Photo Credit: Yale Strom

Photo Credit: Yale Strom

 Young Jewish-American authors are fascinated by the goings-on in Krakow, Poland, which has become one of Europe’s greatest destinations for “Holocaust Tourism” since Schindler’s List was released in 1993. Krakow has a starring role in Erin Einhorn’s book The Pages in Between and Roger Bennett, co-author of And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl, has just posted an update on Tablet (Nextbook’s new online website).

Their words leap to life in Yale Strom’s 2002 documentary Klezmer on Fish Street. Strom and his group “The Klezmaniacs” went to Poland to participate in Krakow’s annual “Jewish Culture Festival.” Alta, the grandmother of the Klezmaniacs’ lead singer, came along to translate, and also to visit her home town of Bedzin. (The Fish Street in the film’s title is located in Bedzin.) The film counterpoints these twin searches for “Jewish roots” with the fact that almost none of the other musicians, spectators, or bystanders at the “Jewish Culture Festival” are actually Jewish.


Where: Harold Washington Library Center.
When: Thursday August 6th @ 6:30 PM.

All programs in Chicago YIVO’s “Summer Festival of Yiddish Culture” are free & open to the public!


  1. jlhyivo Says:

    During KLEZMER ON FISH STREET, there’s one particular Saturday night when tourists are dancing & celebrating the end of Shabbat in spite of complaints by Krakow residents. This was discussed during the post-screening Q&A. Some people wanted to know why the celebrants didn’t defer to the wishes of the local residents?

  2. yale strom Says:

    I was at this scene since i directed the film “Klezmer on Fish Street.” The Jewish youth group from the U.S. (mostly) were having a Shabbaton and yes they did get a bit loud. And yes some of the Jewish youth were pushy and even arrongant – some only. However what the scene shows as it slowly evolves is that there is a fine line for some Poles (Polish Catholics) and Jews (even those who were born and grew up there) and it does not take a lot of scratching below the surface to stirr up some anti-Semitic diatribes among the local folk there. Personally I think both sides over reacted but I wanted to clearly show that even with this rehabilitation in terms of the former Jewish quarters in Kazimiercz there is still a ways to go to to bring both sides Jews and Poles together and truly understand the history of Polish Jewry (nearly 1,000 years old) and how things are changing for the better but more education is still needed for all parties. The Polish Museum of Jewish History in Warsaw will focus not on the Holocaust but all of the years before 1939 that included some times of good realtionships between the Jews and Catholic Poles and also the times of pogroms and virulent anti-Semitism in Poland.

  3. chicagoyivo Says:

    Thanks, Yale. Here’s what I told the people in the Q&A: There will always be tension with tourism. If the Krakow residents want the revenue from the tourist trade, then they must cater to their tourists, & you can’t tell young people to go to bed ~ 9 PM on a Saturday night!

    In this case there are additional complications which result from the very nature of “Holocaust Tourism.” Yale brilliantly focuses on the poster at the end of the film: people in Krakow are now making their living selling tours of Auschwitz & Treblinka. How are the young people taking those tours to react afterwards & is it too much to permit them to “blow off a little steam” by dancing?!?

    So nu: that’s my two cents. Brilliant film, Yale! Engrossing & very, very thought-prokoving! A Sheynem Dank from “Tzivi” (Chicago YIVO’s Coordinator for Summer Docs).

  4. Sara Says:

    My feeling at the movie was that every night, not only Friday night, the young people were disturbing the place which is a residential area. I also felt that particularly one woman was very obnoxious and provocative to the people, and it felt to me that with her attitude she was telling them that in spite of their eforts to erradicate us we survived. That will bring out reaction on everyone that experiences a similar situation. I would like to know who sponsored this festival, a jewish organization that is in the area, jewish residents? Regarding the emphasis put on jewish tourist generated income, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t respect the sensitivity of the local people, and bad behavior only encourages the image of the Ugly (Jewish) American.

  5. yale strom Says:

    The Krakow Jewish festival was started by a non-Jew and has many sponsors today – some of which are Jewish. I guess the real litmus test for the Poles would be if Jews who either were born there or had some connection to Poland started moving back to the “neighborhood” to live and co-exist with their fellow Catholic neighbors. What would be the level of love mutual respect, etc. etc. from both sides. The Krakow Jewish Festival is a wonderful festival that does bring essential awareness to the local people how intergrated Jews were in everyday lifr in Poland and especially in Krakow/Kazimercz. However one can not forget that at the end of the festival when there are 20, 000 delirious fans dancing, and singing less than 1% are Jews that live in Krakow.

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