Sites Related to Jewish History in Poland
The history of Jews in Poland is long and extremely turbulent. The first small Jewish communities already existed in Poland in the 13th century. Later, they expanded with Jewish who were exiled from other European countries, including Germany, France, Austria Spain and many others.
Probably the most cruel and preternatural period in the Jewish history of Poland took place during World War II. That’s when Germans committed some of the most despicable crimes, which included imprisoning Jews in death camps, mostly in Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the Holocaust.
Auschwitz-Birkenau German Concentration Camp
Auschwitz-Birkenau is a complex of German Nazi concentration camps, which operated between 1940 and 1945 in Oswiecim. The idea of creating this murderous camp was first conceived in Wroclaw. In late 1939, SS-Oberfuhrer Arpad Wigand, who was functioning as a local police inspector, came up with the idea to create a concentration camp for the prisoners from jails in the Upper Silesia. Similar to other German concentration camp in Europe, Auschwitz-Birkenau was supervised by the SS management.
The main camp of the complex, known as Auschwitz I, was existing at the area of Polish artillery barracks. Originally, the camp was mostly dedicated for keeping Polish people fighting against the occupant. Later it was also a prison for Jews and Soviet war prisoners.
The „Pod Orlem” pharmacy
The „Pod Orlem” pharmacy in Krakow is the only pharmacy located in the Krakow ghetto during the German occupation of Krakow. It was established by Jozef Pankiewicz in 1909. His son, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, began working in the pharmacy in 1930. Since the beginning of 1934, he took over the function of the pharmacy’s manager.
After the Germans created a ghetto for Jews in Krakow, the pharmacy of the Pankiewicz family landed in the very centre of the ghetto. The „Pod Orlem” pharmacy was the only pharmacy in the ghetto to be open for 24 hours every day.
Schindler’s Factory in Krakow was established in 1937 by Izrael Kohn as a place of making enameled products and tinware. It was originally located at 9 Romanowicza street, and in January of 1938 it was moved to a new building at 4 Lipowa street. In November of 1939, Oskar Schindler took control over the factory, which was near bankruptcy.
Most of the employees in Schindler’s Factory were Jews. When Germans began to liquidate the camps and prisons because of the approaching eastern front, Schindler evacuated his factory ro Brunnlitz in the Sudety Land. The history of the factory and its owner were described in Steven Spielberg’s movie „ Schindler’s List”, which was mostly filmed in Poland.
Bohaterow Getta Square
Bohaterow Getta Square is a famous plaza located in the Podgorze district of Krakow. Between 1941 and 1943, it was part of the Krakow ghetto, where Jews were brought before being transported to concentration camps.
The first plans of the Bohaterow Getta Square appeared in the first half of the 19th century. At that time it didn’t have any buildings and was bordered by roads leading to salt magazines. Since the 1880s, the plaza was functioning as a market place, which sold cattle and pigs. Currently, Bohaterow Getta Square is surrounded by Lwowska, Targowa and Piwna streets.
The Remu Synagogue
The Remu Synagogue is located at 40 Szeroka street, in the Kazimierz district of Krakow. It is the second oldest Jewish prayer house in Krakow. Since 1553 a merchant named Izrael Isserles Auerbach wanted to gain permission to adapt his home into a synagogue. The king gave the approval in 1556, but the following year, a fire destroyed most of the Jewish town, including the wooden synagogue.
During World War II, the synagogue was severely devastated, most of the equipment was taken away or destroyed, and the metal bimah was most likely melted down for the military industry.
The Polish Jews’ History Museum
The Polish Jews’ History Museum, known as POLIN, is located in the Muranow district of Wwarsaw. It documents the long history of Jews in Poland. The concept of creating a large museum dedicated to the history of Polish Jews first appeared in 1993. The POLIN Museum was established on January 25th 2005. Inside the museum visitors can see the permanent exhibit, which occupies two underground floors of the building. The exhibit allows visitors to get familiar with the legends and stories about the first Jews to arrive in Poland, the fates of Polish Jews during the Polish annexation period, and the terrifying history of the Holocaust.
The Remuh cemetery
The old Jewish cemetery, also known as the Remuh cemetery, is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Krakow and one of the oldest in Europe, established in 1535. In 1552, the very first matzevot were put in this place. The only older Jewish tombstones can be found in Wroclaw and Lublin. In 1800, the Remuh cemetery was shut down for the order of Austrian authorities due to health reasons. During World War II, the cemetery was the location of a junkyard. At that time, only 10-20 matzevot have survived. After the archaeological research in 1959, the cemetery was renovated.
The Galicja Jewish Museum
The Galicja Jewish Museum is located in Krakow, at 18 Dajwor street. It was established in April of 2004 by Chris Schwarz. He was a renowned photographer, who was working and travelling all around the world. Most of his work was focused on social problems. He was taking photos, of homeless, disabled and teminally ill people. After the fall of Communism, Chris Schwarz came to Poland because of his interest in elements of Jewish past, which he found in cities and villages near Krakow. Up until his premature death in 2007, Schwarz was reminding visitors about the existence of the world destroyed by the Holocaust and the countless attempts of preserving the memory of this world in modern Poland.
The Greaat Synagogue in Tykocin
The Great Synagogue in Tykocin is located at 2 Kozia street, not far from the Small Market Square. It is currently the second largest synagogue in Poland. The Great Synagogue was constructed in 1642 in the place of an older, wooden synagogue. In the 18th century, the north-east corner of the synagogue gained a low tower,which originally served as a prison for Jews.
During World War II, in 1941 Hitler’s army devastated and robbed the interior of the synagogue and created a storage inside. In 1965, a fire broke out inside the synagogue, which completely destroyed the building.
Majdanek German Concentration Camp
Majdanek was a German Nazi concentration camp in Lublin, functioning between 1941 and 1944. The history of this camp is inseparably connected to the history of the lands between the Vistula and Bug rivers during World War II.
The originaly plan was to construct a small fragment of a camp, which could hold 5000-6000 prisoners. But in the autumn of 1941, an order was given to immediately create a concentration camp that could hold 50.000 prisoners.
On April 1st 1944, the Germans began to evacuate the camp. Majdanek was liberated on July 23rd by the 2nd Panzer Army under the leadership of Siemion Bogdanow.
The Survivors’ Park in Lodz
The Survivors’ Park in Lodz commemorates the people, who were kept in Ghetto Litzmannstadt, which existed during World War II. The idea of creating the park came from Halina Elczewska,who survived the ghetto in Lodz. She was also the first person to plant the so-called „memorial tree” Under one of the memorial oak trees a boulder was unveiled, to commemorate the tragic events that took place between 1940 and 1944.
The building of the park was ap[proved by the city council as an investment job. The construction works began in the autumn of 2005. The local monument was unveiled in 2009.
The White Stork Synagogue
The White Stork Synagogue, located at 5a Pawla Wlodkowice street, is one of two active synagogues in Wroclaw. The concept of constructing the synagogue first appeared in 1790, when duke Karol Georg Heinrich von Hoym introduced the idea of constructing a synagogue for the entire Jewish community.
During the so-called „Crystal Night” between November 9th and 10th, Hitler’s army devastated the interior of the synagogue. After the outbreak of World War II, the snyagogue was used until 1943. After that, Hitler’s army transformed the interior of the synagogue into a car workshop and storage of robbed Jewish objects.