One of the more popular features of the Nazi “resettlement” policy was the way it opened up housing stocks for Aryans who otherwise couldn’t afford to buy homes. My own Jewish step-mother returned to Vienna after the war to find the house she grew up in occupied by a former neighbor with a perfectly legal bill of sale and no intention of giving up the property (“We thought you were dead,” the woman said before she slammed the door in the girl’s face).
So perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised by the odd and maybe hostile looks we received from the office workers who came and went as we stood outside this building in the former Nazi Jewish ghetto of Podgórze in Kraków, taking these photographs. Surely they had to know that, on 13–14 March, 1943, German troops entered the Jewish hospital on the upper floors here and the child-care center next door and murdered every doctor, nurse, patient, baby-sitter, and child they could catch. Within days of the ghetto’s liquidation, contractors were tasked with cleaning up and selling the houses and office buildings to buyers eager for a hot bargain. If it wasn’t for the plaques scattered about the neighborhood, you would never know a Jew had even set foot here.
Which brings to mind one of the great self-exculpatory myths of the World War, namely that the European peoples knew something was happening to the Jews, Romani, homosexuals, and infirm who vanished from their midst, but that they never knew or believed possible just how far the Nazis would take things.
The raw truth: Self-delusion should never be confused with ignorance. Everyone knew everything.