Auschwitz concentration camp was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II.
It consisted of Auschwitz I (the original concentration camp), Auschwitz II–Birkenau (a combined concentration/extermination camp), Auschwitz III–Monowitz (a labour camp to staff an IG Farben factory), and 45 satellite camps.
Auschwitz I was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940.
The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941.
Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazis’ Final Solution to the Jewish Question during the Holocaust.
From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over German-occupied Europe, where they were killed en masse with the cyanide-based poison Zyklon B, originally developed to be used as a pesticide.
An estimated 1.3 million people were sent to the camp, of whom at least 1.1 million died.
Around 90 per cent of those were Jews; approximately one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp.
Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses, and tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, including an unknown number of homosexuals.
Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labour, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.
In the course of the war, the camp was staffed by 7,000 members of the German Schutzstaffel (SS), approximately 12 per cent of whom were later convicted of war crimes.
Some, including camp commandant Rudolf Höss, were executed. The Allied Powers did not act on early reports of atrocities at the camp, and their failure to bomb the camp or its railways remains controversial.
At least 802 prisoners attempted to escape from Auschwitz, 144 successfully, and on 7 October 1944 two Sonderkommando units, consisting of prisoners assigned to staff the gas chambers, launched a brief, unsuccessful uprising.
As Soviet troops approached Auschwitz in January 1945, most of its population was sent west on a death march.
The prisoners remaining at the camp were liberated on 27 January 1945, a day now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In the following decades, survivors such as Primo Levi, Viktor Frankl, and Elie Wiesel wrote memoirs of their experiences in Auschwitz, and the camp became a dominant symbol of the Holocaust.
In 1947 Poland founded the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, and in 1979 it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The ideology of Nazism brought together elements of antisemitism, racial hygiene, and eugenics, and combined them with pan-Germanism and territorial expansionism with the goal of obtaining more Lebensraum (living space) for the Germanic people.
Immediately after the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, acts of violence perpetrated against Jews became ubiquitous.
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service passed on 7 April 1933 excluded most Jews from the legal profession and the civil service.
Similar legislation soon deprived Jewish members of other professions of the right to practice.
Harassment and economic pressure were used by the regime to encourage Jews to leave the country voluntarily.
Their businesses were denied access to markets, forbidden to advertise in newspapers, and deprived of government contracts. German Jews were subjected to violent attacks and boycotts.
In September 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were enacted. These laws prohibited marriages between Jews and people of Germanic extraction, extramarital relations between Jews and Germans, and the employment of German women under the age of 45 as domestic servants in Jewish households.
The Reich Citizenship Law stated that only those of Germanic or related blood were defined as citizens. Thus Jews and other minority groups were stripped of their German citizenship.
The laws were expanded on 26 November 1935 to include Romani people and Afro-Germans.
This supplementary decree defined Gypsies as “enemies of the race-based state”, the same category as Jews.
By the start of World War II in 1939, around 250,000 of Germany’s 437,000 Jews had emigrated to the United States, Palestine, the United Kingdom, and other countries.
Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. German dictator Adolf Hitler ordered that the Polish leadership and intelligentsia be destroyed.
Approximately 65,000 civilians, who were viewed as being inferior to the Aryan master race, were killed by the end of 1939.
In addition to leaders of Polish society, the Nazis killed Jews, prostitutes, Romani, and the mentally ill.
SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, then head of the Gestapo, ordered on 21 September that Polish Jews should be rounded up and concentrated into cities with good rail links.
Initially, the intention was to deport the Jews to points further east, or possibly to Madagascar.
Two years later, in an attempt to obtain new territory, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, intending to deport or kill the Jews and Slavs living there.
After this part of Poland was annexed by Nazi Germany, Oświęcim (Auschwitz) was located administratively in Germany, Province of Upper Silesia, Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz, Landkreis Bielitz.
It was first suggested as a site for a concentration camp for Polish prisoners by SS-Oberführer Arpad Wigand, an aide to Higher SS and Police Leader for Silesia, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski.
Bach-Zelewski had been searching for a site to house prisoners in the Silesia region, as the local prisons were filled to capacity.
Richard Glücks, head of the Concentration Camps Inspectorate, sent former Sachsenhausen concentration camp commandant Walter Eisfeld to inspect the site, which already held sixteen dilapidated one-story buildings that had once served as an Austrian and later Polish Army barracks and a camp for transient workers.
Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), approved the site in April 1940, intending to use the facility to house political prisoners.
SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) Rudolf Höss oversaw the development of the camp and served as the first commandant. SS-Obersturmführer (senior lieutenant) Josef Kramer was appointed Höss’s deputy.
Auschwitz I, the original camp, became the administrative centre for the whole complex.
Local residents were evicted, including 1,200 people who lived in shacks around the barracks.
Around 300 Jewish residents of Oświęcim were brought in to lay foundations. From 1940 to 1941, 17,000 Polish and Jewish residents of the western districts of Oświęcim were expelled from places adjacent to the camp.
The Germans also ordered expulsions of Poles from the villages of Broszkowice, Babice, Brzezinka, Rajsko, Pławy, Harmęże, Bór, and Budy to the General Government.
German citizens were offered tax concessions and other benefits if they would relocate to the area.
By October 1943, more than 6,000 Reich Germans had arrived.
The Nazis planned to build a model modern residential area for incoming Germans, including schools, playing fields, and other amenities.
Some of the plans went forward, including the construction of several hundred apartments, but many were never fully implemented.
Basic amenities such as water and sewage disposal were inadequate, and water-borne illnesses were commonplace.
The first prisoners (30 German criminal prisoners from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp) arrived in May 1940, intended to act as functionaries within the prison system.
The first mass transport to Auschwitz concentration camp, which included Catholic prisoners, suspected members of the resistance, and 20 Jews, arrived from the prison in Tarnów, Poland, on 14 June 1940.
They were interned in the former building of the Polish Tobacco Monopoly, adjacent to the site until the camp was ready.
The inmate population grew quickly as the camp absorbed Poland’s intelligentsia and dissidents, including the Polish underground resistance.
By March 1941, 10,900 were imprisoned there, most of them Poles.
By the end of 1940, the SS had confiscated land in the surrounding area to create a 40-square-kilometre (15 sq mi) “zone of interest” surrounded by a double ring of electrified barbed wire fences and watchtowers.
Like other Nazi concentration camps, the gates to Auschwitz I displayed the motto Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work brings freedom”).
The victories of Operation Barbarossa in the summer and fall of 1941 against Hitler’s new enemy, the Soviet Union, led to dramatic changes in Nazi anti-Jewish ideology and the profile of prisoners brought to Auschwitz.
Construction on Auschwitz II-Birkenau began in October 1941 to ease congestion at the main camp.
Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), intended the camp to house 50,000 prisoners of war, who would be interned as forced labourers.
Plans called for the expansion of the camp first to house 150,000 and eventually as many as 200,000 inmates.
An initial contingent of 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war arrived at Auschwitz I in October 1941, but by March 1942 only 945 were still alive, and these were transferred to Birkenau, where most of them died from disease or starvation by May.
By this time Hitler had decided to annihilate the Jewish people, so Birkenau was changed to a labour camp–extermination camp.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum estimates that 1.3 million people, 1.1 million of them Jewish, were sent to the camp during its existence.
The chief of construction of Auschwitz II-Birkenau was Karl Bischoff.
Unlike his predecessor, he was a competent and dynamic bureaucrat who, in spite of the ongoing war, carried out the construction deemed necessary.
The Birkenau camp, the four crematoria, a new reception building, and hundreds of other buildings were planned and constructed.
Bischoff’s plans called for each barrack to have an occupancy of 550 prisoners (one-third of the space allotted in other Nazi concentration camps).
He later changed this to 744 prisoners per barrack. The SS designed the barracks not so much to house people as to destroy them.
The first gas chamber at Birkenau was the “red house” (called Bunker 1 by SS staff), a brick cottage converted into a gassing facility by tearing out the inside and bricking up the windows.
It was operational by March 1942. A second brick cottage, the “white house” or Bunker 2, was converted some weeks later.
These structures were in use for mass killings until early 1943.
Himmler visited the camp in person on 17 and 18 July 1942.
He was given a demonstration of a mass killing using the gas chamber in Bunker 2 and toured the building site of the new IG Farben plant being constructed at the nearby town of Monowitz.
In early 1943, the Nazis decided to greatly increase the gassing capacity of Birkenau. Crematorium II, which had been designed as a mortuary with morgues in the basement and ground-level incinerators, was converted into a killing factory by installing gas-tight doors, vents for the Zyklon B (a highly lethal cyanide-based poison) to be dropped into the chamber, and ventilation equipment to remove the gas thereafter.
It went into operation in March. Crematorium III was built using the same design. Crematoria IV and V, designed from the start as gassing centres, were also constructed that spring.
By June 1943, all four crematoria were operational. Most of the victims were killed using these four structures.
A separate camp for Roma known as the Zigeunerfamilienlager (Gypsy Family Camp) was set up at Auschwitz II-Birkenau; unlike other arrivals, the Romani prisoners were not subject to selection and families were allowed to remain together.
The first transport of German Gypsies arrived on 26 February 1943 and was housed in Section B-IIe of Auschwitz II.
Approximately 23,000 Gypsies had been brought to Auschwitz by 1944, 20,000 of whom died there.
One transport of 1,700 Polish Sinti and Roma were killed in the gas chambers upon arrival, as they were suspected to be ill with spotted fever.
Gipsy prisoners were used primarily for construction work.
Thousands died of typhus and noma due to overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, and malnutrition.
Between 1,400 and 3,000 prisoners were transferred to other concentration camps.
On 2 August 1944, the SS cleared the Gypsy camp; the surviving population (estimated at 2,897 to 5,600) was then killed en masse in the gas chambers.
The Theresienstadt family camp, which existed between September 1943 and July 1944, served a different purpose.
The SS deported 17,500 Jews from Theresienstadt concentration camp to Auschwitz but allowed them to remain alive temporarily and send letters to friends and relatives to cast doubt on reports of the Final Solution, both at Theresienstadt and in the wider world.
On 8 March 1944, the remaining Jews from the first two transports in September were murdered; this was the largest massacre of Czechoslovak citizens in history.
News of the liquidation reached the Czechoslovak government-in-exile which initiated diplomatic manoeuvres to save the remaining Jews.
However, after the Red Cross visited Theresienstadt in June 1944 and concluded that no Jews were deported from Theresienstadt, about 3,500 Jews were removed from the family camp to other sections of Auschwitz.
The remaining 6,500 were murdered in the gas chambers between 10 and 12 July 1944.
After examining several sites for a new plant to manufacture buna, a type of synthetic rubber essential to the war effort, chemicals manufacturer IG Farben chose a site near the towns of Dwory and Monowice (Monowitz in German), about 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) east of Auschwitz I and 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) east of the town of Oświęcim.
Financial support in the form of tax exemptions was available to corporations prepared to develop industries in the frontier regions under the Eastern Fiscal Assistance Law, passed in December 1940.
In addition to its proximity to the concentration camp, which could be used as a source of cheap labour, the site had good railway connections and access to raw materials.
In February 1941, Himmler ordered that the Jewish population of Oświęcim should be expelled to make way for skilled labourers that would be brought in to work at the plant.
All Poles able to work were to remain in the town and were forced to work building the factory.
Himmler visited in person in March and decreed an immediate expansion of the parent camp to house 30,000 persons.
Development of the camp at Birkenau began about six months later.
Construction of IG Auschwitz began in April, with an initial force of 1,000 workers from Auschwitz I assigned to work on the construction.
This number increased to 7,000 in 1943 and 11,000 in 1944.
Over the course of its history, about 35,000 inmates in total worked at the plant; 25,000 died as a result of malnutrition, disease, and the physically impossible workload.
In addition to the concentration camp inmates, who comprised a third of the workforce, IG Auschwitz employed slave labourers from all over Europe.
At first, the labourers walked the seven kilometres from Auschwitz I to the plant each day, but as this meant they had to rise at 03:00, many arrived exhausted and unable to work.
The camp at Monowitz (also called Monowitz-Buna or Auschwitz III) was constructed and began housing inmates on 30 October 1942, the first concentration camp to be financed and built by private industry.
In January 1943 the ArbeitsausbildungLager (labour education camp) was moved from the parent camp to Monowitz.
These prisoners were also forced to work on the building site. The SS charged IG Farben three Reichsmarks per hour for unskilled workers, four for skilled workers.
Although the camp administrators expected the prisoners to work at 75 per cent of the capacity of a free worker, the inmates were only able to perform 20 to 50 per cent as well.
Site managers constantly threatened inmates with transportation to Birkenau for death in the gas chambers as a way to try to increase productivity.
Deaths and transfers to the gas chambers at Birkenau reduced the prisoner population of Monowitz by nearly a fifth each month; numbers were made up with new arrivals.
Life expectancy of inmates at Monowitz averaged about three months. Though the factory had been expected to begin production in 1943, shortages of labour and raw materials meant start-up had to be postponed repeatedly.
The plant was almost ready to commence production when it was overrun by Soviet troops in 1945.
In mid-1944, about 130,000 prisoners were present in Auschwitz when the SS started to move about half of them to other concentration camps.
In November 1944, with the Soviet Red Army approaching through Poland, Himmler ordered gassing operations to cease across the Reich.
The crematorium IV building was dismantled, and the Sonderkommando were ordered to begin removing evidence of the killings, including the mass graves.
The SS destroyed written records, and in the final week before the camp’s liberation, burned or demolished many of its buildings.
The plundered goods from the ‘Canada’ barracks at Birkenau together with building supplies were transported to the German interior.
On 20 January, the overflowing warehouses were set ablaze. On the same day, the gas chambers, as well as crematoria II and III at Birkenau, were blown up.
The raging fires lasted for several days. On 26 January 1945, the last crematorium V at Birkenau was demolished with explosives just one day ahead of the Soviet attack.
Himmler ordered the evacuation of all camps in January 1945, charging camp commanders with “making sure that not a single prisoner from the concentration camps falls alive into the hands of the enemy.”
On 17 January, 56,000–58,000 Auschwitz detainees, of whom two-thirds were Jews, were evacuated under guard, largely on foot, in severe winter conditions.
Thousands of them died in the subsequent death march west towards Wodzisław Śląski.
The guards shot all prisoners who were unable to march at the imposed pace. Peter Longerich estimates that a quarter of the detainees were thus killed.
A column of inmates reached Gross-Rosen concentration camp complex.
Throughout February, the terribly overcrowded main camp at Gross-Rosen was cleared, and all 44,000 inmates were moved further west.
An unknown number died in this last journey.
In March 1945, Himmler ordered that no more prisoners should be killed, as he hoped to use them as hostages in negotiations with the Allies.
Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945.
When Auschwitz was liberated on 27 January 1945 by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army, the soldiers found 7,500 prisoners alive and over 600 corpses.
. Among items found by the Soviet soldiers were 370,000 men’s suits, 837,000 women’s garments, and 7.7 tonnes (8.5 short tons) of the human hair.
The camp’s liberation received little press attention at the time.
Due to the vast extent of the camp area, at least four divisions took part in liberating the camp: 100th Rifle Division (established in Vologda, Russia), 322nd Rifle Division (Gorky, Russia), 286th Rifle Division (Leningrad), and 107th Motor Rifle Division (Tambov, Russia).
Auschwitz II-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army at around 3:30 p.m. on 27 January 1945, and the main camp (Auschwitz I) two hours later.
Military trucks loaded with bread arrived the next day.
Volunteers began to offer first aid and improvised assistance the following week.
In early February, the Polish Red Cross hospital opened in blocks 14, 21, and 22 at Auschwitz I, headed by Dr Józef Bellert and staffed by 30 volunteer doctors and nurses from Kraków, along with around 90 former inmates.
The critically injured patients – estimated at several thousand – were relocated from Birkenau and Monowitz to the main camp.
Some orphaned children were immediately adopted by Oświęcim residents, while others were transferred to Kraków, where a number of them were adopted by Polish families.
Others were placed in an orphanage at Harbutowice.
Today, Auschwitz-Birkenau is an important historical area, allowing visitors to reflect on the monumental horrors that occurred during the genocide.
Brexit: How will it affect my holidays to Europe?
While political uncertainty over Brexit continues, life must go on as normal for British families – and that includes making plans for holidays to Europe.
The UK is due to leave the EU next month, right before the Easter holidays.
We still don’t know how Britain will leave the EU – with a deal, or without.
If the UK leaves with Theresa May’s deal, then there will be a transition period until the end of 2020, in which little will actually change.
If not, then there will be even more questions about what’s happening after 29 March.
Here’s what we currently know about how holidays abroad might be affected by Brexit.
Am I OK to book a holiday in the EU?
You might be wondering if it is safe to book at all, given the dire warnings from some about what could happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), which offers advice to travellers and represents travel agents and tour operators, advises: “There is nothing to suggest that you will not be able to continue with your holiday plans after 29 March. Even in a no-deal scenario, the European Commission has said flights to and from the UK will still be able to operate.”
It says that those who book a package holiday with a UK-based travel company will have “the most comprehensive consumer protection” as they will continue to be covered by Package Travel Regulations, which entitle them to a full refund if the holiday cannot be provided.
“The best way to protect your holiday is to book a package. It is the travel provider’s responsibility to make sure your holiday is provided and to offer an alternative or refund if it cannot be delivered,” Abta says.
And as for travelling by plane, the government has said that “flights should continue” as they do today, if there is no deal, adding: “Both the UK and EU want flights to continue without any disruption.”
What documents will I need?
The main question most people want to know is whether or not they will need a visa to get to Europe.
You can breathe a sigh of relief – to some extent – as the European Commission has said UK travellers won’t need a visa even if there’s no deal, Abta said.
But British people will need to apply for – and buy – a visa waiver to travel to member states after Brexit whether there’s a deal or not.
The ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), which will cost €7 (£6.30) and be valid for three years, won’t come into force until 2021 though. It’s not just for the UK but many non-EU countries.
If there is a Brexit deal, EU citizens and UK nationals will continue to be able to travel freely with a passport or identity card until the end of the transition period in 2020.
When that ends, the European Commission has offered visa-free travel for UK nationals coming to the EU for a short stay, as long as the UK offers the same in return.
But nothing changes in terms of travel to and from the Republic of Ireland. British and Irish citizens will be able to continue to travel freely within the Common Travel Area – the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey, the government says.
Will there be bigger queues at the airport?
It might be a bit too soon to say “without knowing whether it’s a deal or no deal”, says Abta.
The government says from 29 March, if there’s no deal, most people won’t experience any difference to security screening at airports.
The European Commission has proposed measures to avoid there being any extra security or screening of passengers from the UK when they’re transferring to onward flights at EU airports.
Do I have to get a new passport?
No deal? If the UK leaves without a deal, then new rules will apply. You’ll have to check if your current passport meets those rules and renew it if not.
Basically, British passport holders will be considered third-country nationals as part of the Schengen agreement. Other third country nationals are those from places that aren’t in the EU or European Economic Area, like the US and Australia.
So according to the Schengen Border Code, passports from these countries have to have been issued within the previous 10 years and be valid for another three months from the date you plan to depart the Schengen area, which makes up 26 European states.
But because you’re allowed to stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days, the government is advising you to make sure your passport is valid for at least another six months after your arrival.
Abta advises people to check their passports now to see how long they’re valid for.
If there’s a deal, your passport will be valid until its date of expiry for anywhere within the EU.
What about the European Health Insurance Card – Ehic?
About 27 million people in the UK have Ehics – which entitles the holder to state-provided medical treatment in the EU and other countries which have reciprocal healthcare agreements with Brussels. They cover pre-existing medical conditions and emergency care.
The scheme will continue during the transition period if the withdrawal agreement is ratified.
If there is no deal, then, in theory, the cover provided by an Ehic would cease to exist.
If there is no deal, the advice for those travelling on or after 29 March 2019 to EU countries as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, is to buy travel insurance to cover health care “just as you would if visiting a non-EU country”.
But there could be attempts to put emergency measures in place for UK citizens, or for there to be reciprocal arrangements with individual EU countries. It’s unclear at the moment what the outcome might be.
Are there any changes to insurance?
ABTA says it’s worth making sure what your travel insurance covers and checking the terms and conditions.
For any trips to the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein after 29 March, travellers should make sure their insurance policy covers any possible disruption, the government says. If you already have insurance sorted, then your insurer should let you know if there are any changes that might affect you after the UK leaves the EU.
What will happen with compensation for airline delays?
That’s set to be the same as it is now once the UK leaves the EU – so passengers will be entitled to assistance or compensation if there are boarding problems, delays or cancellations.
What about ferries and Eurostar?
Ferries are covered by international maritime convention so there won’t be any changes, says Abta.
And it’s the same for Eurostar – you’ll still be protected by EU regulation on rail passengers’ rights, as that’s being brought into UK law.
Are mobile phone charges changing?
There’s currently a system in place so you can travel in the EU and won’t be charged extra for roaming – so you can use your mobile for calls, text and data like you would in the UK.
If there’s no deal, that wouldn’t be guaranteed any more – so we could see the return of roaming charges.
The government has said it would introduce a law to cap charges at £45 a month.
If there is a deal, that would be on hold until the start of 2021 and it would then be up to the networks to decide what to do next.
What happens if I want to drive abroad – will I need a new licence?
If there’s no deal, your licence might not be valid by itself when driving in the EU. It means you might need to get hold of an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well, which costs £5.50. You might also need one of those to hire a vehicle. You will need to carry your UK driving licence as well.
Spain, Malta and Cyprus require a different type of IDP – the one governed by the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic – which lasts 12 months. All other EU countries, as well as Norway and Switzerland, recognise the 1968 convention IDP, which is valid for three years.
For those British nationals living in the EU, it’s a bit more complex.
They’ve been urged to swap their licence for a local one as soon as possible in case there’s no deal. If they don’t do that, they might have to pass a new test in the country where they’re living if there’s no deal.
Is anything changing with duty-free?
Duty-free shopping within the EU came to an end in 1999.
There will be no immediate return of duty-free sales if the UK leaves with a deal because, under the arrangement, customs rules will continue to apply during the planned 21-month transition period.
After that period, duty-free sales could return as part of a future trade deal with the EU.
Duty-free sales could also make a comeback if there is not a deal.
What about my pets?
Any pet passports issued in the UK will not be valid for travel to the EU if there’s no deal.
If you want your pet to come with you, whether in a deal or no-deal scenario, you will have to contact your vet at least four months before you plan to travel, so you can get the latest advice.
In short, the rules will change if the UK leaves with no deal. You would have to get your cat, dog or ferret microchipped and vaccinated against rabies before it can travel – it would then need a blood sample to be taken at least 30 days after having the vaccination.
This test is basically to make sure the vaccine has worked. You’d then have to wait another three months before you could travel.
10 Things To Do In Lodz
Lodz knows the transformative power of a lick of paint and a little imagination. A textile manufacturing hub in the 19th century, the Polish city fell into a period of post-WW2 decline known as “Grey Lodz”.
But rather than shuffling off in a moth-eaten shawl, it has spent the past decade dusting itself off and filling in the cracks. Buildings once dressed drably in flaky paint and crumbling plaster are now adorned with bold murals. Mills and factories have been reinvented as lively neighborhoods with apartments, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.
So its nickname, “Polish Manchester”, makes perfect sense – unlike its actual name. Pronounced “woodge”, Lodz translates as “boat” (something of a misnomer for a landlocked, urban sprawl in the center of Poland). Once you’ve wrapped your brain – and your tongue – around that, here’s what to do in this charming city.
Walk Poland’s longest street
At 4.2km, Piotrkowska is the longest commercial street in the country – and probably the most eclectic. From its northern tip at Plac Wolnosci (Liberty Square) to the junction with Pilsudskiego, you’ll find a hotchpotch of architectural styles from the neo-baroque House of Schiebler to Wilhelm Landau’s Bank House, adding some art nouveau into the mix.
Then there’s “Holly-Lodz”, the city’s take on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame (it makes more sense if you remember how to correctly pronounce Lodz). Pavement stars honour Roman Polanski, a graduate of the city’s film school, and pianist Arthur Rubinstein.
Off Piotrkowska is so-named because it’s, well, off Piotrkowska Street – and because it represents the independent and offbeat side of the city. The grounds of an old cotton mill factory have been taken over by barbershops, artisanal ice-cream, irresistible boutiques, food trucks, restaurants and cafes. Mitmi Restobar is a cool spot for lunch, dinner or a prosecco cocktail with lychee and grapefruit liqueur, and has tables spilling out onto the square.
Stroll around street art
Edgy and eye-catching murals are plastered around Lodz, a reminder of its determined reinvention. The city-approved Urban Forms Foundation launched in 2009 with the mission of brightening up the post-industrial landscape. And it certainly worked.
Around 40 creations by local and global street artists have transformed beige buildings into canvases and car parks into galleries. Look out for the weasels on Ogrodowa Street and blue flying elephant on Uniwersytecka Street.
The largest of the lot, featuring Lodz landmarks and a wooden sailboat, is on the corner of Piotrkowska and Pilsudskiego.
Dine on dumplings
Traditional Polish food is hearty, rich and satisfying, cut through with tangy pickles and brightened with ingredients like beetroot and spring onion. In other words, it’s delicious. And, in Lodz at least, it’s also a great value.
Try Delight for dishes like smoked goose breast, herrings, pork knuckle braised in beer, and pierogi – dumplings filled with wild mushrooms or spiced ground pork. Koperek Bistro is where locals go when they can’t be bothered to cook, with a daily changing menu of dishes like borscht and breaded pork chop.
Peek inside a palace
The 19th century Izrael Poznanski Palace is next to the Manufaktura complex, where the textile magnate built his factory (and fortune). Now, the former home of Lodz’s second-richest citizen is a lavish example of the city’s eclectic architecture.
When you’re that moneyed, why settle for one style? The vast, vaulted-ceilinged rooms house the Museum of the City of Lodz with exhibits on famous residents, including Arthur Rubinstein and resistance fighter Jan Karski.
Even the most niche interests should be satisfied in Lodz. There’s the Museum of the Factory, which tells the story of the city’s textile manufacturing boom.
The Central Museum of Textiles, in the classicist buildings of the White Factory, gets down to the intricate stitches, while the Museum of Cinematography celebrates Polish cinema with original film posters, props, and filming equipment. There’s even a Museum of the Sewer, a restored red-brick subterranean reservoir accessed from Plac Wolnosci.
Visit the Jewish cemetery
One of Europe’s largest Jewish necropolises covers more than 100 acres with around 180,000 graves, including the imposing Poznanski’s Mausoleum.
Many of the more modest plots are tangled with greenery and shaded by trees, lending an eerie beauty. In the “Ghetto Field”, many plots are marked with cement posts and rusty bed frames – gravestones were forbidden for those who died under Nazi occupation.
Lodz has 40 urban parks, gardens and green squares. Zdrowie (meaning “health”) has gorgeous botanical gardens and stalls selling beer and street food. The prettiest, though, is Zrodliska. Founded in 1840 as a meeting spot for cotton mill workers, the original bandstand remains a focal point on the lawns, while the Palm House has paths winding between 140-year-old trees. The roof is occasionally raised to accommodate them as they grow taller.
Party on Piotrkowska
It’s easy to find the party in Lodz – pretty much all the clubs and bars spill out onto the wide promenade of Piotrkowska Street. Most have outside seating for people-watching (in summer, at least) while ducking down a cobbled alleyway often reveals courtyards with a handful of drinking spots.
Lodz Kaliska is a labyrinthine pub/club with a chilled-out terrace and a terrifying loo with a one-way mirror (don’t worry, they can’t see you pee). Just off the main stretch, Piwoteka pours small-batch local beers from IPAs to sours.
Sleep in a factory
Sprawled across a site the size of 54 football pitches, Manufaktura is huge in scale and ambition. Shops, bars, restaurants and museums occupy the tangerine-brick buildings and grounds of a former textile factory.
Vienna House Andel’s Lodz occupies the weaving mill, and is widely considered the city’s best hotel. The painstaking, thoughtful renovation has resulted in chic, cosy rooms and quirky design details. Look out for tiny faces stencilled on walls around the building. Each represents a figure involved in the building’s history, from original owner Izrael Poznanski to hotel staff.
Wizz Air (wizzair.com) has several daily departures from Luton and regional airports to Warsaw Chopin, about an hour from Lodz. Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies direct to Lodz Wladyslaw Reymont airport six days a week from London Stansted from £17.49 one way.
St. Mary’s Basilica, Kraków
St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków also known as The Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven is a Brick Gothic church adjacent to the Main Market Square in Kraków, Poland.
St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków was built in the 14th century, its foundations date back to the early 13th century and serve as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture.
Standing 80 m (262 ft) tall, St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków is particularly famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss.
On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of Saint Mary’s two towers.
The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th-century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city.
The noon-time hejnał is heard across Poland and abroad broadcast live by the Polish national Radio 1 Station.
St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków also served as an architectural model for many of the churches that were built by the Polish diaspora abroad, particularly those like Saint Michael’s and Saint John Cantius in Chicago, designed in the Polish Cathedral style.
The church is familiar to many English-speaking readers from the 1929 book The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly.
According to chronicler Jan Długosz, Saint Mary’s Basilica in the Main Square in Kraków was founded in 1221–22 by the Bishop of Kraków, Iwo Odrowąż.
The building was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Poland.
Between 1290–1300 the new early Gothic church was built on the remaining foundations. It was consecrated twenty years later, in 1320.
St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków was completely rebuilt during the reign of Casimir III the Great between 1355 and 1365 with substantial contributions from wealthy restaurateur Mikołaj Wierzynek.
The presbytery was elongated and tall windows added.
The main body of the church was completed in 1395–97 with the new vault constructed by master Nicholas Wernher from Prague.
However, the vault over the presbytery collapsed in 1442 due to a possible earthquake, which has never happened before nor since in Kraków.
In the first half of the 15th century, the side chapels were added.
Most of them were the work of master Franciszek Wiechoń. At the same time, the northern tower was raised and designed to serve as the watchtower for the entire city.
In 1478 carpenter Maciej Heringh (or Heringk funded a helmet for the tower.
A gilded crown was placed on it in 1666, which is still present today.
At the end of the 15th century, Saint Mary’s Basilica Krakow was enriched with a sculptural masterpiece, an Altarpiece of Veit Stoss (Ołtarz Mariacki Wita Stwosza) of late Gothic design.
In 1536/37, King Sigismund I. declared that the sermons in the church should be changed from German to Polish.
The large German community of Kraków was relocating their place of worship to the smaller Saint Barbara’s church.
In the 18th century, by the decision of vicar Jacek Augustyn Łopacki, the interior was rebuilt in the late Baroque style.
The author of this work was Francesco Placidi. All 26 altars, equipment, furniture, benches and paintings were replaced and the walls were decorated with polychrome, the work of Andrzej Radwański.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the city decided that a cemetery near the Basilica was to be shut down and replaced by a public square. Today, it is known as Plac Mariacki (Marian Square).
In the years 1887–1891, under the direction of Tadeusz Stryjeński, the neo-Gothic design was introduced into the Basilica.
The temple gained a new design and murals painted and funded by Jan Matejko, who worked with Stanislaw Wyspianski and Józef Mehoffer – the authors of stained glass in the presbytery.
On 18 April 2010 in St. Mary’s Basilica Kraków a funeral ceremony for Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria was held. The coffins were later transported and buried in one of the crypts of Wawel Cathedral.
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