A Guide to Historic Kraków: Part 2

In the first edition of our Historical Guide to Kraków, we delved into the city’s deep past, recommending visitors explore Wawel Royal Castle and Cathedral, the Old Town, and St Mary’s Basilica, among other sites. 

Today’s blog will highlight some of Kraków’s must-visit WW2 sites. If you’re passionate about the history of the Second World War or military history generally, you will find Kraków an endlessly fulfilling travel destination. 

And if you’d like to explore this remarkably well-preserved and ornate medieval city with expert local historians, consider joining Poland at War Tours for our 4-Day Guided Tour of Southern Poland.

The Home Army Museum, Kraków (Armia Krajowa Museum)

Established in 2000, this is one of the only museums in Poland dedicated to the Home Army’s brave resistance against the occupying Nazi German and Soviet Russian forces during WW2 (the other great example being the Warsaw Uprising Museum). 

Established by the Polish Underground State, the Home Army, or Armia Krajowa in Polish, it was the largest resistance movement in Europe during the war. 

For ten years before the museum’s opening, its founders asked anyone connected to the Home Army and its wartime fight to donate their WW2 artifacts. The response was fantastic; the museum’s collections are now home to over 12,000 items. The museum is also a library site that possesses over 11,000 volumes related to WW2. 

The museum exhibitions also go beyond the activities of the Home Army. Here, you will find the tragic story of what life was like in occupied Poland for civilians. You will learn about the establishment of concentration camps on occupied Polish land and the Holocaust. 

But perhaps most moving of all are the tales of individual heroism and self-sacrifice. Hearing about the brave fight of Polish soldiers during the Winter Campaign or reading extracts from the diaries of men like Henryk Dobrzański is inspiring and heartbreaking in equal measure.

A gem of a museum for those passionate about the Second World War. 

Wita Stwosza 12, 31-511 Kraków


Oskar Schindler’s Factory

Even those with only a passing interest in 20th-century history are likely to have seen Steven Spielberg’s masterly Schindler’s List. Well, in Kraków, you can visit the site of the real Schindler’s enamel plant. 

The museum’s main exhibition tells the story of Oskar Schindler’s work saving 1,200 Jewish lives, for which he was awarded Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. But the museum also explores Kraków’s history more widely, delving into what life was like before the war and the cultural milieu that shaped the culture of the city. 

Highlights of the museum are set pieces from Spielberg’s films, including Schindler’s desk. 

Oskar Schindler’s factory is just one of the many highlights of Poland at War Tours’ comprehensive 14-Day WW2 Tour of Poland

Lipowa 4, 30-702 Kraków

Auschwitz – Birkenau Memorial and Museum

In our view, Auschwitz is not only the most important historical site in Poland but perhaps the most important historical site on earth. The Nazis systematically murdered at least 1.3 million at the site, including Jews, Poles, Roma, and Soviet POWs. 

The Holocaust is the largest act of ethnic genocide ever carried out against a people and presents visitors with many shocking moments. A tour of Auschwitz – Birkenau in the obligatory company of one of the museum’s official guides cannot be said to be an enjoyable experience, though it is profound.

Those of us alive today owe it to the victims of the Holocaust’s industrialised slaughter to honour their memories and spread the facts of the Holocaust as much as possible. 

Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site is straightforward, with regular buses and tour coaches heading from the centre of Kraków to the camps, which are about an hour away, in the small town of Oświęcim.

If you’d like to visit the Auschwitz Museum with Poland at War Tours, you can join our expert guide on a visit to the site with our 4-Day Krakow Tour, 14-Day Comprehensive Tour of Poland, or Day Tours Leaving from Warsaw and Krakow.

Więźniów Oświęcimia 20, 32-603 Oświęcim

Ulica Pomorska & Former Gestapo Cells

The Dom Śląski, or ‘Silesian House,’ served as the Gestapo headquarters during WW2. Unspeakable torture and a thousand injustices were carried out at this location, but a visit to the museum today is an important reminder of the horrors of war and the inhumanity to which people can sink. 

Within the cells of the former prison and Nazi HQ, over 600 prisoner inscriptions still remain on the walls. This is a stark place, but a window into the past and certainly worth the trip. The former Gestapo cells are found about a 20-minute walk from Kraków’s Old Town.

Also on the site is the exhibit People of Krakow in Times of Terror 1939-1945-1956, an exploration of both the terror of occupied life under the Nazis and under Stalinist Soviet rule in the years following the end of the war.

 ♦ ul. Pomorska 2, Old Town, Kraków


The Eagle Pharmacy Museum

Our final WW2 site to visit in Kraków is the Eagle Pharmacy Museum (Apteka Pod Orłem w Krakowie). 

This is the site of the only pharmacy that was allowed to operate in Kraków’s Jewish ghetto during WW2. The chemist was Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a non-Jew, and he eventually began helping Jewish residents by providing medical supplies and items that could aid escapes, such as hair dye.

The building itself became a hub for conspiratorial meetings. The museum tells the story of the pharmacy’s fascinating role and the wider story of Jewish life in Kraków. 

Tadeusz Pankiewicz was awarded Righteous Among the Nations in 1983 for his activities in rescuing Jews. You can visit the Eagle Pharmacy Museum on our 4-Day Tour of Krakow or WW2 Day Tours in Krakow.

 ♦ Plac Bohaterów Getta 18, 30-547 Kraków

This ends part two of our guide to Kraków’s historical sites. If you’d like to explore Kraków in the company of expert local guides, please consider joining us at Poland at War Tours.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

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