photos by marguerita
In 2004 I decided to visit Poland,particularly Krakow where my mother lived and from here she was forced out , when her maid denounced her to the Gestapo.An officer of the III Reich,in charge of Krakow's Krakow'sTransportation,Richard Kallert moved in his family and robbed all he could in the home,including a Cellini sculpture,persian carpets,Biedermeier furniture, when returning to Germany after the war.
Would be nice if this relatives would come forth and return to me,what belonged to my mother.
In the ghetto,at Limanowskiego 48,my mother witnessed her mother in law being thrown by the Nazi,four floors to the ground.My mother then,was sent to Plaszow and then Auschwitz,where she was brought on 22.10.1944, according to documentation that I was able to find there.
My mother was married to a lawyer,he was killed on the beguining of the war,as well as her father, murdered at Plac Zgoda,which translates as Agreement Square,when Nazi round up upper class Jews and shot them .
Her mother was murdered in Treblinka. One of her brothers, was shot,while flying for the Polish Air Force as an aviator.The other one,my mother believed, that he was taken to Russia and until today I cannot find any information about. him.One of my mother's cousins, was married to a Krakow Mayor and the rest of the large family disappeared in the hands of the Nazi.
Her sister in law,was living in Zurich,and her daughter Paula Kalman,was married to Kalman Lauer,the Hungarian businessman,
involved with Raoul Wallenberg.I believe,he was hiding in their home,since 1944.
I wanted to trace my mother's last steps from her home,to the Krakow Ghetto,Plazow,Auschwitz-Birkenau and Ravensbrueck.I found thebuilding on Ul.Odona Bujwida,which had the name changed from ul.Lazarza Bozna.The Botanical Gardens are still there,as my mother would tell me about. The ghetto building where my mother was moved into,remains.there also.Limanowskiego,48.I took a picture of the building's number.
Krakow is a beautiful city.
Designed by Italian architects,rminds you of being in Firenze or another part of Italy.
We went also to Auschwitz,where I looked at the trees and walking
there for me,was a bizarre moment.The young guard,as I crossed the gates,had a tear in his eyes,when I told him ,that my mother suffered there.He said to me,that seeing me there,was more powerful then reading the stories.
I wondered about the buildings,but I got an incredible sense of despair.I could not look at those horrible walls.
I just imagined, what would my mother thinks about this?
Here I am wondering with my sons and husband,in a place that she never wanted to see again.Or maybe,as she was a good sport,she would come for the ride, just for a laugh!
Jacob,my younger son,could not take it.When he saw the exhibit with tons of hair,he told me that he thought that my mother's hair could very well be in there too...... and got sick.
I met with Teresa Swiebocka,the curator.
She gave me a book,KL Auschwitz seen by the SS.
I spent time in the Archiwum,at ul.Sienna,16, where I was able to find 17 documents, regarding my mother and her mother in law,from 1940 to 1941,the time she spent in the Krakow ghetto,the Podgorze.
At first, the most mortifying sensation, was when I saw the rubber stamp, with the swastika, on each document,numbered,with my mother's signature and her mother in law's, pieces of paper,demanding from her to declare how much she owned,where it is,where she was born,her identity,and all over the word Juden,as the documents are all in the German language.
In my mind, I could see the hand of the Nazi officer, putting my mother through all the questioning:The Fragebogen.
There was an absurd atmosphere in the Archiwum.One had to tiptoe and be extraordinarily quiet.
Everytime I asked a question from the archivist,a chorus of voices,would answer me.
And then,one by one,would offer to tell me a piece of History.
I walked around Krakow and took photos,and become fascinated by the city.
I knew a lot about the City through my mother,and I visited book stores.I got books about castles and about Queen Bona,who was married to a Polish King.She was Italian,and she had a great influence in the Cuisine,as she brought vegetables and fruits from Italy,therefore the word Tomato,in Italian,became Pomidor, in Polish.
The Polish language is peppered with words having Italian roots.
I got a book on the Polish language so,I can learn the etymology of the Polish words.
And a book,Dziady by Adam Mickiewicz,the poet my mother loved to recite to me.
And we visited the Wavel castle,where Zygmunt,the son of Queen Bona,who despite being unhappy in love,was a great supporter of the Arts and Navigation,was born.
The castle has an interesting history as well,as Krakow,the name having roots from the name of the first king,King Krak.
During the Nazi Occupation,Hans Frank,the murderous III Reich 's Governor of Krakow,used the Wavel as the German Headquarters.
My mother saw him at close encounters.
He also played Chopin very well.
On days that he was set to kill,he wore a red tie.
And then we went to Zakopane,the ski resort that my mother would tell me about.I saw the Sleeping Giant,the mountain that looks like a sleeping man.
Both my parents,were born in Poland.My ancestors living there,involved in the country, until the Nazi tore their lives apart.
My mother would always tell me about Polish history,about the kings and queens,the rivers and flowers.She loved the country,despite the pain she endured,as Poles were anti-semitic.Her brothers had to leave and study in Checoslovakia,and my mother was able to enter the Jagiellonian University.She was interested in Asian culture.
She never returned to her home and country.