Before World War II, Poland had the second largest Jewish population in the world, 3.3 million. In 1947, the Jewish population was 100,000. On a recent trip to Krakow and Warsaw, Poland, I found almost no signs of Jewish life.
What remains, however, are countless monuments and death camps that tell the story of the murder of approximately six million Jews, including three million Polish Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
A recent graduate of the University of South Carolina, I attended this trip with several honors college students from USC and some from the College of Charleston. I was anxious to step into the history I
learned while in a Holocaust
in Film class taught by Dr. Ted Rosengarten at USC.
All of the group knew of the horrors that occurred at Auschwitz and Treblinka. We visited these two contrasting camps on our trip. While Auschwitz is very museum- like and buzzes with curious tourists, Tre- blinka is hidden in the woods and composed only of memorials.
Like Auschwitz, Majdanek has a museum. But the camp is smaller than Auschwitz and is only one camp, as opposed to three separate camps that make up Auschwitz.
Our tour guide said visitors are much rarer at Majdanek than at Auschwitz. Our group was the only one to visit that day.
Auschwitz is more well known than Majdanek because it claimed many more lives. Majdanek was the only death camp in operation when the Allies invaded it, Majdanek appears untouched.
As difficult as Auschwitz was to see due to the horrors on display, Majdanek was even more horrible to absorb. We saw
All of these things are still standing at Majdanek and serve as a startling reminder of the Holocaust.
Even though these camps are a form of a graveyard, Majdanek deliberately houses an actual grave, a concrete basin that houses the ashes of thousands of victims. Majdanek's mass grave is a mausoleum that serves as a respectful burial place for the lives taken in the death camps.
Though Jews are seldom found in Poland today, the fingerprint they left on Polish society is inerasable. Poles have made a conscious effort to maintain the Jewish contributions as much as possible.
There is a photograph of an old synagogue in the Galica Jewish Museum, which is now used as a public library.
For more information on the Galicia Jewish Museum, visit