Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Tuesday, 29 April 2008 16:53 UK

Prince opens Krakow Jewish centre

Prince Charles at the opening ceremony
In Jewish tradition, a Mezuzah is attached to new buildings

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have opened a Jewish community centre in Krakow, Poland.

Prince Charles took part in the Jewish custom of fixing a Mezuzah - a scroll inscribed with a Hebrew prayer - to the building's entrance.

The community centre project was initiated by the Prince on a 2002 visit when he met Holocaust survivors.

During their one-day trip the couple are also visiting St. Mary's Basilica, and Wawel Castle.

Charles and Camilla were greeted by hundreds of tourists when they got out of their chauffeur-driven car in Krakow's main square.

The city is a popular tourist destination renowned for its rich cultural heritage.

At the opening ceremony in the Kazimierz Jewish quarter, Charles spoke to several Holocaust survivors - some of whom had inspired him to initiate the project when he first met them in 2002.

Local resident Ryszard Orowski, who lost his entire family to the Nazis, said: "Never did we imagine that we would have a centre, a home for the whole community of Krakow.

"I stand here today remembering the family and loved ones whom many of us lost so tragically in the Holocaust but now I can look to the future with true hope that our wonderful community can again come alive," he added.

Centre director Jonathan Orstein said the Prince had made a "substantial contribution" to help finance the project.

"The reason we are here today is because of Prince Charles's idea and involvement," Mr Orstein said.

Charles and Camilla
The couple are also visiting Wawel Castle - Poland's former political centre

The London-based charity World Jewish Relief (WJR) funded and oversaw the centre's construction.

It will be used by around 1,000 people including the elderly and Jewish students studying at Krakow University.

Jewish and non-Jewish community members will also be able to access facilities for social, educational and religious programmes.

Earlier in the day Charles and Camilla were shown around St. Mary's Basilica, the gothic church in Krakow's main square, and toured the nearby cloth market.

They will also visit Poland's former political and cultural centre, Wawel Castle.

World Jewish Relief was founded in 1933, and is credited with helping Jewish children escape from the Nazis.

Prince Charles has visited Poland and Krakow twice - in 1993 and 2002. For Camilla this is her first visit.

The Mezuzah is a piece of parchment inscribed with two Biblical paragraphs from the Torah which are said as prayers. It is fixed to the front door frame of Jewish homes. Observant Jews fix one to the doorway of all the main rooms.

The parchment is prepared by a scribe who has undergone years of training. The verses are written in black ink with a quill pen and then placed in a case.


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