There is, of course, a fifth Poland, and that is Jewish Poland, past and present. The past saw Poland homing the largest number of Jews in Europe, some three million or so, roughly ten percent of the estimated pre-war population of 30+ million. The current sees a very different picture, for more reasons than simply the Holocaust, the count now being a dramatic fraction of first number, some 25,000 souls or 0.065% of the population. I have said nothing about the Jewish side of Poland so far, although I have visited a number of places that relate to them and their stories.
I did not go to Auschwitz-Birkenau when I was in Krakow for reasons I will describe later, but this morning I spent several hours at Majdanek, aka KL Lublin, which was both a concentration/work camp and an extermination camp on the outskirts of Lublin between 1941 and 1944. It has the dubious distinction of being the best preserved camp of its kind due to its hasty evacuation at the end of the war and apparently the incompetence of its commander. Lublin itself was home to a large percentage of Jews for much of its history, and it was an important center of Talmudic study as well.
So stay tuned for this particular installment, which will be its own blog or set of blogs not integrated into the rest of the tale. It deserves to stand alone. There were many crows in evidence during my visit this morning, and by their distinguished black garb, genial curiosity, and careful attention to our presence, seemed to be appropriate hosts and guardians of the stories literally buried there.