, the final liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto occurred.
Those deemed unfit to work, such as the elderly, ill or children, would be killed in the street before even reaching the trains that would otherwise take them to Auschwitz, Płasów or Belzec. A total of 11,000 were transported to Belzec death camp, 2,000 to Plaszów labor camp, 3,000 to Auschwitz, and 2,000 were killed before even boarding the trains.
The Square today
Today the square is inhabited by a memorial to those who once gathered waiting there. 70 empty chairs of different sizes face the direction thousands walked to board the concentration camp trains, and never returned.
The chairs symbolise the belongings they were forced to leave behind as they vacated their homes, and the empty seats that would remain in their absence. It is a sombre spot, and commands visitors to consider some of Krakow’s darkest history.
A plaque in the north side of the square also remembers those who resisted German troops in the months prior to the liquidation. The text reads: ”we are fighting for three lines in history only to show that Jewish youth did not go like sheep to the slaughter”.
Getting to Plac Bohaterów Getta
Plac Bohaterów Getta is located southeast of Krakow’s Old Town across the river, and is a 30-minute walk from the Main Square. The closest tram and bus station is Plac Bohaterow Getta and is directly beside the square, while the nearest train station is Kraków Zablocie, a 3-minute walk away.