The Krakow Ghetto was formally established in 1941 with the intention of separating “able workers” from those deemed not to be worthy of life. Around 68, 000 members of the Jewish community were forced out of their homes with very few possessions. The majority were taken to rural areas whilst 15,000 people were crammed into 320 residential buildings previously inhabited by 3000 people across 30 streets in the Podgorze area south of the river. This patch of land would become the Krakow Ghetto.
Persecution of Jews began shortly after German troops occupied Poland. Their businesses were closed down, children were taken out of schools and everybody from the age of 12 and up had to wear a yellow armband with a Star of David identifying them as Jews. Up to that point the Jewish community in Krakow had flourished in the Kazimierz district for six centuries, but was destroyed overnight. The vast majority would end up in forced labour camps or exterminated in nearby Auschwitz.
The Jewish Ghetto in Krakow was fenced in by huge walls that kept it separated from the rest of the city. The only exit and entrance routes were four guarded gates that allowed traffic to pass through. Small sections of the wall are still there today. Four families had to share one apartment, and those that were less fortunate lived on the streets.
In May 1942, the Nazi´s began systematic deportations of Jews to nearby forced labour camps, Placow and Belzec and by March 1943 the Ghetto was emptied. Anyone deemed unfit for work was executed on the streets of the Ghetto. The rest were sent to Auschwitz. Famous people who have survived the Krakow Ghetto are the film director, Roman Polanski and his first cousin, the writer Roma Ligocka, who documented her experiences in the “The Girl in the Red Coat.”