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City Heritage Tourism without Heirs

A comparative study of Jewish-themed tourism in Krakow and Vilnius
Tourisme de patrimoine urbain sans héritiers. Une étude comparative du tourisme à thématique juive à Cracovie et Vilnius
Olivia Sandri

Résumés

A travers l’Europe, des produits de la culture juive – ou de ce qui est perçu comme tel – sont devenus des composants viables du domaine public. Depuis le début des années 90, un tourisme à thématique juive est apparu dans de nombreuses villes européennes après des décennies « d’amnésie collective » et certains anciens quartiers juifs ont récemment subi une « thématisation juive ».
Le point central de cet article est l’utilisation du patrimoine dans les anciens quartiers juifs. Le but est de comprendre de quelle manière et dans quelle mesure le patrimoine juif est utilisé à des fins touristiques. Une comparaison entre Cracovie et Vilnius souligne de quoi dépendent les différences d’utilisation dans le contexte d’un tourisme culturel et de patrimoine toujours plus populaire. Afin de comprendre comment le tourisme à thématique juive s’est développé, un inventaire du patrimoine juif et des événements à thèmes juifs est fait, montrant que le patrimoine Juif est principalement utilisé pour le développement économique via le tourisme et pour la commémoration à Cracovie, et également pour la commémoration ainsi que pour la communauté (Juive) locale à Vilnius. La complexité du sujet et l’importance de différents facteurs locaux déterminant l’usage du patrimoine sont montrés. Il n’existe de politiques publiques spécifiques pouvant expliquer le « degré » de touristification du patrimoine Juif ni à Cracovie ni à Vilnius. D’autre part, des questions théoriques liées à la problématique sont soulevées, comme l’authenticité, la marchandisation de la culture ou la propriété du patrimoine.

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Introduction

1In the increasingly globalised world, national identity, which is based on an awareness of a national history, is still very strong in Europe (Ashworth, Larkham, 1994). And since ‘a new Europe’ has emerged after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the move towards greater co-operation and coordination on the continent, the existing national and local identities have slowly been reconsidered (Webber 1994). In order to shape a European socio-cultural place identity that would complement, if not replace, national identities, a heritage identity and thus a reinterpretation of the past is required (Ashworth, Larkham, 1994). Stemming from the Latin word ’patrimonium’, which means inheritance of the father, the term ‘heritage’ - evoking the goods that one possesses, the treasures of the past and the genetic wealth of each human being - became a banner under which many objects and monuments were included (AEPJ, 2011). In 1972, The Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO, prescribing that the World Heritage is part of the heritage of humankind. According to Choay (2009) the ‘electrotelematics’ revolution that started in the 1950s created a general tendency towards a “fetishization” of heritage. Heritage has become a commodity used to satisfy contemporary consumption needs, a fully exploitable commercial wealth (Ashworth 1994, Choay 2009). Moreover, it forms one aspect of the identity of places. Local differences and place identity become indeed contradictorily more important (Collins, 2006) in the globalised world. And heritage is known for “formulating and reinforce place-identities” with success (Ashworth, Larkham, 1994, p. 2).

2In addition, since the 1980s the potential for tourism and recreation in city has been emphasized (Dietvorst, 1994). Heritage is used not only to reinforce place-identities but also to foster tourism. Tourism, and more specifically the so-called heritage tourism, has become an instrument of economic development. The urban tourism industry is indeed growing and this growth is intricately tied up with de-industrialisation and the shift towards a service and information economy (Hal, Rath, 2006). Heritage is thus a political as well as an economic resource that can act as a marker of identity (Meethan, 2001). Furthermore, because of de-industrialisation localities need to be distinctive in order to attract a share of the mobile capital, to have a place advantage in the global cultural economy (Hall, Rath, 2006). One possible way of creating distinctiveness is to use rare heritage to develop a unique atmosphere and foster tourism.

  • 1 The two thousand years considered here refer to the ’broad’ European history, with the presence of (...)

3Throughout Europe Jewish history has left marks. The Jews have played an important, albeit shifting, role in the building of Europe for two millennia1 as can be seen for instance in the urban fabric (AEPJ 2011). Jewish heritage such as synagogues and other religious buildings can indeed be found in numerous cities throughout the continent. Products of Jewish culture – or what is perceived as such – have become viable components of the popular public domain. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, concerts, exhibitions, and cafés with Jewish themes are drawing enthusiastic crowds in a number of European cities (Gruber, 2002). Heritage tourism has already been extensively researched and commented upon. Besides, “dark tourism” – that is to say tourism to sites related to death and disaster – has lately received increasing attention (see Cohen, 2011; Sharpley, Stone, 2009). Accordingly tourism to sites such as Holocaust museums and memorials has been specifically researched. However, Jewish heritage in the city and the tourism it can breed seem to remain a marginal topic in the tourism debate. Accordingly, this research aims at enriching the field of tourism studies as well as urban studies. Moreover, it could also be of a certain interest for the Jewish studies field.

  • 2 There exist, of course, documents regarding Jewish heritage. R.E. Gruber, for instance, wrote sever (...)

4Little investigation does focus specifically on Jewish heritage in the city2. The focal point of this paper is thus former Jewish areas. The aim is to understand to what extent Jewish heritage is used for tourism purposes in different cities and what this difference in usage depends on, in the context of increasingly popular cultural and heritage tourism. Some of the Jewish areas have indeed recently undergone a ‘Jewish-thematisation’ in order to attract tourists, while others have not. In addition, this research addresses the problem stemming from culture and heritage, namely which and whose culture and heritage is being represented.

  • 3 The main Jewish language of Central and Eastern Europe, spoken by around eleven million people befo (...)

5After researching the different Jewish areas present in a wide range of contexts – Venice first ghetto dating from the Renaissance period, Paris gentrified Marais, Berlin and its growing Jewish community – it was chosen to focus on cities where the Jewish population has (nearly) disappeared but where it used to be rather important before World War Two. Furthermore, the Jewish heritage being so extensively spread throughout Europe, and each region having a local historical context affecting this heritage, the chosen Jewish areas are all situated in ’post-communist’ cities that used to be in the so-called Yiddishland, that is the land where Yiddish3 was spoken (Silvain, Minczeles, 1999). In such cities indeed, the historical framework is similar, i.e. the important Jewish population was almost eradicated during the Shoah and, after that, Jewish history and heritage were neglected because of ideological reasons. Furthermore, in that region of Europe tourism has been increasingly developing and renewed since 1991. In order to make the cases comparable and sensible, it was decided to research two cities where the former Jewish areas are situated in the city centres. However, the two cases had to differ in how the heritage is used (as tourist attraction). Accordingly this paper focuses on Krakow, with its Jewish Culture Festival, the different restaurants and bars, the Jewish heritage tours offered, and its counterpart Vilnius, where not much seems to be happening.

6The aim of this paper is to explain to what extent Jewish heritage is used for tourism purposes in cities where the Jewish population has disappeared, and more importantly how eventual differences in usage between cities can be explained. The research hypothesis is that the differences can be related to different local public policies.

7This article starts with the presentation of the main key concepts and ideas concerning heritage tourism and Jewish heritage. Then the methodology used in this study is concisely presented. Afterwards come the analysis and the results of the research, followed by a brief discussion on theoretical issues. Finally the conclusions of the study are presented.

Globalisation, commodification of culture and tourism

8Recently a particular set of shifts has occurred in western economies influencing urban development (see Ashworth, Voogd, 1995). In the Western World knowledge and service economy progressively replaced industrial economy. Cities have been placed in a competitive context. Some urban characteristics have become of crucial significance. One of these is the perception of cities, and the mental image held of them, which has to do with visibility and distinctiveness; they “have become active components of economic success or failure” (Ashworth, Voogd, 1995, p. 3). Urban planning and management in the public sector has thus changed. Since the course of the 1980s in Western Europe, new relationships with the private sector, through new organisational forms and a larger dependence upon private investments, were initiated for the execution of public planning initiatives (ibid.).

9Moreover, movement has become central to the idea of modernity. “Modern society is a society on the move” (Lash, Urry, 1994, p. 252). In fact, in addition to the daily transits that take place within urban settings and the rapid and efficient communication through the Internet, tourism has become a major source of movement between and within cities. “Intricate transnational social networks have emerged” (Coles, Dallen, 2004, p. 1). Tourism – by producing many of these transnational links – is an important industry for cities. Furthermore, the production of tourist spaces is a general process of commodification (Meethan, 2001). Commodification of, and the rise of, new forms of tourism have been commented on by many authors (Ashworth & Tunbridge, 2000; Chaabra, 2010; Dietvorst, 1994; Meethan, 2011; Richards, Wilson, 2006; Shaw, Williams, 2004; Urry, 2003). A number of key types have been identified, according to the activities held during the trip: cultural and heritage tourism, ecotourism, adventure tourism, visiting theme parks/mega-shopping malls. The first type, cultural and heritage tourism, is a central point in this research.

10The processes of commodification have spread into spheres of life that were once relatively non-commodified (Lash, Urry, 1994). Culture for instance has been commodified and standardized, as can be seen from the increasingly popular sector of the so-called ‘cultural tourism’, or from the increasing importance of the cultural industries. At a global scale, localities compete against one another economically. In this context, cities and regions need a strong ‘symbolic economy’, and it has been fuelled by cultural consumption and industries (Richards, Wilson 2006.). Ethnic diversity plays, according to Zukin (1995), an important role in shaping place and space in the symbolic economy. Under Fordism tourism was a mass phenomenon, a “collective gaze” (Urry, 1995) focusing on recognized signifiers in the landscape, partly designed to concentrate tourists in particular destinations. In contrast, what is called post-Fordist tourism consumption implicates more specialized, individual and niche markets “which are seemingly tailor-made to meet the changing needs of tourist demand” (Shaw, Williams 2004, p. 115). We can witness less structured, more independent forms of tourism and less mass packaged tourism (Lash, Urry, 1994; Shaw, Williams, 2004).

11Thus tourism has become an increasingly global and complex phenomenon, with political, social, economic, cultural, environmental, and educational dimensions. As with culture, it “has become a significant economic factor” (Dietvorst, 1994, p. 71). Cultural tourism has accordingly become an instrument of economic development and advocacy of local culture and heritage (Chhabra, 2010). A significant part of cultural tourism sites involves indeed heritage. As Hall (1994) has stated, tourism and heritage are inextricably linked. “They have a reciprocal significance, heritage bolstering the tourism industry and tourism providing a justification for the preservation of heritage assets” (Watson, 2000, p. 449). Heritage attractions, such as museums, monuments, historic buildings, factories, parks, cemeteries, etc., form a large part of the urban milieu (Timothy, Boyd, 2003). Many of the oldest European cities, which have such heritage features, have developed into major tourist destinations, targeting tourism as “an economic growth mechanism” (ibid. p. 43). The rise of heritage coincided, according to Meethan (2001, p. 104), “with the emergence of the neo-liberal economic orthodoxy”.

  • 4 See eg. Babeau A., 1988, Le patrimoine aujourd’hui, Paris, Nathan ; Bourdin A. 1984, Le patrimoine (...)
  • 5 Heritage appears as goods received and to transmit, which property is not exclusive to a family, bu (...)

12The notion of heritage and its ‘invention’ has been in the centre of many discussions and was the object of various publications4. Its definitions and interpretations are various and changing, its meaning still unclear (Choay, 2009). In the past, the notion of heritage, or patrimoine in French, had an almost sacred dimension; it was received from the parents and transmitted to, usually, the eldest son. Heritage – house, land, personal property, titles, and even surname – was a component of the family that needed respect and protection, inscribed in the social structure. With, among other, the Renaissance, the French Revolution and the division of the State and the Church, heritage slowly lost its sacral character and became a common good to the nation: “Le patrimoine apparaît comme un bien reçu et à transmettre, dont la propriété n’est pas exclusive d’une famille, mais intéresse tout le groupe social. Il matérialise en quelque sorte un passé à sauvegarder pour le présent et l’avenir5 (Audrerie, 1997, p. 6). Heritage is usually a subjective element because it is related to a collective social memory. “Whether it be an object, monument, inherited skill or symbolic representation, [it] must be considered as an identity marker and distinguishing feature of a social group” (Bessière, 1998, p. 26). It has become a keyword in our globalized society (Choay, 2009), including almost anything. It is symbolical of the modern society changed relation to the past (and thus to heritage) that is “part of the present, and at the same time holds promises for the future” (Bessière, 1998, p. 26). The structural changes in our relation to the past – with today’s presentism - happened in the last third of the twentieth century and tend to become global with similar collective display forms and public actions (Rousso, 2007).

13An important issue that pervades the tourism-heritage debate is the ‘ownership’ of heritage, the question being ‘whose heritage is being conserved?’ (see Ashworth, Larkham, 1994; Ashworth, Tunbridge, 2000; Light, & Prentice, 1994; Peckham, 2003; Tunbridge, 1994) and who has ’the right’ to produce or stage heritage? Ashworth and Tunbridge (2000, p. 136) argue that “heritage cannot be other than selective and therefore rejection is inherent in a process that must also disinherit, whether overtly or not”. A related issue that comes out in different works, such as Robinson’s (2000) is that tourism can be seen to validate acts of heritage appropriation and cultural imperialism. However, in some cases it is because of tourism that heritages are being maintained, re-discovered or re-built (ibid.) – putting the moral issues aside.

14Within the heritage industry, history has become a commodity – “a tourist spectacle” (Shaw, Williams, 2004, p. 121). In fact, tourists visit cities to see, experience and consume history. Commodification of urban heritage – or of a certain heritage (medieval, industrial) – has become a common strategy in the post-Fordist city. Using the heritage of a city for tourist purposes is, even if not “a magic panacea for all the many contemporary ills of the city” (Ashworth, Tunbridge, 2000, p. 302), an urban solution to contemporary urban problems “arising from structural economic change, social polarisation, increasing difficulties of government and physically deteriorating infrastructure” (ibid). “In addition, the compression of the past into the present is linked to the issue of tourist experiences and the search of authenticity” (Shaw, Williams, 2004, p. 121).

Auhenticity

15An important aspect in heritage tourism, and in the tourism debate in general, is indeed authenticity. It has played a pivotal role in attracting visitors to heritage sites (Chhabra, Healy et al., 2003). People are in search of ‘authentic’ experiences; the primary motivation for travel lies, according to MacCannell (1973), in a quest for authenticity. This need for authenticity goes hand in hand with a nostalgic feeling, the longing for a more ‘simple’ and ‘true’ past (UNWTO and ETC, 2005). It remains however an elusive concept because of its ambiguity, limitations and many connotations.

16Commodification is said to destroy the authenticity of local culture, and thus a “staged authenticity” (MacCannell, 1973) emerges. “As cultural products lose their meaning for the locals, and as the need to present the tourist with ever more spectacular, exotic and titillating attractions grows, contrived cultural products are increasingly staged” for tourists and decorated so as to look authentic” (Chhabra, 1988, p. 372). There has been a lot of debate (see Chhabra et al., 2003; Cohen, 2011; MacCannell, 1973; Meethan, 2001; Taylor, 2001; Urry, 2003; Wang, 1999) about authenticity, staged authenticity, or symbolic authenticity – what the tourists are actually searching (Wang, 1999). But what is exactly authenticity is not clearly defined because it is relative to the perspective of (groups of) individuals.

An example of commodification and ’authenticity’ : Jewish heritage

17Judaism has left a deep mark on the Old Continent’s history. Despite the Holocaust and the six million Jews who had been murdered, thousands of synagogues which had been demolished, innumerable Jewish cemeteries and other buildings which had been destroyed, an important built Jewish heritage is left. Jewish Europe however has remained neglected from the tourist tours, apart from some well-known places: Prague’s old Jewish area, synagogues from Venice’s ghetto or the antique judería of Toledo (Winstone, 2010). There is a large quantity of often unknown places with Jewish heritage (Camus, Lévy-Willard et al., 2002). “For decades after World War II, memory of history and heritage was often marginalised, repressed, or forgotten, […] also in countries less directly touched by the effect of the Shoah” (Gruber, 2002, p. 5). However, that had changed by the late 1990s. Jewish heritage was by then “on the agendas of national monuments authorities and local organization, including tourist bureaus, in most European countries” (ibid.p. 76). Jewish heritage and culture – “or what passes for Jewish culture, or what is perceived or defined as Jewish culture” (ibid. p. 5) has become increasingly popular around Europe. New Jewish museums, exhibitions, festivals, workshops of all types, conference and academic study programs now abound.

18A certain ’disneyification’ of the past is happening in some former Jewish areas in Europe, where “‘Jewish-style’ restaurants with ‘Jewish sounding’ names write their signs in Hebrew or Hebrew-style letters, use Jewish motifs in their décor, and name their dishes – sometimes even dishes made from pork or non-kosher mix of meat and dairy products – after rabbis and Old Testament prophets” (Gruber, 2002, p. 6). There is a tension between commercialisation and commemoration of a disappeared culture:

“Can or should a Jewish heritage site or Jewish museum be treated the same way as any other tourist attraction? Or must there be a balance between display and remembrance? Must commercialization be couples with at least token commemoration? And what about Jews?” (ibid. p. 132).

  • 6 On the topic of collective memory of conflicts, see eg. Licata L., Klein O., Gély R., 2007, "Mémoir (...)
  • 7 Clarks argues that the ‘centre’ took an active interest in spatial narratives and sought to revive (...)

19Mainstream interest in Jewish heritage is rather a recent phenomenon. In Clark’s term “collective amnesia” (1999, p. 274) was touching Europe after World War II and it is only in the 1980s that collective memory about Jewish buildings and sites started to revive both in Western, Central and Eastern Europe. Gruber (2002, p. 18) explains that the embrace of Jewish culture by mainstream society – or the ‘Jewish phenomenon’ – is connected with the waning and collapse of communism. She argues that the Jewish phenomenon “fill in the blanks of the past”. Lemee-Gonçalves (2007) also asserts that it allowed access to archives and circulation of people, and that with the rise of international historiography on the Shoah, the processes engaged with the Eichmann Trial, the struggles against negationism and extreme right-wing, the increase of commemorative celebrations, the amplification of tourism and of museum of memory, a shift progressively occurred, from ‘the unsaid’ to remembering both the Shoah and ‘the Before’. Moreover, Gruber (2002) argues that Jewish heritage is used for self-discovery and self-exploration. Additionally, not only personal identity can be built, but “the reintegration of a Jewish component is a pan-European phenomenon” (ibid. p. 15), and it can help building a European identity. At the same time, there has been an internal Jewish rediscovery of roots and heritage. An interesting explanation is given by Clark (1999) who uses Robert Shields’ [1991] notion of ‘space myth’. “According to Shields, the spatial is charged with emotional content, mythical meanings, community symbolism and historical significance” (ibid. p. 274). Space myth is then created through a process of labelling which associates certain sites and zones with particular activities. Narratives emerge, narratives which attach themselves to specific places “but which also tend to become insider stories forming part of the symbolic construction of community” (ibid.). Space myths and collective memory regarding Jewish sites in European cities was repressed in the 1950s. Different sites of commemoration were established at the time on concentration camp sites, however former Jewish residential areas were in a way deleted “through deliberate acts of urban planning” (ibid. p. 275), this was because planners, city authorities, and politicians “sought to obliterate any painful reminders of the communities that were lost as the result of the Holocaust” (ibid. p. 276).6 By the 1980s, however, there was an immense renewal of interest in Jewish sites, which took on new meaning and significance, or as Rousso (2007) explains, collective anamnesis on the Nazis past in Europe started. Clark (1999) explains that collective memory is selective and “based on conflicts and power relationships that pertain to the present rather than the past” (ibid. p. 280). He further argues that collective memory and space narrative are interwoven and they “essentially reflect the nature of centre-margin relationships at the time” (ibid. p. 281). This should explain why certain cities/nations started to give attention on Jewish culture7. Moreover, different reasons can explain personal interest in Jewish heritage.

“For some, the interest in Jewish heritage can be primarily artistic or architectural: synagogues, cemeteries, and ghetto quarters provide a rich and fascinating array of styles and iconography that add to our knowledge of architecture and religious art and design. […] But the emotional and political message of Jewish heritage sites is also clear. Physical Jewish traces are solid symbols, powerful evocations of a lost, destroyed reality, monuments to an annihilated people” (Gruber, 2002, p. 90).

20In addition, since the waning and end of the Cold War, access to Jewish heritage and possibility to capitalise on new tourist trends have been enabled. We have seen a boom in tourism to Jewish sites, both by Jews and by the mainstream public (ibid.). “Once-neglected old Jewish quarters in Prague, Venice, and Berlin, as well as in Krakow, with their cafés, bookstores, and boutiques, figure now as major stops on regular tourist itineraries and as popular hangouts for local people, too” (ibid. p. 131). One question thus arose: “Will Things Jewish become the roadside attractions of the twenty-first century?” (ibid. p. 133).

21Tourism has played an important role in the ‘rediscovery’ of Jewish heritage, “a chicken-and-the-egg role” (ibid. p. 131). There has been a boom in tourism to Jewish sites, both by Jews and by the mainstream public, and “fulfilling tourist needs have become part and parcel of the recovery of Jewish heritage in Europe, a major part of why Jewish sites are preserved” (ibid.). Moreover, history and memory are often distorted to suite specific local and personal needs according to Gruber (ibid. p. 9) because of conflicting motivations:

“Clearly, various degrees of philo-Semitism – an idealisation of Jews, sometimes linked to guilt or uneasiness about the Holocaust, sometimes linked to a fascination with what is perceived as an almost familiar exotica – play a role. Nostalgia too, is involved, though it is likely to be expressed as a pseudonostalgia for stereotypes – be it the stage-set shtetl world of Fiddler on the Roof or a romanticized vision of the coffeehouse Jewish intellectual – rather than nostalgia for the highly nuanced and often highly contentious Jewish world that actually once existed or, for that matter, nostalgia for the complex, problematic, and far often too ugly relations between Jews and non-Jewish society”.

22These different factors are illustrated by the two case studies: Krakow and Vilnius.

Two examples of Jewish heritage usage: Krakow and Vilnius

23Krakow and Vilnius are both situated in countries that were part of the communist block – sometimes also referred to as socialist countries, in Central and Eastern Europe. Since 1990, they have opened up to western enterprises, investment, eager tourists and ideas. Rapid economic, political, and social changes occurred (Gruber, 2002). In this context, Jewish heritage has experienced new conditions and opportunities, as well as new challenges. Its recognition and recovery became part of public policy, but “the speed, form and content of this recovery has varied greatly, depending on local conditions – including, importantly, financial considerations” (Gruber, 2002, p. 107). Thus, the former Jewish areas of both cities are used as case studies.

Map 1: Localization of the study area within Krakow’s administrative districts

Map 1: Localization of the study area within Krakow’s administrative districts

(Source: Olivia Sandri)

  • 8 Nowadays the community counts 200 members (different numbers according to sources) while there were (...)
  • 9 With events such as the Kielce slaughter in 1946.
  • 10 Which diminished even more after the 1968 Jewish purge (see Minczeles, 2006).

24Krakow, second most important Polish city (with 750’000 inhabitants in 2011), lost most of its Jewish population during the war8. Jews first settled in Krakow in the thirteenth century before being forced out in 1495 (Winstone, 2010). Most of them moved to Kazimierz, about a kilometre south-east of the Old Town and the Royal Castle, a semi-autonomous town founded in the fourteenth century by the King Casimir the Great. In the 1860s, Kazimierz officially became part of Krakow. For 500 years, Kazimierz has been an important Jewish learning and trade center (Purchla, 2008). But with the outbreak of World War II, the Jews were forced to move south to a ghetto on the other side of the Vistula River, in Podgórze (today administrative district XIII). In 1942, mass deportations began. The Jewish population disappeared, together with its centuries-old tradition and culture, in the Holocaust. Around 10.000 Jews came back to Krakow after the war (coming from Russia, Central Asia, camps and hiding places) but many left the country before 1950 (going mostly to Palestine or the United States) because of anti-Semitism9 reducing the community to about a thousand people10 (Minczeles, 2006). Under communism, the neighbourhood of Kazimierz – situated in the city center of Krakow (administrative district I, Stare Miasto) – became a desolate, neglected run-down area. But since the fall of communism, “a vibrant tourist, cultural, and educational industry has grown up based on its Jewish character” (Gruber, 2007, p. 27).

  • 11 N.B. during the war, the ghetto in which Jews were confined was on the other side of the river, in (...)

25The city of Krakow did not experience important destruction during the war. Its historical city centre (Kazimierz included) was thus listed UNESCO World Heritage in 1978, making Krakow one of the most attractive cities to capital investment and tourism markets (Ashworth, Tunbridge, 2000). In 2012, almost 9 billion visitors came to Krakow, 2.3 of which from foreign countries (Borkowski, 2012). It offers various tourist-historic attractions with its “preserved historical architecture (The Wawel Castle, numerous churches), historical associations with Polish rulers and scholars, ‘high culture’ fostered by the arts festival and more recently the ‘Schindler Holocaust tourism’ of the Jewish Kazimierz ghetto11 and nearby Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp” (ibid. p. 247). All these attractions provide heritage products to cultural tourists as well as “more specialised national and ethnic-historical products to Poles and Jews” (ibid). Most of the tourist attractions are concentrated in the Old Town around the main market square (Rynek Glowny) as well as in Kazimierz. The former Jewish area has in the last two decades been ‘discovered’ by tourists and become an important part of touristic Krakow.

Map 2: Localization of the study area within Vilnius’s elderships

Map 2: Localization of the study area within Vilnius’s elderships

(Source: Olivia Sandri)

26Long renowned as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, Vilnius – or Vilnia, Vilno, Vilna, Vilne as it was called by its various, often multilingual inhabitants – was for centuries a legendary focus of Jewish life and learning. Its narrow urban quarter was the centre of Jewish life.

  • 12 Only between 2.000 (Winstone, 2010) and 6.000 people survived (Minczeles, 1992).

27Jews were invited to settle in the beginning of the 14th century and by the mid-16th century an organized community was established in today’s Old Town (eldership 17, Senamiestis). In the 18th century Vilnius acquired international fame throughout the Diaspora with one of Judaism’s most influential intellectual and spiritual leaders, the Gaon of Vilna. Center of Orthodox Jewish scholarship, Vilnius attracted also secular writers and intellectuals that were active in Zionism and other Jewish political activity. It counted between 60.000 and 100.000 Jews before the war, that is about 45 % of the city’s population (Jewish Virtual Library; Minczeles, 1992). In 1941, two ghettos were established in the old Jewish quarter of Vilnius, the Large and the Small ones, with a corridor running through them. Vilnius community was almost completely annihilated during the Nazi occupation12 and the Jewish area was badly damaged. As elsewhere in the Soviet Union, Jewish life was inhibited under Soviet rule. The Great Synagogue was demolished, the Jewish cemeteries destroyed and the streets renamed. After Lithuania became independent in 1990, a Jewish community was reconstituted, and today about 5.000 Jews live in the city (different numbers according to sources). Today, many sites of significance in Jewish history and culture are commemorated by plaques and monuments. Moreover, there are new Jewish clubs, schools, media outlets, and other institutions as well as the Vilnius Yiddish Institute founded in 2001 (Camus et al., 2002; Gruber, 2007; Vilna Gaon Museum, 2008).

28Vilnius Old Town, where Jewish heritage is situated, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage List in 1994. Even though Vilnius – the capital of Lithuania (counting more than 500’000 residents in 2011) – was European Capital of Culture in 2009, it remains a marginal tourism destination with under 700.000 tourists in 2011 (about 80% of which from foreign countries) (Vilnius Tourist Information Centre).

29In order to understand to what extent Jewish heritage is used for tourism, an inventory and pictures of the Jewish heritage and culture was effectuated in situ, in different categories (such as streets and buildings, monuments, memorial plaques, synagogues, museums, cafés and restaurant). Jewish culture is indeed understood in a large sense, encompassing exhibitions of Jewish artists, concerts of traditional music or restaurants serving Jewish food – or what is presented as such. Moreover the tourist material promoting Jewish heritage, such as leaflets and booklets available at the tourism information points was collected and is also part of the inventory. Furthermore, desktop research was effectuated in order to understand the present usage of the heritage, the existing programs and policies regarding Jewish heritage, as well as the stakeholders. In addition, an important source of information was the semi-structured interviews that were conducted with key actors in June 2011: In Krakow, an officer at the City Promotion and Marketing office, the manager of the Monuments Division of the Culture and Heritage Department of the Municipality, the director of the Jewish Community Club (JCC) and an office member of the Jewish Culture Festival Society; and in Vilnius the executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania, the director of the Vilnius Old Town Revitalisation Agency (OTRA), an executive officer of the Tourism Division of the Municipality and the employee of the Jewish Culture and Information Centre. Language was not an issue as all respondents either speak correct English or spoke in Polish, two languages understood by the author.

Jewish heritage in Krakow and Vilnius

The ’commodification’ of Jewish heritage in Krakow and Vilnius

30As you can see on the following maps (maps 3, 4 and 5), the built heritage one can find mostly in Krakow are synagogues and buildings, whereas in Vilnius commemorative plaques and monuments – in honour of famous local Jewish personalities or heroes, or in commemoration of the Shoah – are predominant. The situation in Vilnius is such because most of the Jewish buildings have been destroyed during the war by the Nazis or after by the Communists. In Krakow on the other hand, the buildings were neglected but not destroyed, which gives Kazimierz an important built heritage. Moreover, in Kazimierz the sites are concentrated in a small area, whereas they are more scattered in Vilnius. Furthermore, a striking difference is the numerous quantities of cultural events taking place in Krakow such as lectures, photo and art exhibitions, concerts, workshops, and the Festival of Jewish Culture. There is also an important number of ‘Jewish’ restaurants, bars and cafes in Kazimierz, presenting a nostalgic literary image of pre-war Jewish life, some in a very kitsch way, opened usually by non-Jewish Poles. In Vilnius on the other hand, there currently are no Jewish restaurants at all. This shows that tourism related to Jewish themes is more developed in Krakow than in Vilnius.

31Different museums and institutions related to Jewish heritage and culture play an important role in delivering Jewish-themed culture in both cities, such as, in Vilnius, the Jewish Culture and Information Centre (JCIC), a non-profit organisation established by the municipality, which opened in 2010, or the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum and its branch “the Tolerance Centre”, opened in 1989 under the Ministry of Culture and Education; and in Krakow, the Jewish Culture Festival Society, born in 1988, organised by two non-Jewish intellectuals, the Galicja Jewish Museum, an independent institution, established in 2004 by an English photojournalist, or the Oskar Schindler’s Factory “Krakow under Nazi occupation 1939-1945”, a branch of the Historical Museum of the city of Krakow opened officially in June 2010.

  • 13 In Krakow mainly in Podgorze.

32The Jewish heritage is mainly used for economic development as well as commemoration in Krakow, whereas in Vilnius it is used for commemoration and for the needs of the local (Jewish) community. Commemoration is thus present in both cities13. This is not surprising given the importance accorded to the duty of memory. Moreover, in Krakow, Jewish heritage and culture is largely used for tourism. It is an important attraction for tourists and locals; it enriches the heritage and cultural offer. On the other hand, Vilnius does not have an important Jewish-themed tourism fostered by the Jewish heritage, and the cultural offer is less important. So how can this difference in usage between Krakow and Vilnius be explained?

33As already indicated, Krakow attracts a number of tourists over ten times higher than Vilnius (nine billion versus 700.000), which can partly explain the degree of touristification of the Jewish heritage. Tourism seems to be a major factor in the process of ‘heritagisation’, – a neologism inspired by the French word ‘patrimonialisation’ - that is the process of creating heritage, of transforming something into heritage. As a reminder, it has been argued that tourism has played an important role in the ‘rediscovery’ of Jewish heritage, “a chicken-and-the-egg role” (Gruber, 2002: 131). Jewish sites have become important tourist attractions, both for Jews and for the mainstream public, and “fulfilling tourist needs have become part and parcel of the recovery of Jewish heritage in Europe, a major part of why Jewish sites are preserved” (ibid.). However, even though the importance of tourism for both cities differs widely, it does not completely explain the lesser touristic usage of the Jewish heritage.

  • 14 About 4.500 visitors in 2009 and about 6.000 in 2010 (data received at the Vilna Gaon Museum).
  • 15 In Krakow: Route of Jewish Culture (museums relating to Jewish culture) and Walk around Kazimierz ’ (...)

34It seems that if the offer in Vilnius were bigger, there could be more tourists coming. In 2010, indeed, more tourists did visit the JCIC and the Tolerance Centre compared to 200914, and the Klezmer Festival organised in the framework of ECOC 2009 (European Capital of Culture) was successful according to the employee of the JCIC. So why is the offer not bigger? The hypothesis was that the differences could be related to the heritage and tourism policies. However, the interviews conducted showed that the situation is similar in both cases, ie. the usage is different in both cities but specific policies are inexistent. That is to say, there are a few initiatives – such as Jewish Heritage Routes15 – launched by the local authorities but there is no specific policy regarding the management of Jewish heritage or Jewish-themed tourism. Other factor must thus be found to explain the difference of usage between Krakow and Vilnius.

Map 3: Jewish heritage and culture sites in Kazimierz, Krakow, 2011

Map 3: Jewish heritage and culture sites in Kazimierz, Krakow, 2011

“Building” category includes former ritual baths, prayer houses, schools, hospital, ritual slaughterhouse, theatre.

(Source: Olivia Sandri)

Map 4: Jewish heritage and culture sites in Podgorze, Krakow, 2011

Map 4: Jewish heritage and culture sites in Podgorze, Krakow, 2011

“Building” category includes former prayer house and Jewish hospital (in office during the ghetto years).

(Source: Olivia Sandri)

Map 5: Jewish heritage and culture sites in Vilnius, 2011

Map 5: Jewish heritage and culture sites in Vilnius, 2011

“Building” category includes former prayer house and abandoned synagogue.

(Source: Olivia Sandri)

35To start with, an important factor for tourism development that differs in Krakow and Vilnius is the existing built heritage. The biggest part of the built heritage in Vilnius is made of memorial plaques, the original buildings having been destroyed or transformed. The city has thus less physical assets to attract tourists interested in Things Jewish (Gruber, 2002). However, when comparing the events and venues, the situation is the same, namely these are more numerous in Krakow, although the organisation of Jewish-themed cultural events or the opening of restaurants serving Jewish cuisine is independent of the built heritage. This suggests that there is something either conducive to Jewish cultural events and tourism in Krakow, or not favourable to Things Jewish in Vilnius.

36In addition it is important to point out the difference between the two cases in the spatial concentration of Jewish sites. In Kazimierz indeed Jewish sites are highly concentrated. It is likely easier to develop tourism products in such a dense area than in a city like Vilnius where the sites are scattered. Tourists are more likely to be attracted to places which have a lot to offer in a relatively small area.

Image 1: Jewish restaurants in Kazimierz, Krakow

Image 1: Jewish restaurants in Kazimierz, Krakow

Image 2: Tempel Synagogue, Krakow

Image 2: Tempel Synagogue, Krakow

Image 3: Statuettes on sale in Kazimierz, Krakow

Image 3: Statuettes on sale in Kazimierz, Krakow

Image 4: Plaque showing the ghetto plans of Vilnius

Image 4: Plaque showing the ghetto plans of Vilnius

Image 5: Statue of the Gaon of Vilna, Vilnius

Image 5: Statue of the Gaon of Vilna, Vilnius

Image 6: Remains of pre-war shop writings, Vilnius

Image 6: Remains of pre-war shop writings, Vilnius
  • 16 For example, an international seminar, ’Vilnius – World Heritage Site: value of Jewish heritage and (...)

37The interviews conducted showed that local authorities are not the main actor for Jewish heritage preservation or promotion in both cases. However what came out is that in Krakow Jewish heritage is seen as a part of Polish heritage, whereas in Vilnius, Jewish heritage concerns principally the Jewish community. In Vilnius, the Jewish population is more important and seems to be seen as ’Other’, which could explain a smaller interest in Jewish cultural heritage. Nevertheless, Vilnius and Lithuanian authorities have shown in the past years interest in Jewish heritage16. Therefore, the situation in Vilnius could change in the near future, because of an interest from the authorities in Jewish heritage and the tourism it can foster.

38Moreover, the narrative present in the former Jewish areas could partly explain the tourist development. In Krakow, one can find on one hand the nostalgia for a life now disappeared; the pre-war Jewish life is represented – or an idealisation of it, an imaginary idea and literary image made of it. This can be found through exhibitions in various institutions as well as in numerous cafés and restaurants, whose rooms are furnished with antiques, or quasi antiques, the walls covered with painting showing Jewish people and sceneries, under dark lights and klezmer music playing in the background (Gruber, 2009). Because of this aspect, some people call Kazimierz a Jewish Disneyland. However, unlike theme parks, which are built from scratch, the neighbourhood was once a living Jewish area and is now inhabited by ’Krakowiak’. On the other hand, another storyline is also present in Kazimierz: that of contemporary Jewish life. The popular Festival of Jewish Culture, for instance, apart from celebrating Krakow and Polish Jewish past also focuses on contemporary Jewish life. Moreover, activities for contemporary Jewish Community take place every week, but those are not designed for tourists. In Vilnius one narrative is also about the past – commemorative plaques and monuments, a board about the now non-existent Great Synagogue, Shoah memorials. But no nostalgic literary image has been re-created. And there is also another story, about contemporary Jewish life, but this concerns the community and its members only, even if the events are open to everybody.

The authenticity of Jewish heritage

  • 17 A semi-clandestine study group of Jews and non-Jews in communist Warsaw who met informally to teach (...)

39That being said, a short digression on the authenticity issue can now take place. From those narratives, we could say that, in a sense, Vilnius is more “authentic”. What has disappeared and been destroyed is simply commemorated and not too much is created especially for tourists (yet). The few events that are taking place are for the local population (and mainly for the Jewish local population). In Krakow on the other hand, Jewish-themed restaurants and events are happening, organised mainly by non-Jewish Poles for a non-Jewish audience. It could be said, on a general level, that a sort of “staged authenticity” is present in Krakow. However, the interest in Things Jewish by Poles is not staged. It started in the 1980s, with the Jewish Flying University in Warsaw17, or with the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow. Kazimierz became a site of Jewish-themed tourism on account of this Polish interest in Jewish culture – which is part of Polish culture. This ’staged authenticity’ is almost non-existent in Vilnius.

  • 18 Baudrillard’s (1981) notion of simulacra could be discussed here. According to him, today, distinct (...)

40Anyway, this notion of authenticity is really vague and it could be argued that a culture or a society cannot be defined ’authentic’18. Therefore, when speaking about a tourist area it does not seem to bring anything concrete to the debate, unless the tourists or the promoter characterise the site or the event with this adjective. This notion should thus be used carefully, defining what it means according to the context and to whom.

41Besides, the Jewish-themed Kazimierz – also new hub of bohemian nightlife – is now part of the landscape, it is considered a state of affairs. For centuries it was natural to have Jewish life in Poland and Eastern Europe in general; it stopped suddenly with the war. One hypothesis, put forward by Journalist Konstantin Gebert (pen name Dawid Warszawski) is that of phantom pain. If this metaphor might work in Poland’s and Krakow’s case, it does not seem to apply in Vilnius, where, before the war, about 45% of the population was Jewish. So what is the difference between the two cities?

The difference of Jewish heritage usage in Krakow and Vilnius

  • 19 J. T. Gross’ book Sąsiedzi: Historia Zagłady Żydowskiego Miasteczka (2000, Sejny, Pogranicze) (The (...)
  • 20 Two Jews on a desert island built three synagogues, one for each one, and one in which neither woul (...)

42The difference in usage of Jewish heritage between Krakow and Vilnius could come from a different relationship with the Jewish population. First of all, the question of restitution of Jewish property is the same in both cities, but it seems, for some reasons, to be more problematic in Vilnius. “When you start talking about Jewish heritage, there comes the issue about the restitution of Jewish property. Nobody wants to talk about the restitution of Jewish property” (executive director of the Jewish Community of Lithuania). Moreover, there is certainly a special fascination and interest with Things Jewish in a certain segment of the Polish society, an interest ’from below’. The Jewish past is seen as part of Poland’s history and heritage. In fact, since the end of the 1980s, the position of Poland during the Holocaust has been on the public agenda and the country has been dealing with its past. However, there seems to be a competition of victims between Jews and Poles, as the debate over Jedwabne showed19. In Vilnius on the other hand, the Lithuanian-Jewish relationship seems to be complicated, although Lithuania was not famous for its anti-Semitism (Minczeles, 2006). Jewish heritage seems not to be considered Lithuanian, but to be the Jewish community. “Jewish history in Lithuania and Jewish-Lithuanian relations in particular are a matter of controversy and debate between Jews and Lithuanians as well as among Lithuanians themselves” (Nikzentaitis et al., 2004, p. 1). The debate has started later than in Poland (with a conference held in Nida in 1997) and it triggered less publications. In addition, there seem to be internal conflicts within the community that prevent ’things to move’. Indeed, Gruber (2009a), after attending the international seminar in Vilnius, pointed out the problems within the community referring to the ’island syndrome’20, an old story underscoring and caricaturising Jewish division.

  • 21 Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture is an American foundation founded in 2001 to help supp (...)
  • 22 More than 110.000 visitors from June to December 2010.

43Gruber (2009a) further commented on “the lack of coordination and cooperation between stakeholders”. This, together with the country’s silence over its Jewish history, could be a good part of the explanation on the situation regarding Jewish heritage in Vilnius. A binding agreement, providing a structuring frame could thus be implemented. The stakeholders being diverse, a global vision, and collaboration between the different entities, seems to be necessary to have an interesting and active usage. In Krakow, the stakeholders are approximately the same as in Vilnius, i.e. private entrepreneurs, the city and the Jewish community. A difference comes from the number of private initiatives in Krakow supported by many local and foreign organisations. For example, the ’Jewish Heritage Initiative in Poland’, launched by the Taube Foundation21 sustains number of institution buildings and foundations (such as Galicja Museum, the Jewish Culture Festival or Czulent – Krakow Jewish Youth Association). Moreover, a major contribution to mainstream Jewish-themed interest and tourism in Krakow has been Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. There are many other decisive reasons, but numerous tourists are interested in this particular story, as prove the attendance in Schindler’s museum22. There even are ’Schindler’s List tours’ offered. Furthermore, the presence of Auschwitz, one of the most famous dark tourism site, in the vicinity of Krakow (70 Km) probably also explains in part the important presence of tourists interested in Things Jewish. Visitors to the memorial and museum Auschwitz-Birkenau were 1.380.000 in 2010 (Panstwowe Museum, 2011). It can be assumed that part of those visitors do also visit Krakow and Kazimierz. For instance, every year high-school students groups from Israel come to visit Auschwitz and Kazimierz, as part of the official educational program.

44In addition, Krakow’s attractiveness stems not only from its Jewish heritage but also from the varied monuments and attractions and the wide cultural offer. Vilnius is not such a popular attraction, yet. Tourism there is rather undeveloped as already indicated. However, Lithuania, by its situation, close to Poland and the other Baltic States, could soon become the next popular destination. Indeed, after Prague and Krakow, which are closer to Western Europe and better connected (cheap airlines companies), but also now very touristy and crowded, Kiev and Vilnius could become the next target. The Jewish past and culture would then be an additional attraction the city could offer to both residents and visitors. It seems that there already is such a tendency. W. and M. Ornat for instance, who were the first to open a Jewish-style café in the beginning of the 1990s in Krakow, owning also a Jewish publishing house and bookstores in Krakow and Budapest, have now the plan to expand it to Prague and Vilnius (Gruber, 2008). However, a number of problems enumerated by different interviewees should first be solved. These are corruption, lack of transparency and manipulation problems that plague Lithuania. A major problem seems to be the “big neighbour” (director of OTRA, June 2011), i.e. Russia. All the above-mentioned points seem to indicate that the local context is of decisive importance.

45To put it in a nutshell, tourism related to Jewish themes is more developed in Krakow than in Vilnius, but there is a potential in Vilnius to develop and attract more Jewish-themed tourism. Indeed, tourism in Vilnius is relatively undeveloped and, although the Capital of Culture in 2009 was not very successful, it could soon become a popular destination. The usage of the Jewish heritage cannot be explained, as assumed in the first place, by policies, but by various local conditions.

Discussion – Jewish-themed tourism in cities without Jews, a new trend?

46Coming back to the notions of commodification of culture and of Post-Fordist tourism consumption, Krakow’s successful Jewish area shows that heritage and culture are commodified to serve the needs of locals and tourists. It has become a niche market, which seems to be always more popular. The tension created by the commodification of heritage and culture is very high in the case of Jewish tourism. Indeed, celebrating the Jewish past and culture in places where the population has been mass-murdered is a sensitive issue. There is an ambiguity in claiming to celebrate Jewish culture as a missing cultural element in the landscape that should be remembered, while making money with it, while ’using’ it. However honest and real the interest in Things Jewish is, the Jewish heritage is in the end usually used for economic development. And such a development will benefit the city or individuals not related to Jewish culture – a changing and multi-component culture which faces issues such as assimilation. This tension between commercialisation of absent Jews and the balance between remembrance and celebration of a disappeared culture is central in the Jewish heritage debate. It is connected with another issue pervading the heritage-tourism debate, namely the ownership of heritage. Trying to determine whose heritage is being conserved and commercialised and in whose name is a very difficult issue in heritage tourism. The research suggests, that the Jewish heritage in Krakow now belongs both to the small Jewish Community and the non-Jewish society, whereas in Vilnius, part of the authorities seems to claim that it belongs to the Jewish Community and they should thus maintain it. Moreover, it is also very difficult to explain or justify who has the right to use this heritage. Do Jewish heritage and culture belong exclusively to Jews and thus only Jews should use it – and if so, which Jews? Or is it a World heritage belonging to all that could be used by everyone?

47This issue refers to the definition of heritage as a common good itself. Such a definition is not always evident, especially when issues of power around heritage designation and interpretation are considered. The dominant power elites play a significant part in shaping the past as a set of discourses aimed at a particular group, the tourists (Lennoy, Foley, 2000). With heritagization and touristification processes, the heritage is interpreted and transformed into a specific or a plurality of narratives.

48Moreover, even if, as argued previously, the notion of authenticity should be used cautiously, it is interesting to focus on the tourists’ ’search of authenticity’ (MacCannell, 1989). Considering that tourists are looking for authenticity, one could wonder if the interest in Things Jewish is part of a wider search by tourists for the ’everyday’. Indeed, Krakow seems to present, in some ways at least, an impression of the everyday life of the community – even though this community life is now almost absent. Vilnius on the other hand is still largely – even though sparsely – about tangible heritage. The concept of authenticity in this context has maybe something to do with this distinction tangible heritage only versus representation of the ’everyday’. People now perhaps have a wider concept than before of what is ‘authentic’. One could presume that previously it was very much related to the presence of historical ‘authenticity’ in the form of monuments, etc. Now one gets the feeling that, more than monuments alone, the context and interpretation of the past are also more important. The symbolic value of the heritage is indeed grounded in the social context (Meethan, 2001). Therefore, the combination of contextual factors in Krakow – including the role of the media, the greater volumes of tourists, the local interest, etc. – may also have a link to the extent to which things in Kazimierz are perceived as authentic. But this point should be further researched. It is important to remind once again that the notion of authenticity is complex and elusive. At what point in history does one decide that a culture has become authentic? A culture is by definition ’living’, it is in perpetual change and it cannot be captured as a whole. Thus, considering a culture as heritage means defining and freezing its component in the current state, or attempting to reconstruct and ’ideal’ state. The evolution of society and culture is irreversible, to use the adjective used by Hartman (1994, p. 2). To define a culture authentic is accordingly something very delicate.

49Furthermore, Jewish culture is represented through pseudonostalgia, as Gruber (2002) puts it. The Jewish world that once existed in Central and Eastern Europe was more complex and problematic that the one represented now in the stereotypes of white-bearded man in black clothing (see image 3). The nostalgic feeling towards Jewish culture which drives interest in Things Jewish is simplified. Indeed, remembrance does usually not correspond to the actual past. “No memory can duplicate what had been the existing reality” (Doneson, 1996, p. 76). What is experienced as Jewish culture in Krakow is only a small part of a complex and heterogeneous culture. The difficulty of not caricaturing and reducing a culture, Jewish or other, when represented and used for tourism, is immense. A risk stemming from these ’heritagisation’ and ’touristification’ of culture is to increase and reinforce stereotypes. The trivialisation and popularisation of Jewish culture and history are two prominent issues.

50In addition, with examples such as Krakow or Prague, it could be said that it is largely thanks to tourism that Jewish heritage and culture in Central and Eastern Europe is being maintained and has been re-discovered – although the interest of the local population in Things Jewish and Spielberg’s film have been of primary importance in Krakow’s case. However the question whether this is wanted from a Jewish cultural point of view could be raised – remembering that Jewish culture is really wide and diverse and Jewish people do not always agree with one another.

51The extent to which enthusiasm among non-Jews for Things Jewish is driven by culture or economy should also be raised. If interest in Jewish heritage is primarily economically driven, it means that people see an opportunity to exploit and act on it. Which raises ethical and moral issues.

52The case of Kazimierz confirms the important role of ethnic diversity in shaping place and space in the symbolic economy, as stated by Zukin (1995). Indeed, in the global Polish city landscape, the ethnically different Jewish population – however small it is – and the Jewish heritage and culture are a major attraction that shapes the whole area. It is the site of festivals, the destination of ethnic tours, and it is recommended in travel guides and on the Internet. It brings an advertised added value to the city. Cultural differences are thus an asset that can be and are exploited by the city.

53Vilnius could also use its Jewish heritage – the moral problem of such a practice having not to be forgotten – incorporating it into the city’s place marketing campaign, and create a new narrative of regeneration based on its Jewish heritage. Furthermore, creative tourism related to Jewish culture could be fostered, in order to compete with cities that are richer in Jewish built heritage.

54This study provides information on the way the Jewish-themed tourism develops. On the one hand in Krakow private local initiatives engendered the regeneration of the area and the creation of tourist attractions over the past 20 years. The present situation, which can be qualified of well functioning from a tourism perspective, was created ’bottom up’. “It was spontaneous, driven primarily by the decisions of independent cultural institutions and by private entrepreneurs” (Labadi 2008: 70). The city provides funding supporting some activities, in a somewhat ’laissez-faire’ approach. In Vilnius on the other hand, it seems that such a development would take place ’top-down’. The existing Jewish Culture Information Centre and the project of rebuilding the Great Synagogue show this. Maybe such a situation is less favourable for developing tourism; the interest from the local population might be of particular importance. Those are suppositions which should be tested in the future.

55Moreover, the tension between the needs of the locals against the needs of the tourists should be pointed out. Indeed, one issue in Kazimierz is the effect of the booming Jewish tourism and late-night economy on the everyday lives of residents (Shaw and Karmowska 2003). Furthermore, gentrification has taken place in Kazimierz.

“The process of commercial, as well as residential gentrification has also been boosted by the voluntary efforts to improve the area by a local association of small businesses. Its initiatives have included a “clean up Kazimierz” campaign to reduce garbage on streets and pavements, late opening of shops and galleries every first Thursday of the month, and a summer soup festival. Higher education and cultural institutions have also located here. As in Spitalfields and other inner urban areas of West European cities, the new residents include a mix of artists, scientists and young professionals, who are attracted by the accessible location, ambience and now fashionable address” (ibid: 53).

56Therefore the question if an important Jewish tourism is desirable in Vilnius arises. One can argue that economically it is desirable, because such a tourism would create income for the city. Moreover, in order to ’be on the map’ using its Jewish heritage could be a great tool. However, the way Jewish heritage and culture is used and displayed could be problematic and there could also be negative effects for the residents, such as services organised to fulfil the needs of tourists instead of theirs. Nevertheless, if more cultural and educational events would take place in Vilnius partly because of tourism, these would benefit the local inhabitants as well as tourists. The answer to the question is thus dependent on what one thinks is most important in the development of a city.

  • 23 see European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Heritage AEPJ for details

57All the points in the analysis showed the decisive importance of the local context. Other case studies should further be investigated. There cannot be a European generalisation about Jewish heritage and its usage for tourism purposes. However, European programs could reinforce local initiatives and the importance accorded to Jewish heritage and culture. Such programs already exist, namely the European Routes of Jewish Heritage and the European Day of Jewish Culture23, but they could be reinforced, from a touristic perspective. Furthermore, if cultural policy implicitly aimed to create a common European heritage, Jewish heritage could have an important role in European identity and integration.

58The European Route offers, according to AEPJ (2008), “the possibility to discover the many facets of the European identity and as well that of Judaism and the Jewish people”. In the construction of definitions of Europe and European culture, the questions of identity and memory are essential. The Jewish heritage is a common feature all around Europe; it is a part of culture from Spain to Russia and from Finland to Malta. The Routes supposedly enable visitors not only to discover the history of the Jewish people, as a separate people, but also enable them to know better the local history and understand part of the local identity and culture. There are many facets of this specific culture – influenced by Ashkenazi or Sephardic traditions, as well as other historical events. This allows the different ’places’ to keep their local specificities in a European landscape. Even if not used for tourism purposes, Jewish heritage is a rich cultural heritage, a value. The revival of interest in Jewish culture that has taken place since twenty years seems to be evidence of that. And it seems lately to become more and more popular. In other words, Jewish is now ’cool’. Is this interest in Jewish heritage and culture, and thus Jewish-themed tourism, only a fad or is it a longer term trend ? This question should be dealt with again in a few years to see the evolution of the Things Jewish in European cities.

Conclusions – Jewish heritage as a European identity integrator?

59This research aimed at understanding to what extent Jewish heritage is used for tourism purposes in cities where the Jewish population was eradicated, and what these differences in usage are dependent on, in the context of increasingly popular cultural and heritage tourism. It has shown that Jewish-themed tourism is more developed in Krakow than in Vilnius, where heritage and cultural attractions are mainly used by the local Jewish community. In Krakow, the interest in Things Jewish is significantly bigger than in Vilnius. However there is a potential to develop more Jewish-themed tourism in Vilnius, as the success of the Klezmer Festival during the celebration of the European Capital of Culture in 2009 seemed to show.

60The findings helped to demonstrate that the difference in usage cannot be explained by public policies but by various local conditions. In Krakow, private ’bottom-up’ initiatives such as the Jewish Culture Festival have been crucial elements in launching Jewish culture. Another important element supporting Jewish-themed tourism has been the renewal of Jewish buildings, this taking place because since the fall of communism Jewish heritage is treated as part of national heritage. Furthermore, the presence of Auschwitz close to Krakow as well as the film Schindler’s List can be accounted for the extension of interest in Things Jewish from a niche market to mainstream tourists. Indeed, Krakow started as a pilgrimage destination only, for Israeli and American pilgrims mostly, and it has now become something of a mass cultural tourism destination. Besides, the general tourist success of, and the cultural offer in, Krakow is a local condition that strongly influences Jewish-themed tourism. Thus, tourism seems to be a major factor in the process of ‘heritagisation’. Once again, the reciprocal significance of tourism and heritage is shown.

61In Vilnius on the other hand interest and tourism fostered by Things Jewish is relatively low. However, this seems to be gradually changing. The city is slowly trying to do something about its Jewish heritage. A major problem in Vilnius, which obviously also affects Jewish heritage management, is the lack of financial resources. The City cannot support all the projects, thus private investors are wanted but interest from their part seems to be missing. Moreover, tensed relationships between the authorities and the Jewish Communities (and also more generally between the non-Jewish and Jewish Lithuanians) as well as conflicts within the Community could be part of the explanation of a low Jewish heritage usage. The lack of cooperation and coordination between the various actors, as well as lack of transparency and corruption are fundamental problems to understand the situation in Vilnius. Now, Jewish-themed tourism is more of a niche market. It might follow in the footsteps of Krakow and become a popular destination.

62Besides, this research gave the opportunity to be confronted to a number of issues pervading the tourism debate, such as the tension between commercialisation and the balance between commemoration and celebration of a disappeared culture. Heritage preservation for economic purposes creates a tension, not only because of the use of heritage as a commodity, but also because this raises another connected question, that of ownership of heritage. This leads one to reflect on the meaning of heritage in our society, on the changed relation to the past (and to time in general). Moreover, the tension between the needs of locals against the needs of tourists has also been addressed. The downsides for local inhabitants and infrastructure of an important tourism development should not be forgotten. Indeed, gentrification has taken place in Kazimierz and the booming Jewish tourism and late-night economy have had effects on the everyday lives of residents (Shaw, Karmowska, 2003).

63Growing interest in Jewish culture over the past twenty years and the tourism it fosters, especially in places where the Shoah happened, raises issues of trivialisation and popularisation of Jewish culture. In addition, one could wonder whether the renewal of interest in Jewish heritage and culture and thus Jewish-themed tourism is only a fad or if it is a longer term trend. In the increasingly globalised world, national identity is still very strong. With the enlargement of the European Union, the existing national and local identities have slowly been reconsidered. In order to shape a European socio-cultural place identity, a heritage identity is required and needed “if European integration is to succeed” (Tunebridge, 1994, p. 133). Jewish culture and history could be integrated in this European heritage identity. Local identities in Europe have indeed been influenced for two millennia by Jewish culture. Jewish heritage can be found in numerous cities throughout the continent. Moreover, European programs could reinforce local initiatives, and the importance accorded to Jewish heritage and culture. A European Routes of Jewish Heritage and the European Day of Jewish Culture have already been launched. From a tourist perspective, the Routes of Jewish Heritage should be more developed and advertised.

64In addition to being a good European identity ’integrator’, Jewish heritage and culture is also a way for cities to develop a new narrative of regeneration. One possible way of creating distinctiveness for a city is to use the Jewish heritage to develop a unique atmosphere and foster tourism, and have a place in the global cultural economy. Nevertheless, the raised tensions – around the notions of heritage and culture themselves, ownership of heritage and commodification of culture – must be kept in mind.

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Notes

1 The two thousand years considered here refer to the ’broad’ European history, with the presence of Jewish populations in Greece, Italy, Spain since Roman times.

2 There exist, of course, documents regarding Jewish heritage. R.E. Gruber, for instance, wrote several books about this topic, such as Virtually Jewish (see references for details). Her focus is on the reason why and in what ways do non-Jews embrace and enact Jewish culture. D. Flesler and A. Perez Melgosa wrote, another example, an article about the uses made of Spanish Jewish heritage (Flesler D, Perez Melgosa A., 2010, "Hervas, convivencia and the heritagization of Spain’s Jewish past", in Journal of Romance Studies, vol. 10, No 2, 53-76).

3 The main Jewish language of Central and Eastern Europe, spoken by around eleven million people before the Second World War (Silvain, Minczeles 1999).

4 See eg. Babeau A., 1988, Le patrimoine aujourd’hui, Paris, Nathan ; Bourdin A. 1984, Le patrimoine réinventé, Paris, PUF ; Chastel A., 1986, "La notion de patrimoine", in Nora p. (ed.), Les lieux de mémoire. T. 2 La nation, 405-450; the International Journal of Heritage Studies published by Routledge, etc.

5 Heritage appears as goods received and to transmit, which property is not exclusive to a family, but involve the entire social group. It embodies in a certain way a past to protect for the present and the future.

6 On the topic of collective memory of conflicts, see eg. Licata L., Klein O., Gély R., 2007, "Mémoire des conflits, conflits de mémoires: une approche psychosociale et philosophique du rôle de la mémoire collective dans les processus de reconciliation intergroupe", in Social Science Information, vol. 46, No 4, 563-589.

7 Clarks argues that the ‘centre’ took an active interest in spatial narratives and sought to revive such narratives, by rebuilding and renovating old synagogues and Jewish communal buildings, because of guilt over the Holocaust in Germany and for the promotion of cultural tourism and the attempt to rejuvenate inner city areas into tourist attractions in Italy and Spain for instance. Whereas the narratives of spaces on the ‘margins’ are contested narratives. In Krakow for example, non-Jewish Poles initiated a move to revitalize Kazimierz, the former Jewish area, by introducing a Jewish culture festival to revive a specifically Jewish narrative in the area.

8 Nowadays the community counts 200 members (different numbers according to sources) while there were more than 60.000 Jews before the war, that is 25% of the population (Jewish Virtual Library).

9 With events such as the Kielce slaughter in 1946.

10 Which diminished even more after the 1968 Jewish purge (see Minczeles, 2006).

11 N.B. during the war, the ghetto in which Jews were confined was on the other side of the river, in Podgorze district.

12 Only between 2.000 (Winstone, 2010) and 6.000 people survived (Minczeles, 1992).

13 In Krakow mainly in Podgorze.

14 About 4.500 visitors in 2009 and about 6.000 in 2010 (data received at the Vilna Gaon Museum).

15 In Krakow: Route of Jewish Culture (museums relating to Jewish culture) and Walk around Kazimierz ’Jewish Heritage Route’ (heritage centred on four streets in Kazimierz); In Vilnius: Route Jewish Heritage (12 places of interest along the route as well as 6 elsewhere in the city).

16 For example, an international seminar, ’Vilnius – World Heritage Site: value of Jewish heritage and its commemoration’, was organised in December 2009 and there was the project of rebuilding the Great Synagogue (or part of it) as a museum.

17 A semi-clandestine study group of Jews and non-Jews in communist Warsaw who met informally to teach themselves what they could about Judaism.

18 Baudrillard’s (1981) notion of simulacra could be discussed here. According to him, today, distinction between reality and representation is not made anymore, but there is only simulacra. Representations precede and determine the real. In tourism simulacra – a copy without an original – is widely consumed. Thus, it could be said that simulacra of Jewish culture is (re)presented and consumed.

19 J. T. Gross’ book Sąsiedzi: Historia Zagłady Żydowskiego Miasteczka (2000, Sejny, Pogranicze) (The Neighbors) reconstructs how the Polish inhabitants of the small town of Jedwabne murdered the Jewish citizens in 1941. A major debate took place following its publication, that continued after M.J. Chodakiewicz’s After the Holocaust. Polish-Jewish Conflict in the Wake of World War Two (2003, New York, East European Monographs) and Gross’ next book Fear. Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwritz: An Essay in Historical Interpretation (2006, Princeton, Princeton University Press). Kwasniewski, president at the time of The Neighbors publication, apologized to the Jewish people while in pilgrimage in Jerusalem (Minczeles, 2006).
On this topic see also eg. Irwin-Zarecka, I., 1990, Neutralizing Memory. The Jew in Contemporary Poland, New Brunswick, Transaction Publication; Glowacka, D., Zylinska, J. (eds), 2007, Imaginary neighbors: Mediating Polish-Jewish RelationsAfter the Holocaust, Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press.; Machcewicz, P., 2007, "Jedwabne 1941. Le débat sur le conflit judéo-polonais dans le Nord-Est de la Pologne sous l’occupation nazie", in Mink, G., Neumayer, L., L’Europe et ses passés douloureux, Paris, La Découvert, 156-168; Szurek, J.-C., 2010, La Pologne, les Juifs et le communisme, Paris, Michel Houdiard.

20 Two Jews on a desert island built three synagogues, one for each one, and one in which neither would set foot.

21 Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture is an American foundation founded in 2001 to help support the survival of Jewish life and culture. It is the second grant-giving foundation of the Taube Philantropies.

22 More than 110.000 visitors from June to December 2010.

23 see European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Heritage AEPJ for details

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Table des illustrations

Titre Map 1: Localization of the study area within Krakow’s administrative districts
Crédits (Source: Olivia Sandri)
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 92k
Titre Map 2: Localization of the study area within Vilnius’s elderships
Crédits (Source: Olivia Sandri)
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 82k
Titre Map 3: Jewish heritage and culture sites in Kazimierz, Krakow, 2011
Légende “Building” category includes former ritual baths, prayer houses, schools, hospital, ritual slaughterhouse, theatre.
Crédits (Source: Olivia Sandri)
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 87k
Titre Map 4: Jewish heritage and culture sites in Podgorze, Krakow, 2011
Légende “Building” category includes former prayer house and Jewish hospital (in office during the ghetto years).
Crédits (Source: Olivia Sandri)
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 55k
Titre Map 5: Jewish heritage and culture sites in Vilnius, 2011
Légende “Building” category includes former prayer house and abandoned synagogue.
Crédits (Source: Olivia Sandri)
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-5.png
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Titre Image 1: Jewish restaurants in Kazimierz, Krakow
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-6.jpg
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Titre Image 2: Tempel Synagogue, Krakow
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-7.jpg
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Titre Image 3: Statuettes on sale in Kazimierz, Krakow
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-8.jpg
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Titre Image 4: Plaque showing the ghetto plans of Vilnius
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-9.jpg
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Titre Image 5: Statue of the Gaon of Vilna, Vilnius
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-10.jpg
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Titre Image 6: Remains of pre-war shop writings, Vilnius
URL http://cybergeo.revues.org/docannexe/image/25934/img-11.jpg
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Référence électronique

Olivia Sandri, « City Heritage Tourism without Heirs », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Politique, Culture, Représentations, document 646, mis en ligne le 28 mai 2013, consulté le 24 septembre 2017. URL : http://cybergeo.revues.org/25934 ; DOI : 10.4000/cybergeo.25934

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Auteur

Olivia Sandri

Unité d’enseignement et de recherche interdisciplinaire en Tourisme – Institut Universitaire Kurt Bösch (IUKB), étudiante, olivia.sandri@bluewin.ch

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