Dark Tourist seeks lost Galitzianers’ Treasure
Dark Tourist seeks lost Galitzianers’ Treasure

Visiting Poland as an adult grandchild of Jewish Holocaust survivors was a vivid experience.

The beauty of the place, Galizia, the southern part of Poland, Lesser or Little Poland, Małopolska, the cities, the Vistula River, the countryside, the Carpathian Mountains, the generosity of the people, was stunning.

This is a surreal contradiction to the deep shock of learning the intricacies of genocide.

It was with the newfound knowledge and details of my great-grandmother’s murder during that wave of unprecedented atrocities in a particular campaign of state sponsored killings, that I rushed back to my family’s hometown in Louisville, Kentucky to describe my experiences to my great-aunt, (my maternal grandmother’s sister).

She, a survivor, and an actual living Galitzianer, to my perplexment, admonished me for participating in the economy of Genocide.

“They murdered our family, stole our property, and you go and leave your money there?!”

My father, too, was “uncomfortable” with my characterizations of the place, including highly aestheticized landscapes of mass murder sites, as “beautiful.”

Indeed, a great deal of thinking and planning has gone into the development of post-communist Poland, to be both aesthetically astute and commercially successful, to a niche market for dark tourism, (the visiting of sites of tragedy, such as mass murder camps, New York’s Ground Zero, etc…).

In fact, usually tastefully apart from the reflective and meditative spaces of the deeply disturbing sites of monstrous, systematic murders, are places where you can return from your journey with souvenirs of a lost culture.

In the cities, near the historical Jewish districts, it’s easy to recognize pieces of once Jewish property for sale, such as brass candle holders (in varying states of polished shine or grime) that imply that “I’m looking at material objects that were once held by my kinfolk and their community.”

The natural impulse shaped by that planned or serendipitous dark tourism experience, is to reclaim a piece of one’s complicated inheritance.

more of these images can be seen in www.flickr.com/photos/marctasman/sets/72157627171914461/
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