We spent Shabbat זכור in the city of Kraków, serving as such a dynamic parallel. Just as we זכור- remember  Amalek’s vicious attack on our people, so too we commemorate the lives of those who were taken, and those who endured the holocaust. Singing and dancing in The Isaac Synagogue was our way of simultaneously stomping on Amalek and the Nazis. Welcoming in Shabbat alongside Jews from around the world, we proved the failure of our adversaries in their attempts to crush the Jewish spirit.

After Shul we returned to the hotel for a Tisch where we learned the power of a ניגין, a song without words. The traditional tunes provided an unexplainably uplifting experience that transcended the limitation of words. We then went around in a circle, sharing our families holocaust stories. Personalizing the atrocities that happened in this terrible place made it all the more personal.

That Shabbat morning after davening in the Shul we sat with Paulina, a righteous gentile whose family hid many Jews during the Holocaust. Her mother fed soup to the Jewish children living in the ghetto while Paulina stayed watch. Later when jews were being sent to the camps, her father arranged to hide Jews in a small bunker hidden beneath a barn. Paulina described that even though she witnessed the gruesome treatment of a family who was caught hiding Jews, she had no doubt that it was what she must do. Her family defied the odds and their courage and valor inspired us all deeply.

For lunch we went to the first Beis Yaakov, which is now a branch of learning institutions created for Jewish women. We then toured the city of Kraków, and got a glimpse of the strong Jewish presence that once thrived here. We visited the Alt Shul Museum, an ornate reformist Shul, and the Shul of the Ramah, noting the many Jewish influences once present in the city. David (our tour guide) taught us about the benefactors who refurbished the temples of these old Jewish communities as a way to salvage our heritage here. In the middle of the coffee shops and art galleries there was a gated plot of grass designated as a memorial for the pre-World War II cemetery which was destroyed by the Nazis.

After a meaningful Havdalah we traveled further through the Kraków ghetto and to the Umshlacht Platz Train Station. Polish Jews would get their tickets here and then were shipped off to neighboring death and labor camps. Now in this spot stone chairs are scattered throughout the area as a memorial for the seats in the station that were never returned to.

Our last stop was to Shindler’s factory where we saw photos of the 1200 Jews who Oscar Shindler saved. It was the perfect way to end our meaningful Shabbat, remembering  the names and faces of the Jews who once lived here.