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Main Sites on Bush’s Poland Visit

May 30, 2003

President Bush’s visit to Poland on Saturday includes a trip to the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz and a speech at the Wawel castle in Krakow. A look at the history:

WAWEL _ On a hill overlooking the Vistula river, the walled castle complex is considered the religious and patriotic heart of Poland. The palace was home to Polish kings from 1320 until 1596, when the capital moved to Warsaw. Kings were crowned at Wawel’s Gothic cathedral, which also served as a royal burial site. Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, held his first Mass as an ordained priest at the cathedral in 1946.

KRAKOW OLD TOWN _ A renaissance old town at the foot of Wawel hill remains the city’s commercial hub and the site of many official occasions. At 650 square feet, the main market square is the largest in Europe. Cloth Hall, which houses small souvenir shops, and Gothic St. Mary’s church dominate the square.

AUSCHWITZ _ The Nazis built the death camp in occupied Poland in 1940, 50 miles west of Krakow. More than 1 million people, 90 percent of them Jewish, perished in gas chambers or died of starvation and disease at Auschwitz and the adjacent Birkenau complex. Originally intended for Polish political prisoners but swiftly expanded, it became the most notorious Nazi death camp. The Auschwitz museum draws 500,000 visitors annually.

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