The only such pharmacy
You say that this pharmacy,
The “Eagle Pharmacy“, once in the ghetto area,
Is unusual and there is
No such other in the world.
Ignacy Nikorowicz, Apteka „Pod Orłem” w getcie krakowskim [The “Eagle Pharmacy“ in the Kraków Ghetto], Kraków 1950.
An inconspicuous place. From 1967 to 1981, it was simply known as “Bar Nadwiślański“ [“Vistula Bar“]. But even then people arranged to meet to have a beer “at the pharmacy“. Today it is a branch of the Historical Museum with an elegant interior, pharmacy shelves in the Biedermeier style, photographs, maps and documents on the walls. Somewhere there is a deeply hidden rear exit. This back door was a rescue exit during the years of the holocaust 1941–1943, even if the escape was only temporary, until the next manhunt. Pankiewicz and his three workers, who returned to the Aryan side every night, tried to help the residents of the ghetto by any means. The pharmacy became a contact point between people of the isolated district and their relatives who were still free but had to hide, as well as members of the underground movement. Information, underground press publications, forged documents and essential medicines were passed there and food was smuggled. Soon, it also provided products which could help people avoid deportation: hair dyes used to make oneself look younger or Luminal used to keep children quiet when they were hiding or were being carried in a piece of luggage. During deportation actions, which were completed at Zgody [Concorde] Square, right in front of the windows of the ghetto, free medicines and dressings were distributed. At that time, many people found a hiding place there, as well.
In less extreme circumstances, the pharmacy was, above all, a place where time seemed to have stopped, especially in the evenings, and the terrible reality remained outside the door for a while. Discussions were conducted here, both political ones and those unrelated to the situation completely. Artists, scientists, and eminent figures who had been forced by their fate to cluster in the streets of the ghetto could meet in the pharmacy to seek any job which could prevent their deportation, but which had absolutely nothing to do with their talent and education. After a day of relentless struggle for basic human needs, they tried to forget for a brief moment about the absurdity and tragedy of the situation in which they had found themselves. In the privacy of Pankiewicz’s duty room, they behaved as before, they decided their fate on their own.
“According to descriptions of most people, the pharmacy was like an embassy – a diplomatic outpost representing a world which was somehow free in this walled and barred city. It became a daily rallying point for many nice and very interesting people. All sorts of people of different ages and status came here regularly; here, from the early hours of the morning, they read German newspapers and the underground press; they commented on the latest news of war, assessed the political situation, and finally discussed everyday troubles and worries until late at night; they carried on discussions, deliberations and predictions“.
T. Pankiewicz, Apteka w getcie krakowskim, Kraków 1992 (I wyd. 1947).
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.
Photograph “The staff of Tadeusz Pankiewicz’s The Eagle Pharmacy”
Photograph “Tadeusz Pankiewicz in the Company of Four People in the Duty Room”
“Righteous Among the Nations” medal for Tadeusz Pankiewicz