Me, Cracow and the room of choices

Leggi in Italiano

I can’t stand pain. Or else, I can’t stand humans using violence on other humans and living beings and I can’t stand the pain that violence implies.

As written in this post for Movidabilia about my trip with the Memory Train organized by Terra del Fuoco Mediterranea, I’m not able to decode violence.

Like everybody else, you’ll say? Or at least like many people?

Mmmh… not really.

I belong to that after all small group of people who can’t keep rational when it comes to the narration of violence; I lack the shield that is so common among human beings and helps them to “transcend” situations, looking at pain from the outside.

This counts for the violence depicted in movies or written stories, both novels or documentaries.

This is why I told many people that I would have hardly visited Auschwitz-Birkenau or any other extermination camp in my life.

Then life really knocks on your door and, at that point, you have to enter the “room of choices”.

In my case, it has meant facing my inability and fear, without necessarily overcoming it.

Let’s start from the beginning: I didn’t have in mind nor did I suggest other people to visit any extermination camp.

Let’s jump straight to the end: I still say that no, I wouldn’t go there and I don’t recommend others to go there.

birkenau con la neve

Especially if you haven’t been properly trained before leaving. Not without an emotional approach path to adjust to what you will see, through guides, trainers and educators, not without spending time in groups to share ideas as well as taking your time for self-contemplation.

Can I be really honest? Shall I say it all?
Ok then, I’ll be straight: I think it would be advisable to allow the visit to these places only to groups who have undergone a sort of historical comprehension path as well as an emotional approach to what happened here.

I would have never done this path without the project “Treno della Memoria”, (in english, Memory Train), allowing every year thousands of students to learn more and better about the shoah and nazi fascism rise in Europe.
In this way, no suffering nor violence have to be perceived as a museum relic: dusty past, evidence of what is gone.

I suggest those visiting Krakow on their own, without having planned a specific educational approach to the extermination camps, to visit, instead, the Oskar Schindler factory museum, located exactly in the factory that was assigned to the famous German clerk during the occupation, whose list of workers saved their lives from being deported and surely killed.

It is not a museum dedicated to the Spielberg movie with Liam Neeson (the movie was actually shot here).

It’s not even a museum dedicated to the memory of Schindler, an anonymous part of a well-run mechanism to exploit Jewish workers at low cost; Schindler moved away from it after a while, in spite of those who say “we received orders, we couldn’t object, we couldn’t do anything”.

Museo della fabbrica di Schindler Cracovia

Well yes, his desk, the reproduction of his office, some meaningful items are there. But the whole setting, a project guided by Monika Bednarek, is a multimedia museum on the occupation of the town, as it was lived here.

The occupation in Krakow was different than in other polish cities and much, much different from the occupation of Warsaw that was totally destroyed, as I wrote in this post on my Warsaw.

No glorious resistance here, where the major immediately declared Krakow an open city, thus saving many civilians because the occupation required no bombing.

Krakow needed no rebuilding, almost nothing was destroyed.

Cracovia camera delle scelte

The signs of the occupation, first Nazi and then Communist, are found in the tales and thoughts of Krakow people.

I’ve had the honour to get to know a relevant representation of this people in terms of general culture, international approach and open-mindedness. A really wonderful generation of European people.

The museum ends with a dark tunnel on a soft and unstable floor.
Just like Europe after the Great War (both the first and the second):
shocked, unstable, dark.

stanza delle scelte - museo delle fabbrica di schiuder, cracovia

The tunnel leads to a well of white light, strong and immediate, with panels reminding the human dilemmas during the war, the ethical doubt of fight, whether or not to fight, how and against who.

Dilemmas are negative, permanent. Others are revisionist, revolving, variable, changeable.

This light well is a starting point, it can be everything, from the best world possible to a hell worse than the last one, just like the second world war after the first.

This point has a name. It’s called the room of choices.


  • Nina

    I think it’s important that people go through some reflection and preparation before visiting a place like this. Far too many wouldn’t, which is just a waste of a visit.

  • Elizabeth O.

    I’ve never been to Krakow but I would love to. It sounds like a place that’s rich with history. And I’m glad that it didn’t need much repair after the war. Those buildings deserve to be preserved.

  • Ali Rost

    I can’t imagine what it must have been like to visit. A few years ago my husband and I went to the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. and it was one of the most moving places I’ve ever been. It’s hard to even imagine anything more horrible

  • Ana De- Jesus

    It must have been such a difficult experience. I had a similar experience when I was at a holocaust exhibition, nothing could have prepared me for how haunting and sad the experience was. I am glad that I did it though because I was doing a module in World War II poetry so it really helped x

  • chichi

    it is an emotional experience and very tough for you i am sure, i hope to visit it soon!

  • Nina

    Wow, that would be a tough experience for sure. Like you, I’m not sure if I could do it either. I think you’re very right that some sort of preparation and reflection beforehand is the best so people understand how serious it is.

  • Ali Rost

    Beautiful photos! My husband and I are museum junkies .. not to mention he’s part Polish. So this one looks like one we’ll add to our list. Thanks so much for sharing!

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