COMMITTED TO REMEMBER
DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN WARSAW
We will begin our day with a tour of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, a fascinating journey through centuries of Jewish life in Poland, from the early Jewish settlers nearly 1000 years ago until modern day Poland. After lunch we will will proceed to the old Jewish cemetery in the Praga district of Warsaw, most of which had been desecrated, plundered and destroyed, both by the German and by Poles after the war. From there we will proceed to the Warsaw Zoo, where during the Holocaust, its zoo keeper, Mr. Jan Zabinzki, hid Jews in his on-site Villa and throughout the Zoo grounds, an act for which he, his wife and son had received Yad VaShem’s Righteous Among the Nations honor. We will visit inside Mr. Zabinski's Villa and see the hiding place in the basement.
DAY 2: TOUR OF WARSAW, CONTINUED
Our day will commence with a tour of the former Jewish ghetto of Warsaw. We will trace its remnants in the modern-day streets of the city and will try to gain an understanding of what daily life was like for the ghetto inhabitants, what challenges they faced and how they coped in such unprecedented human situations. We will raise the question of Heroism in the Holocaust: Is Heroic strength measured by physical armed response only? We will visit Janusz Korczak's orphanage and will attempt to learn a little more about how he lived, for we all know all too well how he died. We will end our day at the Okopova Jewish cemetery (still active today), where we will meet some of the leading personas who made up the tapestry of Jewish Warsaw and shaped not only Jewish Polish history but Jewish history at large. These include Esther Kaminska, the matron of the Yiddish theater and the renown writer, Y.L Peretz. We will end our day with dinner in Old Town Warsaw, which was destroyed completely in WWII and was later reconstructed to detail.
DAY 3: TREBLINKA; LUBLIN
Most of Warsaw’s Jews were sent to their deaths in the Treblinka extermination site between Tisha B’Av and Yom Kippur of 1942. Our day will commence in this camp. We will then make our way to Lublin, where on the Eve of WWII the Jews, as in Warsaw, comprised a third of the entire city’s population. At the foot of the hill upon which stands the Zamek - the King’s castle - one can find the former Jewish Quarter of Lublin. We will walk these old streets that once beamed with Jewish life. We will then walk the path which beginning in March of 1942 led the Jews of Lublin to the Umshlagplatz (collection square) from where they were deported to the first on-site extermination camp - Belzec. We will end our day with a visit in the old Jewish cemetery of Lublin, where some of the greatest Rabbis that ever lived are buried, such as the Rav Shachna, the Maharshal and the Seer of Lublin.
DAY 4: LUBLIN; GALICIA
Our day will commence at the Majdanek concentration and death camp, frighteningly, adjacent to the city of Lublin. From there we will travel to a small village name Markova, where we will learn the story of Joseph and Victoria Ulma and their six children, former inhabitants of the village, who in 1944 were murdered by the Nazis as punishment for sheltering Jews in their home - who of course, were murdered as well. The couple was bestowed the honor of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad VaShem in Jerusalem, and recently a small museum telling their story had been erected in their town. Visiting the museum will help us address the very complex and delicate issue that taunts Poland to this very day - and that is their attitudes and actions towards their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust. We will then proceed to the town of Lancut where we will visit the Castle of the renown Polish Nobleman, often referred to as “the uncle of the Jews,” the Graf Potocky. We will gain an understanding of the very unique relationship that existed for centuries between the Jews and the Polish nobility. We will continue next door to the former synagogue of the town of Lancut, breathtaking in its beauty and galore. We will take a peek into the study once inhabited by the Seer of Lublin and we will meet a unique Hebrew speaking Polish Catholic gentleman, Mirik, the synagogues keeper, who has dedicated his entire being to maintaining and preserving the synagogue and its legacy. We will end our day at the gravesite of the great Rabbi Elimelech of Lizansk, one of the fathers of the Hassidic Movement.
DAY 5: TARNOW; KRAKOW
Our morning will commence in Tarnow, a small village whose history beautifully demonstrates the transformations and developments experienced by Poland's Jews before WWII: Secularism vs. Orthodoxy; traditional professions and trade vs. the modern professions; Hassidism vs. Zionism. And in the midst of this heightened atmosphere of renewal and spirituality - a tragic end. Fire and mass murder. From Tarnow we will continue to the Zbylitowska Góra forest, where Jews of Tarnow and the surrounding areas had been murdered and buried in mass graves. We will continue to the town of Ocwiecim where we will visit its only surviving synagogue and learn about the 400-year Jewish history of the town. We will visit the new Jewish museum and explore the unique character of this village, where Jews and Catholic Poles lived side by side, with their lives intricately intertwined one within the other. The Germans will later change the name of the town to Auschwitz. We will then make our way to Old Town Krakow, where we will visit the renowned Wawel Hill - the heart of Poland! We will also visit the large Pantheon found in the great Cathedral. For Erev Shabbat, all are welcome (though not obligated) to join us for services at the Isaac synagogue of Krakow and then we will all meet for a festive Shabbat dinner in the hotel.
DAY 6: KAZIMIERZ
We will begin our morning in the colorful formerJewish Quarter of Kazimierz. We will visit synagogues and other Jewish landmarks. We will them proceed to cross the Wisla River and reach the area of the former Jewish ghetto of Krakow. We will visit Tadeusz Pankiewicz’s pharmacy and learn how a Roman Catholic pharmacist, whose pharmacy - destiny had it - was left inside the Jewish ghetto, took advantage of his unique position to help and save Jews, an effort for which he received the Righteous Among the Nations honor. We will proceed to the Oskar Schindler’s factory and we’ll try to decipher why for 30 years Yad VaShem refused to bestow him with the Righteous honor. We will enjoy a free afternoon in the fabric market of old town Krakow.
DAY 7: AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU
Our day will commence early with a visit to Auschwitz -Birkenau concentration and death camp. We will follow the path trailed by the majority of the arriving Jewish transports (85-90%) - from the tracks and straight to the gas chambers. We will attempt to understand the impossible world of the minority of Jews who had entered the camp as inmates. Holocaust survivor and Writer, K. Tzetnik, whose dramatic testimony at the Eichmann trial will forever be engraved in the memory of those who had witnessed it, claimed that “Auschwitz was a different planet.” What did he mean and what made him change his mind later? We will end our day with a visit at the Christian cemetery in the village Brzeszcze, where the first victims of the Death March that left Auschwitz on the 18th of January 1945, amongst them many Jews, are buried.
DAY 8: LODZ
Early drive to the city of Lodz. We will begin our tour at the old Jewish funeral house and cemetery. The Lodz ghetto was unique in that the dead were buried in individual graves ( as opposed to Warsaw where mass graves were used). The Judenrat (the Nazi appointed Jewish council) kept a meticulous record of names and burial locations of the 40,000 Jews who had died in the ghetto - most of famine and disease. We will visit the old streets once inhabited by Jews and see the place where once the great synagogue stood. We will walk the streets of the former ghetto and stand in the square where the head of the Judenrat, Romkowski, pleaded with mothers and fathers to handover their children to him for deportation to the East. We will visit the Radagast, the train station from where the Jews of Lodz were sent to their deaths. Drive back to Warsaw.
DAY 9: TYKOCIN; FLIGHT HOME
In the morning we will drive to Tykocin, a village near Bialystok ,which appears exactly as it had 70 years ago. We will walk its streets where we will speak of the unique fabric of the old Jewish Shtetl - a world forever gone. We will see houses that were once occupied and owned by Jews - today occupied by Poles as no Jews remain in Tykocin. We will visit the great synagogue which was once the center of life for the once thriving Jewish community. From there, we will make our way to the nearby Lopuchowo Forest, where the Jews of Tycocin were shot and buried in mass graves.