Krakow and the Unwanted Status of the Capital City in the years 1939–1945. Debate

2022-03-10, 6:00 p.m.
Red graphics with the inscriptions

The defeat of the Polish state in September 1939 opened a tragic chapter in Krakow's history. The fate of the city was decided in Berlin – it was designated as the capital of the General Government and the power was handed over to Hans Frank. Krakow was to become a model German city, colonised and Germanised, which translated into the terror for the Polish population.


Krakow’s role as the new capital required significant changes in the city's urban fabric – the infrastructure was expanded, with new developments designed for the German administration and its officials. German districts were built and planned, flags with swastikas were hanging on the walls of the Wawel Castle, the Main Square was renamed as Adolf Hitler Platz and made to house the headquarters of the NSDAP. The city was given a German character by destroying the monuments, changing street names, removing decorations from the buildings, and replacing them with the Nazi symbols.


Architecture also played a significant role in the execution the Holocaust – in Krakow there was the only concentration camp in the world located in the city – KL Plaszow.


Our guests, Professor Andrzej Chwalba, Robert Kostro, and Professor Jacek Purchla, will discuss this globally unprecedented urban and social experiment.



Professor Andrzej Chwalba – scholar of social, cultural, and political history of the 19th-21st century, Polish-Russian relations, history of Krakow and the Jagiellonian University, he has worked at the Jagiellonian University since 1977. Member of more than a dozen councils of scientific committees, social and cultural institutions, and museums, in Poland and abroad. Currently, he acts as chairman of the ICC Programme Council, vice-president of the Main Board of the Polish Historical Society, vice-president of the Kościuszko Mound Committee, member of the Council of the Polish History Museum, member of SKOZK; member of several scientific councils and journal editorial boards. Author of over 20 books (including “Samobójstwo Europy. Wielka Wojna 1914-1918”, “Wielka Wojna Polaków 1914-1918”, “Legiony Polskie 1914-1918”) and academic textbooks in Polish and eight books in other languages.


Robert Kostro – historian, journalist, columnist, and politician. In 1997, he was appointed director of the Department of Foreign Affairs at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister. He was the head of the political office of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, the deputy director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the Commissioner General of the Europalia 2001 Poland festival. Since 2006, he has been the director of the Polish History Museum. He is a member of the programme councils of several cultural institutions, including the Ossoliński National Institute, the European Solidarity Centre, and the Ulma Museum. Author and editor of many articles and books. Together with Tomasz Merta, he co-edited a collection of essays on historical politics, “Pamięć i odpowiedzialność”.


Professor Jacek Purchla – lecturer, one of the world's leading experts in the field of cultural heritage. His research interests include urban development, social history, and the history of art in the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the theory and protection of cultural heritage. Author of over 400 academic publications, including many books. Founder and long-term director of the International Cultural Centre, where he is now the head of the Institute of European Heritage. In 2015–2020, he was the chairman of the Polish UNESCO Committee, and in 2016–2017, the chairman of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.


Łukasz Galusek – programme director of the International Cultural Centre in Krakow. An expert in the field of Central European culture and art, he focuses on the relationship between space, memory, and identity. He is the author of over 150 publications on the cultural heritage of Central Europe, as well as the issues of memory and cultural education.

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