Category: Historical

Category: Historical

Malbork Castle


Past home of The Teutonic Order

Malbork is a town in northern Poland which is popular because of the medieval Malbork Castle founded in the 13th century by the Knights of the Teutonic Order.

Largest Gothic fortress in Europe

The Teutonic Order was founded around the year 1190 in Palestine to crusade against the Muslims and pagans. In the early 14th century the Teutonic Knights moved their capital from Venice to Malbork on the Nogat River, which is now in northern Poland. The most significant trace of the their presence in the town is the imposing red brick castle from 1274 on the river bank, and it is the largest Gothic fortress in Europe.

Under continuous construction for nearly 230 years, the Malbork Castle complex is actually three castles nested in one another. A classic example of a medieval fortress, it is the world’s largest brick castle and one of the most impressive of its kind in Europe.

World War II

The castle was in the process of being restored when World War II broke out. During the war, the castle was over 50% destroyed. Restoration has been ongoing since the war. However, the main cathedral in the castle, fully restored just prior to the war and destroyed during the war, remains in its ruined state. The castle and its museum are listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

Third Reich

With the rise of Adolf Hitler to power in the early 1930s the Nazis began using the site for annual pilgrimages by both the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls. It was the Teutonic Castle at Marienburg, Malbork that served as the blue print for the Order Castles of the Third Reich.

Defensive Walls

Malbork Castle is encircled by defensive walls with gates and towers. The Grand Master’s palace is believed to be the top achievement of the late-Gothic style. The representative summer refectory is the most attractive chamber in the castle interiors.

Useful links

The Malbork Castle Museum

Unesco

Dental tourism

Malbork castle is only 62 km from Gdansk where many high quality dental clinics are located. The easiest way to get to Malbork Castle from Gdansk is by train. From Gdansk Glowny, the main train station in Gdansk, it can take between 28 and 55 minutes to get to Malbork Castle, depending upon the type of train you choose.


Kashubia


The Kashubians

Kashubia is a lake district in North Poland. It is surrounded by many hills made by Scandinavian glaciers.

Among larger cities, Gdynia contains the largest proportion of people declaring Kashubian origin. However, the biggest city of the Kashubia region is Gdańsk, the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the traditional capital of Kashubia.

The traditional occupations of Kashubians were agriculture and fishing; today these are joined by the service and hospitality industry, and agrotourism especially in the so-called Kashubian Switzerland.

Dental tourism in Kashubia

If you are coming to Gdansk for dental treatment, you will be in the Capital of Kashubia and therefore in the perfect location to explore the region.

Kashubians

Kashubians / Kaszubians, also called Kashubs, Kaszubians, Kassubians or Cassubians, are a West Slavic ethnic group. They speak Kashubian, classified either as a language or a Polish dialect.

The total number of Kashubians varies depending on one’s definition. A common estimate is that over 300,000 people in Poland are of the Kashubian ethnicity. The most extreme estimates are as low as 50,000 or as high as 500,000.

The language in Kashubia

In 2005, Kashubian was for the first time made an official subject on the Polish matura exam (roughly equivalent to the English A-Level and French Baccalaureat). Despite an initial uptake of only 23 students, this development was seen as an important step in the official recognition and establishment of the language.

Today, in some towns and villages in northern Poland, Kashubian is the second language spoken after Polish, and it is taught in regional schools.

Since 2005 Kashubian enjoys legal protection in Poland as an official regional language. It is the only tongue in Poland with this status. It was granted by an act of the Polish Parliament on January 6, 2005.

Old Kashubian culture has partially survived in architecture and folk crafts such as pottery, plaiting, embroidery, amber-working, sculpturing and glasspainting.

In 1858 Kashubians emigrated to Upper Canada and created the settlement of Wilno, in Renfrew County, Ontario, which still exists today.

Tourist Attractions

Kashubian Ethnographic Park: At Wdzydze Kiszewskie is an outdoor museum of traditional Kaszubian buildings, founded in 1906. The buildings were collected from the region, lovingly restored and furnished and set up as a folk village. Perhaps some of them were abandoned by the Kaszubs as they left to look for a new life overseas. In the area of 22 hectares there are approximately 40 buildings: 7 farmyards, 2 manor houses, 5 cottages, 4 nobleman houses, a village school with a classroom, a church, a sawmill, a windmill and a smithy.

Centre for Education and Regional Promotion in Szymbark: Danmar is a timber house builder and is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Kashubian culture. They have on exhibit new and old solid timber houses, even a church, a replica underground bunker as used by the partisans during WWII (Gryf Pomorski), an ‘upside down’ house and a restored steam train as used to transport people to the camps in Siberia. They have the longest plank of sawn wood in the world. It was cut from a Douglas fir measuring 36.83m and can be found in the Guinness Book of Records. Many Polish celebrities were involved in the sawing including Lech Walesa. It is well worth a visit.

Parowozownia (steam locomotive museum) at Koscierzyna: The open air railway museum at Koscierzyna displays a huge collection of steam locomotives and railway stock, dating back to 1929, and documents the development of the railways in the region. You are free to climb onto these huge engines and even ride on a working steam train!

Sand dunes at Leba: Nearby is the Smoldzino and Slowinski National Park, covering more than 18,000 hectares of dune, forest, water and peat environment, and sand-bars separating lakes Lebsko and Gardno from the sea. Here shifting dunes, which can reach a height up to 120m (400 feet), leave wilderness behind them; and one can feel as though in a real desert, Poland’s Sahara, with sand all the way to the horizon.

Hel Peninsula: The sandy Hel Peninsula, 35 km long, is a unique natural and landscape attraction and some call it the longest pier in Europe. The whole of the Hel Peninsula is incorporated into the Seaside Landscape Park (Nadmorski Park Krajobrazowy). On the Hel Peninsula there are the seaside resorts of Kuznica, Jurata and Jastarnia. At it’s furthest point is Hel, a well known fishing port, and the seat of a fishing museum, as well as a reminder of the last Polish bastion in the September 1939 fight with the Nazi invaders.

Malbork Castle: Malbork is the mightiest ot the Teutonic Knights’ fortresses and the capital of their independent state until returned to Poland at the end of the 15th century. It consists of the Upper Castle, the Middle Castle and the Palace of the Grand Master surrounded by common walls and a moat. The main gate has been reconstructed with its portcullis. Inside there is a museum with many artifacts and a great collection of amber jewelery and figures. You may visit either with a group or by yourself. If you want to take pictures, you need to buy a special ticket.

Bytów Castle: The castle was built by the Teutonic Knights at the end of the 14th century. It is now fully restored, part is a hotel, part is the Museum of Kashubia. Here you may see many examples of fine local art and embroidery.

Chmielno: The Museum of Kashubian Pottery of the Necel family in Chmielno is a showcase of the art of pottery making. Under a master’s expert eye, you can even make your own clay pot!

Kashubian Regional Museum in Kartuzy: will introduce you to some of the intricacies of Kashubian domestic, cultural and religious traditions. Kashubians are a very ancient ethnic group of Slavonic Balts. They resisted polonisation for centuries but regard themselves as Poles. After the partitions of Poland, despite systematic germanisation, the Kashubians maintained close ties with Poland. They did not lose their identity, historical heritage or original culture.

The Kaszubski Landscape Park: attracts nature lovers with its nine nature reserves featuring beautiful Pomeranian beech forests and rare specimens of flora and fauna. The Radunia River Gorge, with the river flowing like a mountain stream through a deep ravine, is one of the park’s most attractive views. The striking beauty of the area is the result of the activity of continental glaciers, which carved out deep valleys and created the rivers and lakes.

Ostrich Farm at Garczyno: It was the first Ostrich farm in Poland, founded in 1993. The ostrich count is about 100. You get the chance to taste the scrambled egg made from the ostrich egg, and you can have a ride on the back of camel. There is also another ostrich farm in the village of Wandowo.

Stone Rings Reserve in Wesior: It’s at the cemetery Gotów. There are about 160 graves and four stone circles dating from the beginning of AD. Supposedly, this place influences people and gives them unforgettable impressions.

Kwidzyn: It is worth visiting the 14th century castle and cathedral complex located there, as well as the Recreational Grounds of Milosna (a beautiful complex of buildings dating back from the early 20th century). Here you can also see a mini-Zoo for children. Moreover, while in Kwidzyn, you can enjoy the numerous town attractions, such as: restaurants, sala s, discos, etc.

Anthem Museum: About eight kilometres east of Kościerzyna is the small village of Będomin. There is the 18th century court which is surrounded with a park of three hundred years old linden and oaks. This court has belonged to Józef Wybicki’s family for many years. The museum has been open since 1798, and it’s the only Anthem Museum in the world.

Sianowo: features a wooden church built in 1816.

Wiezyca: a viewing tower offering fantastic views and three ski slopes.

Szymbark: where you can enjoy horse and cart rides and where sleigh rides are organised (snow permitting!)

Golubie: very famous for its beautiful botanical gardens.


Castles in Poland


Castles, forts & palaces

Poland is home to an enormous number of castles, Teutonic fortresses, Silesian strongholds, palaces & fortified manor houses. Unfortunately many of the great castles in Poland are in ruins or have been transformed into palaces & hotels; however there are still many left intact offering tourists a unique window into the history of Poland, it’s culture & heritage.

The Teutonic Knights

The Teutonic Knights were responsible for building the most remarkable castles in Poland and these are situated in the North East of the country.

Malbork Castle is the largest surviving Medieval castle in Europe and should be on your list of castles to visit. Other castles built by the Teutonic Knights and worth a visit are in Lidzbark Warminski and Kwidzyn.

Nicolaus Copernicus lived at Lidzbark Warminski castle for several years, and it is believed he wrote part of his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium there.

Kwidzyn contains the partially-ruined 14th century Brick Gothic Ordensburg castle of the Teutonic Order. Connected to the castle to the east is a large cathedral (built 1343-1384) containing the tombs of the bishops as well those of three Grand Masters of the Teutonic Knights. The literally outstanding feature of the castle is a sewer tower which is connected to it by a bridge. The tower used to be placed at the river which has changed its course since, leaving it on dry land.

The Kings of Poland

The Kings of Poland all resided within either Wawel Castle in Krakow or the Royal Castle in Warsaw and both of these castles are popular tourist attractions.

Eagles’ Nest fortification

Between Czestochowa and Krakow, many castles were built in the Middle Ages as part of a great Eagles’ Nest fortification; however were destroyed during the Swedish Deluge of the 1650s.

The most popular ruins in this area are the castles of Bobolice, Bolków, Olsztyn, Mirow & Ogrodzieniec. Pieskowa Skala is the only one well-preserved castle from the whole Eagles’ Nest fortification system.

Other recommended castles are located in Baranow Sandomierski, Ksiaz, Niedzica, Goluchow and ruined castle in Krzysztopor in Ujazd village.


Auschwitz


Dental treatment in Krakow

If you are considering dental treatment in Krakow, you may wish to visit Auschwitz between treatments. It is widely agreed that everyone should visit Auschwitz at least once in their lives, it is a stern reminder of the horrors that human beings can inflict on each other and for some people, a life-changing experience.

Auschwitz was a network of concentration and extermination camps built and operated in occupied Poland by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. It was the largest of the German concentration camps, consisting of Auschwitz I (the Stammlager or main camp); Auschwitz II-Birkenau (the Vernichtungslager or extermination camp); Auschwitz III-Monowitz, also known as Buna-Monowitz (a labor camp); and 45 satellite camps.

Oświęcim

Auschwitz is the German name for Oświęcim, the town the camps were located in and around; it was renamed by the Germans after they invaded Poland in September 1939. Birkenau, the German translation of Brzezinka (birch tree), refers to a small Polish village nearby that was mostly destroyed by the Germans to make way for the camp.

The Final Solution

Auschwitz II-Birkenau was designated by Heinrich Himmler, who was the Reichsführer and Germany’s Minister of the Interior, as the locus of the “final solution of the Jewish question in Europe”.



From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million exterminated, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.1 million, around 90 percent of them Jews.

From spring 1942 until the fall of 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over Nazi-occupied Europe. The camp’s first commandant, Rudolf Höss, testified after the war at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there (2.5 million exterminated, and 500,000 from disease and starvation), a figure since revised to 1.1 million, around 90 percent of them Jews.

Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and tens of thousands of people of diverse nationalities. Those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, lack of disease control, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Liberation of Auschwitz

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 1947, Poland founded a museum on the site of Auschwitz I and II, which by 1994 had seen 22 million visitors (700,000 annually) pass through the iron gates crowned with the infamous motto, Arbeit macht frei (“work makes you free”).

Selections

By July 1942, the SS were conducting the infamous “selections,” in which incoming Jews were divided into those deemed able to work, who were sent to the right and admitted into the camp, and those who were sent to the left and immediately gassed.



Prisoners were transported from all over German-occupied Europe by rail, arriving in daily convoys. The group selected to die, about three-quarters of the total, included almost all children, women with children, all the elderly, and all those who appeared on brief and superficial inspection by an SS doctor not to be completely fit. Auschwitz II-Birkenau claimed more victims than any other German extermination camp, despite coming into use after all the others.

SS officers told the victims they were to take a shower and undergo delousing. The victims would undress in an outer chamber and walk into the gas chamber, which was disguised as a shower facility, complete with dummy shower heads. After the doors were shut, SS men would dump in the cyanide pellets via holes in the roof or windows on the side. In Auschwitz II-Birkenau, more than 20,000 people could be gassed and cremated each day.



Sonderkommandos removed gold teeth from the corpses of gas chamber victims; the gold was melted down and collected by the SS. The belongings of the arrivals were seized by the SS and sorted in an area of the camp called “Canada,” so-called because Canada was seen as a land of plenty. Many of the SS at the camp enriched themselves by pilfering the confiscated property.

The last selection took place on October 30, 1944. The next month, Heinrich Himmler ordered the crematoria destroyed before the Red Army reached the camp. The gas chambers of Birkenau were blown up by the SS in January 1945 in an attempt to hide the German crimes from the advancing Soviet troops. The SS command sent orders on January 17, 1945 calling for the execution of all prisoners remaining in the camp, but in the chaos of the Nazi retreat the order was never carried out. On January 17, 1945, Nazi personnel started to evacuate the facility.

Nearly 60,000 prisoners were forced on a death march toward a camp in Wodzisław Śląski (German: Loslau). Those too weak or sick to walk were left behind. These remaining 7,500 prisoners were liberated by the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army on January 27, 1945.



Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945. Among the artifacts of automated murder found by the Russians were 348,820 men’s suits and 836,255 women’s garments.

Auschwitz Today

Today, at Birkenau the entrance building and some of the southern brick-built barracks survive; but of the almost 300 wooden barracks, only 19 remain: 18 near the entrance building and one, on its own, farther away. All that survives of the others are chimneys, remnants of a largely ineffective means of heating. Many of these wooden buildings were constructed from prefabricated sections made by a company that intended them to be used as stables; inside, numerous metal rings for the tethering of horses can still be seen.

The Polish government decided to restore Auschwitz I and turn it into a museum honouring the victims of Nazism; Auschwitz II, where buildings (many of which were prefabricated wood structures) were prone to decay, was preserved but not restored. Today, the Auschwitz I museum site combines elements from several periods into a single complex: for example the gas chamber at Auschwitz I (which had been converted into an air-raid shelter for the SS) was restored and the fence was moved (because of building work being done after the war but before the museum was established). However, in most cases the departure from the historical truth is minor, and is clearly labelled.

The museum contains many men’s, women’s and children’s shoes taken from their victims; also suitcases, which the deportees were encouraged to bring with them, and many household utensils. One display case, some 30 metres (98 ft) long, is wholly filled with human hair which the Nazis gathered from people before they were sent to labor or before and after they were killed.

Auschwitz II and the remains of the gas chambers there are open to the public. The camp is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ashes of the victims were scattered between the huts, and the entire area is regarded as a grave site. Most of the buildings of Auschwitz I are still standing. The public entrance area is outside the perimeter fence in what was the camp admission building, where new prisoners were registered and given their uniforms. At the far end of Birkenau are memorial plaques in many languages, including Romani.

The Dentist of Auschwitz

Benjamin Jacobs was a dentist who in 1941, was deported from his Polish village and remained a Nazi prisoner until the final days of the Second World War. He survived Auschwitz and the death march to the Baltic, with the help of his dental tools.

On the advice of his mother, he carried his dental tools and despite being limited as to which procedures he could perform, he became known as “the dentist” and was sought after for his treatments. He performed simple dental procedures including draining a fistula and cleaning gums with iodine. His bright red box, containing his dental tools, became “his passport to survival”.

Once at Auschwitz with his father and brother, he was appointed to the dental station to treat SS men and was also given the job of extracting gold from prison corpses. It was hard to do and he recounted “I heard the voices of broken hearts and crushed souls”. He also witnessed the selection processes and labouring in the mines. Despite saving extra rations for his family, his father died. At Auschwitz, he also crossed paths with Adolf Eichmann.

Jacobs wrote his memoirs which were published by the University Press of Kentucky in 1995. The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir recounts his experiences and revulsion at having to strip gold from prisoners at Auschwitz in exchange for extra provisions for his family.