The Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy
Tadeusz Pankiewicz(1908-1993): Pharmacist, humanitarian, memoirist. Educated at the Jagiellonian University, Pankiewicz took over his father’s pharmacy, Apteka Pod Orłem (“The Pharmacy Under the Eagle”) in 1933 in the Podgórze district. Two years after Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the Nazis began to round up Krakow’s 80,000 or so Jews and create a closed ghetto in Podgórze. Pankiewicz persuaded the German authorities to allow him to continue operating his pharmacy in the ghetto. Along with his staff of three pharmacists, Pankiewicz was one of very few non-Jewish Poles who were allowed to enter the ghetto. The pharmacy also stored Torahs and other religious objects Jews deposited with the hope of recovering them after the war. Pankiewicz is believed to be the only non-Jewish Pole to have witnessed the destruction of the ghetto by the Nazis in 1943. Pankiewicz’s pharmacy was a beacon of hope for many Jews in the ghetto. He provided many with life-saving medicines, which he typically gave for free, and his pharmacy served as a transit point for the movement of people, food, and information in and out of the ghetto. Pankiewicz also gave Jews escaping the ghetto hair dyes and tranquilisers to calm anxious children during Gestapo raids. In 1983, Israel’s Yad Vashem Institute recognised Pankiewicz as a Righteous Among the Nations. After the war, Pankiewicz testified against Nazi war criminals during the Nuremburg Trials. Booker Prize-winning Australian novelist Thomas Keneally, author of the famous book Schindler’s List, told the New York Times: “Amongst all the survivors [of the Krakow Ghetto] I interviewed, the name of Pankiewicz shone.” In 1947, Pankiewicz published his memoir of the dark years of the occupation The Krakow Ghetto Pharmacy. Originally written in Polish, the book was translated into Hebrew and English. The book chronicles the Krakow Ghetto and the experiences of its inhabitants and Pankiewicz and his staff’s altruism. The Polish edition has been reprinted many times and is a canonical work of Holocaust literature in Poland. Currently, the Pharmacy Under the Eagle is a museum commemorating both Pankiewicz’s heroism and chronicling the history of the Krakow Ghetto.
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