Kazimuk -- Jewish Krakow.
Isaac Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew (1968).
The facts of the Holocaust are widely known and a great deal has been written about the Nazi destruction of the Polish Jewry. Yet, until very recently Polish Jews, the people themselves, the communities they created, the problems of their life in Poland, were largely absent from the history of their destruction. Perhaps this is not so surprising. Not only were most of those who might have written such a history killed by the Nazis, but the two communities - Poles and Jews - having lived side by side for nearly a thousand years, had very little sense of having lived together. The history of Poland and the history of the Jews in Poland made it unlikely they would easily find common cause, and Polish-Jewish relations, particularly during the Second World War, have become, in the words of Professor Norman Davies, one of 'the meanest of controversies'.
For the most part the Jews of pre-war Poland, even when they did not see themselves as the chosen people waiting patiently for the Messiah, forced into exile among the goyim, nevertheless lived mainly in the urban Jewish ghetto or the rural Jewish shtetl. There was little understanding, little real contact or exchange between the Polish and Jewish communities. Most Jews who became assimilated into Polish society were rendered almost invisible: they did not willingly speak of it. After World War II the fate of the Jews was of little interest to a badly damaged Poland preoccupied with its own long drawn-out national tragedy. The fate of the Jews did not mesh with post-war Polish national concerns; Jews in post-war society were hardly visible except as an occasional vague threat to political stability Uncertainties about the legitimacy of the Polish borders, identity problems, the legacy of Poland's struggles through the partition years, the Nazi occupation and the imposition of communism all combined to make ce rtain that the few Jews remaining in Poland were constantly in danger of being 'unmasked' as an untrustworthy alien element in the pay of some obscure international conspiracy The communists labelled this conspiracy Capitalism; the right wing labelled it Communism. Only one thing was certain -- it was Jewish. And at several key moments in post-war Poland, even though very few Jews still lived there, anti-Semitism was unveiled as a vital weapon in the arsenal of the Communist Party.
The human tragedy that Nazism visited upon the Krakow Jewish community has been shown by Thomas Keneally's novel Schindler's Ark (1982) and in Stephen Spielberg's Oscar-winning film 'Schindler's List'. But in both these works attention is focused on the enigmatic character of Oskar Schindler, who managed to preserve a handful of his Jewish factory workers from the Nazis, and on Amon Goth, the Krakow ghetto commandant determined to kill as many Jews as he could. Keneally's novel showed the bizarre correspondences in the lives of these two men and wondered what it was that drove them, the one to risk his life to save Jews, the other to become a brutal sadist. What neither Keneally nor Spielberg could show was that the destruction of the Krakow Jewish community, which had mainly been located in the old Kazimierz district, was a severe loss not only to Jewish culture, but also to the complex of cultural communities that helped form modern Poland.
It is really only since the upheaval created by Solidarnosc in the early 1980s that Poland has begun to notice and to question its connection to Jewish history, to acknowledge the Jewish element in its own history, to wonder about the absence of Jews from modern Polish society, and to wonder what this absence means for a modern Polish culture. As Poland comes to terms with the new-found freedoms following the collapse of communism, this gap in Polish national identity, culture and history is increasingly apparent. More than fifty years after the event, we are also increasingly aware of this as a loss to European culture.
Early Jewish settlement in Krakow
There are no detailed records of early Jewish settlement, but it is probable that Jews lived in and around the Polish city of Krakow for over 1,000 years. In the tenth and eleventh centuries caravans of Jewish and Arabic merchants certainly visited the city - indeed the first written record of Krakow is in a document written in Arabic by Ibrahim ibn Ya'qub of Toledo, a Jewish trader who visited the city of 'Karako' in the company of the Khalif of Cordoba in the years 965-66. It is thought that by the eleventh century, when the total population of Krakow was about 11,000, Jews lived in what is now the Old Town, around the cross-roads at ulica sw. Anny and Jagiellonska, currently the location of the university library, the centre of the modern university district. Town records refer to this area, right next to the town wall, as the Jewish Market. In 1304, the date of the first documents referring to Jews in the area, there was a Brama Zydowska (Jewish Gate) and a street called ulica Zydowska (Jewish Street). Th ere was also a small Jewish cemetery in use until 1495, located at the point where modern ulica Szewska passed through the city wall. Although most of the early Jewish settlers had Biblical names, the number of Slavonic names recorded (Dobrensco, Swonka, Kaschycza) indicates that it was very likely these people spoke a Slav language.
According to the first Polish historian, Jan Dlugosz (1415-80), King Kazimierz III Wielki (1310-70) had a Jewish mistress called Esterka. The King encouraged Jewish settlement in Poland as a way of creating a new commercial middle class, and confirmed Jewish legal rights in 1334. On 27 February 1335 King Kazimierz granted a special charter of settlement in an area south of Krakow city walls, north-east of the river Wisla, bordering the Stary Wisla (Old Wisla) a sluggish branch of the main river. (This river branch is now filled in and used as a road known as Planty Dietlowskie.) King Kazimierz was a particularly far-sighted man, and this foundation charter was clearly intended to promote a kind of model settlement, along the lines of Prague New Town.
The town sat astride the ancient amber route (which at this point ran on an embankment over the mudflats of the Wisla and Wilga rivers), and was close to the wealth of the salt mines of Wieliczka. It was also well placed to take advantage of the vital grain trade along the river Wisla and traffic headed south through the Czech mountains towards Hungary. The new township was part of the King's effort to make the Krakow area a focal point for economic activities on both north-south (Baltic-Adriatic) and east-west (Ukraine-Germany) trade routes. King Kazimierz had judged prudently that this market town was to be a free market, that is, self-regulating. So confident was the King of its success, that it was named after him. For Poles the new township was Kazimierz: the Jewish inhabitants called it Kazimuh.
The King's decree fixed the area of the township as an irregular rectangle approximately 900 x 500 metres. Initially the settlement was not exclusively Jewish and had at least two Christian churches. It seems that there was an influx of Jewish refugees from Germany, Bohemia and Silesia in 1348-49, as a result of an outbreak of plague, but the first documentary mention of the specifically Jewish settlement in Kazimierz comes only in 1386, when it is recorded that there were Jewish residents on ulica Jozefa Jakuba, ulica Miodowa and ulica Szeroka. Soon the township employed an engineer to design and construct a salt mill and store, and by 1363 the town had a large paved market place of about 38,000 square metres (not much smaller than the current Krakow market place), an office regulating stall-holding, a slaughterhouse, a synagogue, a tavern and two churches -- Corpus Christi, begun c. 1340, and St Catharine's, completed in 1426. By 1400 there was a Jewish cemetery, and in 1485 there was a Jewish bathhouse. Th e brick town hall, built at the end of the fourteenth century, replaced an earlier wooden building. This was rebuilt, crowned with a parapet, and a tower with a conical spire added to the north side in 1578. At about this time other brick buildings began to replace the old wooden structures of Kazimierz. The town also had a sewage system, and its own fresh water supply from nearby Krzemionki.
There were also town walls with seven decorated gates; fragments of the defensive wall now form part of the garden of the Pauline monastery on Skalka. The Kazimierz defences were necessary, not only for protection against marauding Tartars. Jan Dlugosz records a pogrom in Krakow in 1407. The fifteenth century was a period of great unhappiness; there was a series of violent pogroms and expulsions right across Europe. Between 1426 and 1498 Jewish refugees arrived in Krakow from Augsburg, Bavaria, Erfurt, Wurzburg, Magdeburg, Carinthia, Styria, Spain and Portugal. The increase in the number of Jewish residents contributed to tensions between the Jews and Christians in Krakow, and throughout these years there were several serious attacks on the Jewish community. In 1463 alone, 30 Jews were killed.
In June 1494 while part of the visiting Turkish sultan's camel train was camped on the market place, a fire broke out which destroyed a large part of the Krakow Old Town. The fire was blamed not on the Turks, but on the Jews. A mob attacked Jewish shops and homes; the Jews defended themselves. The town council complained to the Polish king. It seems that after lengthy deliberation King Jan Olbracht decided the only way to bring peace to both communities was to separate them. There is still some debate on the issue, but Jan Olbracht seems to have forced Jewish residents out of their homes in Krakow and transferred them to nearby Kazimierz, where, to accommodate the newcomers, it was necessary to build a hospital, a new synagogue, additional baths and homes. This move was to prove a significant and long-lasting change to the pattern of mixed settlement in both Krakow and Kazimierz. It was to be nearly 400 years before Jews were again allowed to make their homes in Krakow.
Growth and development of Jewish Kazimierz
In spite of the enforced move to Kazimierz, religious tolerance was the norm in Poland at this time. In general the Jews' rights of trade, taxation, movement and worship were enshrined in law, as was the autonomous government of Jewish settlements, rights to kosher animal slaughter, Jewish burial practice and exemption from slavery. Polish kings repeatedly renewed these rights. In general Polish kings allowed the Jewish community to elect its own governing kahal (local community commission) to administer community affairs. In 1549 the Jews won the right to set and collect their own poll tax. After 1551 Jews were allowed to elect their own representative local councils under the supreme power of the Va'ad Arba Artzot, which acted as state agent in the collection of taxes, regulation of local elections, approval of school curricula, the monitoring of the Jewish judicial system and the imposition of fines. This basically meant that a foundation for an autonomous Jewish society existed. Not everyone was satisfied with this arrangement, and in 1564 the Kazimierz elders Salmon Krasnik, Josef Lyblich, Alexander the physician, and Salman Landa, successfully defended these rights against a Polish Crown Commission which was unhappy that, from a total Jewish population of over 200,000, only 16,598 actually paid taxes.
More than once Poland absorbed Jews expelled from other European states: there seem to have been influxes after the Crusades (1096-1190 after the expulsions from England (1290), France (1306 and 1394), Spain (1492), Portugal (1496-97) and the German principalities (1612), and after the Black Death (1348-51). Religious tolerance and favourable trading conditions meant that the Jewish population of Poland increased fivefold between the start of the fifteenth and the start of the sixteenth centuries; it is estimated that there were 150,000 Jews in Poland by 1576. By 1648, as a result of immigration from Hungary and Bohemia, Poland's Jewish population stood at 450,000 -- approximately 4.5% of the total population. But Poland, and with it Krak6w, was changing. Up to the fifteenth century the bulk of the population of Krakow had been largely German-speaking, but as the sixteenth century wore on so the city became increasingly Polish in its language and culture.
In 1568 Kazimierz, already overcrowded, probably from a fresh influx of refugees from Germany, Bohemia, Spain and Portugal, but prevented by law from expanding, sought and won a ban on Christians settling within its walls. In 1595 the Kazimierz kahal, again responding to severe population pressure, passed a special decree limiting the rights of incoming Jews to settle in the town. They threatened that anyone disobeying this decree, and anyone found assisting or sheltering them, would be excommunicated, 'set aside from this world and the life hereafter', refused circumcision for their offspring and denied burial in a Jewish cemetery.
In many parts of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe -- particularly the Habsburg lands -- there were laws governing how Jews might dress. But in Poland Jews were not required to wear identifying clothes or badges. In Kazimierz, though an edict of King Sigismund August had forbidden them to imitate the Polish nobility by wearing swords and gold chains, Jews were not clothed very differently from their neighbours in Krakow. The distinctive long black bekeshe, accompanied by beards and side-locks, began to emerge in Poland only in the late sixteenth century.
In general the two communities, Polish and Jewish, hardly mixed at all, and seem to have existed side by side almost without acknowledging each other. The Polish poet, courtier and diplomat Jan Kochanowski (1530-84), the key figure in the emergence of modem Polish literature, spent a great deal of his working life at the Royal Court in Wawel castle, barely a mile from Kazimierz, yet he seems to have been unaware of the Jewish community. And, when the Polish and Jewish communities did mix, the results were not always edifying. In 1407 and again in 1637 'blood libel' accusations were made against Jews -- namely that they had used the blood of Christian infants slaughtered in secret, mixed with flour to make special Passover bread. In 1539 the heretic Barbara Weiglowa, a Krakow Jew who had converted to Christianity, but who had lapsed back into Judaism, was burned at the stake for heresy and possible witchcraft. In 1637 eight Jews were killed in a blood-libel riot in Krakow; in 1667 a Jewish pharmacist called Ma tathia was burned in Krakow for blasphemy. In 1792 after a pogrom in Warsaw and severe harassment of Jews in Leczyca, the liberal Polish Vice Chancellor Hugo Kollataj was forced to intervene to end the violence and protect the Kazimierz community.
In the seventeenth century Kazimierz craftsmen, called fuszer (Polish slang: botcher), managed to gain legal recognition for Jewish cechy (trade guilds). This meant that money lenders, innkeepers, printers, chandlers, brokers, and a wide range of other trades, operating within the law, could challenge the Christian monopoly of the well established and numerous Krakow trade guilds and enter into direct competition.
By the time of the Enlightenment the Jewish community in Poland numbered perhaps 1,000,000, but their political autonomy was weakening, and attempts to work out new constitutional arrangements were interrupted when Poland was partitioned by Russia, Prussia and Austria. With the failure of the 1830 insurrection, emigre Poles began to see the emancipation of the Jews as an important component of their programme for the restoration of the Polish state. After the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Krakow became an independent mini-republic, but in 1846 the Austrians swept aside the Krakow Republic and annexed the city and the surrounding territory. Almost immediately they reorganized local government in the area, and Kazimierz found itself incorporated into Krakow as Postal District IV. During the early years of the Austrian occupation, Jews in Kazimierz lived under rather tougher legal restrictions than they had been used to, and for a while it seems Austria contemplated expelling all Jews, but this idea was abandoned on economic grounds. After the revolutionary upheavals of 1848 (the Springtime of Nations), in which Krakow rabbi Dov Ber Meisels took part, the Austrians heeded emigre Polish criticism and slowly set about a limited legal Jewish emancipation, removing the restrictions which barred Jews from living in Krakow itself.
Kazimierz came to represent a blending of European and Oriental Jewish culture in Poland, but in many ways its streets and layout resembled the towns of eastern Poland and the Ukraine, rather than the urban centres of Germany or western Europe, and its atmosphere seems to have been Oriental rather than European. Although Kazimierz grew steadily, it never rivalled nearby Krakow in splendour, wealth or size. By the end of the sixteenth century Krakow had a massive Royal Castle, residence of the monarch and court, an enormous market place, a cloth-sellers' hall, a town hall with an impressive tower, a cathedral, monasteries, nunneries, cloisters, residential town palaces, a university, and host of very impressive brick gothic churches including the Mariacki Church with its two uneven spires and wonderful carved altar by Wit Stwosz (1477-89). Kazimierz, however, grew in other ways. As Talmudic study centres sprang up across Poland and eastern Europe, Kazimierz became increasingly influential as a cultural, religious and publishing centre for European Jewry.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Jews had begun to live outside Kazimierz; some had even moved into Krakow, but this had always proved hazardous and depended on the whim of the authorities. Now, although some families took the opportunity of the Austrian emancipation to move out, particularly to the neighbouring poorer districts of Stradom and Podgorze, very few Christian families moved into Kazimierz, and it remained primarily a Jewish district. Some Poles, cynical at their failure to break away from the partitioning powers, joked that the only successful military expedition in Poland in 1848 had been the one-mile march of Jews along Stradomska, the ancient trade road connecting Kazimierz to Krakow. By 1868 the Austrian authorities had gradually legislated full equality before the law for all citizens. In 1938, for the first time, a Jew was elected to the Krakow Council for the Town Centre district.
As in every other Jewish settlement education was much sought after and there is some evidence to suggest that the Jagiellonian University, founded by King Kazimierz Wielki in 1398, may have started life before this date in Kazimierz. Kazimierz was certainly famous for its contribution to theological debate. By the end of the fifteenth century there was a well developed system of yeshivot (talmudic study centres: from Hebrew yeshov, to sit) administered by a special section of the kahal and the school fraternity for the study of the Torah, financed entirely by the local community. Among the most famous of Kazimierz religious thinkers was the pilpul (pepper) theologian rabbi Jacob Poilack (1460-1541). Also resident was Yom Toy Lipmann Muelhausen, the defender of the truth of the Old Testament against Catholic and Protestant clergy, who lived in Krakow in the years 1400-25. He declared war on Jewish scholasticism, Christians and fundamentalist Jewish Karaites alike. Also from Kazimierz was the influential kabba list Isaiach ben Abraham ha-Levi Horovitz (1632-89), who in his book Shenei Luhot ha-Berit, propagated an extreme form of mysticism, ascetic bodily denial and punishment.
Perhaps the most distinguished of the Kazimierz scholars was the writer and philosopher Rabbi Mojzesz Isserles Auerbach (1510 or 1520 or 1525 to 1572), associated with the Re'muh Synagogue. He was well versed in the works of Aristotle and in the kabbalah and is revered to this day for his work in providing a gloss to Qaro's Shulkhan Arukh (Set Table; Venice, 1565). Rabbi Joseph Qaro (1488-1575) had been rabbi at Adrianople and also at Safad and his book was a code of practice for Jewish law. Isserles's gloss and commentary on the original text, often referred to as 'the crowning work of Talmudic literature', took issue with Qaro's line on the importance of custom in law, restored the importance of experience in religious activity, and adapted the Sephardic code to Aszkenazic needs in Poland, providing the basis of much present-day synagogue practice.
But education was not restricted to theological debate, and reflected the changing times. In 1822 the Jewish Hospital was founded on ulica Skawinska. This was to establish a reputation throughout Poland, developing new techniques and specialisms in laryngology, oncology and neurology until it was closed by the Nazis in 1939. In 1830 a state-sponsored Jewish primary school was opened in the Kazimierz town hall, and in 1837-38 this was converted into a Jewish business school.
The synagogues of Kazimierz
At all times the decoration of the Kazimierz synagogues was a focus for artistic talent. In the Remuh, Stary and High synagogues, magnificent sculptures, copper and wrought-iron work decorated the entrances, doors, altar closets and niches. The wails of the High Synagogue were decorated with sumptuous multicoloured Biblical scenes; in the graveyards many of the tombstones were also works of art.
The oldest Jewish cemetery in Krakow is the Remuh (also Rema or Remu'h) on ulica Szeroka. This was founded in 1533, but closed in 1799. The cemetery contained 47 major tombs and was one of the most famous Jewish cemeteries in Europe. It was devastated by the Nazis. Archaeological investigations there in 1955-59, during restoration work, revealed beautiful Renaissance tombs and some seven hundred gravestones -- many of them decorated with carvings of vine leaves, garlands, sprigs of flowers, and animals -- which had been covered over with earth in 1704 to protect them from the invading Swedish army. The oldest graves uncovered dated back 410 years, and the newest were 250 years old. The tomb of the influential Isserles family has the priestly symbol of two hands on it, along with the message relating to Rabbi Moses Isserles Auerbach: 'From Moses Maimonides to Moses Isserles there was no Moses to equal him'. In spite of the damage this remains one of the most important and beautiful of the European Jewish cemet eries.
Next door to the Remuh Cemetery is the Synagogue Remuh (ulica Szeroka 40). The original synagogue was a wooden building erected in 1533. Unfortunately this building burnt down. The current Renaissance-style synagogue was built on the same site in 1577 by Rabbi Israel ben Joseph Isserles, a rich immigrant from Ratisbon, banker to King Sigismund Augustus, as part of an effort to buy himself into the community. The Remuh synagogue was associated particularly with the thinking and teaching not of its founder but with those of his son, rabbi Mojzesz Isserles Auerbach (1525?-1572), a writer and philosopher who believed that custom and experience should be given due weight when determining religious matters. Both the Remuh synagogue and the graveyard derive their name from an abbreviation and contraction of the name rabbi Mojzesz - re'mu. An ornamental chair connected with Mojzesz Isserles still stands in a niche in the synagogue. The building was totally remodelled in 1933, but stripped bare by the Nazis, who used it as a warehouse. Extensive work was undertaken in 1957 to repair the damage and restore the synagogue to regular use.
Boznica Stara (Old Synagogue, ulica Szeroka 24) is the oldest of the surviving examples of Jewish religious architecture in Poland. It was built in the closing years of the fifteenth century by the descendants of refugees from Germany, France, Italy and Spain who had fled pogroms resulting from the spread of bubonic plague in the years up to 1389. The synagogue is very unusual in that it is cruciform, modelled on three earlier synagogues in Worms, Regensburg and Prague, all built between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. These facts are said to help to establish and confirm the pattern and date of Jewish immigration into Poland, from the Rhineland, through the Danube, the Elbe and the Oder into the Vistula basin. The building was completed in 1557, but shortly afterwards a fire destroyed much of the area. In 1570 the synagogue was redesigned in the Renaissance style by Florentine architect Matteo (Mateusz) Gucci; basically the building now has a two-nave structure with six vaults, two pillars and the bim a (raised platform) in the middle, and the Ark of the Law placed against the eastern wall. There were several major refurbishments to the Stary Synagogue, the latest of which was in 1773. Fragments of the old defensive city wall can still be seen beside the synagogue.
It was here that the Polish insurrectionary leader Tadeusz Kosciuszko came to address the Jewish community in 1794, urging them to join the Poles by fighting the partitioning powers for freedom and for a Polish fatherland. This precedent was followed by the local rabbi Ber Meissels, who used it as a meeting place during the uprisings of 1831 and 1863. The Nazis were particularly brutal in their treatment of this synagogue. They demolished the ancient domed canopy, stripped the columns of all decoration, destroyed the historical book and document collections, and looted candlesticks and religious artworks for Nazi Governor Hans Frank's residence at Wawel Castle. After the war the synagogue was rebuilt and the wrought-iron work on the bima was restored. The synagogue became the Museum of Jewish History, the only one of its kind in Poland. In front of the building there is a stone tablet which records that in 1943, against the synagogue wall, the Nazis executed 30 Polish patriots taken from the Montelupich priso n.
Boznica Izaaka (Isaac or Ajzyka Synagogue, ulica Jakuba 25) was built in the years 1634-44 by the rich merchant and banker Izaak Jakubowicz, said to be senior 'by several decades' among the Krakow Jewish Elders, and buried in the Remuh cemetery. Although rather barrack-like from the outside, it had a Renaissance tunnel-vaulted portal, and inside was decorated in stucco by the artist Giovanni (Jan) Falconi. Devastated during the war, it was renovated in 1983-95, when seventeenth-century murals showing prayers and the names of patrons and sponsors were discovered.
Synagogue Tempel (at the junction of ulica Miodowa and ulica Podbrzezie), also known as Postepowa (the Progressive synagogue), was used mainly by the Jewish professional class. Initially housed in a school building, the current building was only undertaken after long arguments with the mitnagdim (community board). The building was started in 1860, completed in 1862 and extensively refurbished in 1868, 1883, 1893-94 and 1924, altering the original design - a square - considerably: the main hail was extended eastwards, an apse, aisles and staircase were added. The original neo-Romanesque character of the building was, nevertheless, preserved. The services and practices of this synagogue were considered very modern in that lessons were given in Polish and German. At the time these and other innovations irritated the Orthodox community. During the Nazi occupation it was used as a warehouse. Now it is the only regularly functioning synagogue in Krakow.
Boznica Wysoka (High or Tall Synagogue, ulica Jozefa 38), the third synagogue to be built in Kazimierz, was founded in the years 1556-63. The upper floors were used for worship, but the ground floor was given over to shops. Ruined by the Nazis, it was restored in 1966 to become the restoration and preservation workshop of the Historical Monuments Commission. The Kupa synagogue (Boznica Kupa, ulica Warszauera 8), also called the Hospital synagogue, because it was linked with the need to provide shelter for the Jewish poor, was built in 1634 and renovated several times, but very badly damaged by the Nazis. Poper's Synagogue, ulica Szeroka 16, was built in 1620 by a merchant of that name. Ransacked by the Nazis, it was restored after the war and is now a cultural centre. Bet Midrash Sherit Bnei Emuneh, at ulica Bochenska 4, was where the more Orthodox Jews preferred to worship. At ulica Jozefa 42 there is a prayer house founded in 1810, renovated in 1912, which still bears the inscription in Hebrew: 'Set a time for Torah study'. At ulica Jozefa 33 there was another prayer house.
Language, publishing and cultural life in Kazimierz
Publishing was a central part of the cultural and religious life of Krakow. The first Polish print-shop had been set up in Krakow in 1473; in the 1490s Krakow print shops produced books in Church Slavonic. In the sixteenth century Krakow became a centre for the printing of anti-Semitic pamphlets, and the first regular Polish-language newspaper began publication in Krakow in 1661. For the Kazimierz Jewish community, too, publishing had a long history. In 1530-31 an anonymous Kazimierz printer produced copies of the Pentateuch and Haggadah, and in 1534 the first Jewish publishing house was established in Kazimierz by the Halicz brothers, who produced Mahzorim (holy day prayer books). Although Elyakum Halicz was later baptized a Christian he continued to produce Hebrew-language texts. At about the same time Rabbi Szera ben Anszela's compilation of texts aimed at spreading knowledge of the Bible among Jewish women appeared in Yiddish. In the years 1569-1626 Izaak Prosciejowice also set up a large print works in K azimierz.
By the end of the nineteenth century Kazimierz had become a world-renowned centre for Hebrew publishing. At this time the authorities in the Russian partition would not allow publication of newspapers in Yiddish in their part of Poland, so the flourishing Kazimierz publishing industry also printed Yiddish journals that were edited and sold in Warsaw. While the political tensions and stresses within the Jewish community were reflected in the publishing business, Krakow Jewish publishers (Seiden, Taffet, Raucher, Wertheim and Litman) also made a very special contribution to Polish culture. The work of two family publishing concerns is of particular note.
Jakub Mendel Himmelblau published L. T. Rycharski's important Critical Outline of Polish Literature, along with several books on Polish history. His son Fabian published numerous books of Polish poetry, theatre commentary, literary criticism, books for young people and Polish-language editions of Robinson Crusoe and The Last of the Mohicans. Jakub Himmelblau's son-in-law, Henryk Frist, started his career as Krakow's largest seller of postcards. Later he became the owner of the Krakow Polish Painter's Salon, selling works by Kossak, Malczewski, Falat and many others. This was perhaps the most influential outlet of the time for Polish fine arts. After 1918 his brothers expanded the business to found the Akropol print works, using new offset-litho techniques to make very high quality reproductions of art works.
The other famous Krakow Jewish printer and publisher is Napoleon Telz (1866-1943), owner of the Krakow National Printing House. He published a series of newspapers and magazines including Dziennik Poranny, Dziennik Krakowski and the Polish Socialist Party's Naprzod. He also published Josephus's Jewish War, and finely illustrated and beautifully bound editions of Polish literature by such major Polish literary figures as Goszczynski, Mickiewicz, Slowacki, Kasprowicz, Orkan, Rydel and Zeromski. For his grand total of 3,118 editions by 1935, Telz was honoured with numerous medals and advisory appointments, but during the World War II he was forced into hiding and died in the Warsaw Ghetto.
At the end of the nineteenth century Chona Rawnicki had begun to publish the fortnightly Yiddish newspaper Der Yid in Krakow, but this transferred to Warsaw and then ceased publication in 1903. On the other hand, the Zionist daily Nowy Dziennik, the first Polish-language Jewish daily newspaper, was published in Krakow for a twenty-year period (1918-39) by editors who all spoke Hebrew, at a time when the city had no Yiddish language newspaper. Nowy Dziennik (New Daily), published from its office on ulica Orzeszkowa, was probably the single most important Jewish journal of the period; there were two other Polish-Jewish dailies published in Warsaw and in Lwow. Even though it was carefully monitored by the censor, it nevertheless made enemies among Jews, Poles and among the authorities. When in 1919 Nowy Dziennik was prevented from appearing by the authorities, the unofficial Orthodox journal Krakover Togblat appeared in its stead, edited by the young Isaac Deutscher, recently arrived from his home in the nearby town of Chrzanow. But Krakover Togblat survived only a few months. Nowy Dziennik resumed printing and, with only a short break when its offices were fire-bombed in 1923, continued to appear until the outbreak of World War II. Its senior editor and leading journalist was Dr Osias Thon, a deputy to the Sejm (Polish Parliament), rabbi at the 'Progressive Tempel' synagogue and an enthusiastic Zionist. In 1923 the 18-year-old Isaac Deutscher, who had been attending classes on literature, philosophy and history at the Jagiellonian University, decided it was time to move on to Warsaw where he joined the Polish Communist Party (KPRP). The KPRP began to make use of the Krakow printing presses, but arrests and closures followed in 1924. In 1934 the militant Zionist Revisionist movement began to publish its own newspaper, Trybuna Narodowa, from Krakow. The last issue was to appear just before the outbreak of World War II.
In the years 1918-39 over 80 periodicals and 90 special single editions were printed in Krakow. Most of these did not get beyond their first year, and many never managed a second issue. In 1918 there were only a couple of titles appearing on a regular basis; by 1935, the peak year, there were 17 periodicals, 14 of which were in Polish. Most of these newspapers and journals appeared in editions of a couple of hundred. Nowy Dziennik, however, sold 6-8 thousand copies every day, peaking at 11-18 thousand in 1929. Although so many publications appeared in Polish, and the two attempts to found daily Yiddish language newspapers both failed, it seems very likely that the main vernacular tongue in Kazimierz was in fact still Yiddish. Although publishing in Krakow was a volatile business, the plethora of newspapers in these years is virtually the only source now left to historians wishing to chart the history of the Krakow Jewish community between the wars. The large number, variety and small circulation of most of th e Krakow newspapers indicates the social, professional, religious and political faultlines within the Jewish community.
Between the two World Wars the Krakow Jewish community managed to sustain a Yiddish-language theatre entirely out of its own funds -- a unique achievement. But Yiddish was increasingly seen as populist, working class and crude. Hebrew and Polish were both seen as highly cultured and sophisticated social accomplishments between which it was possible -- as had been the case in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries -- to make a limited cultural connection, a convenient political alliance, and a useful though sometimes dangerous trade connection. No such connection was made through Yiddish. Increasingly, Polish Jews were making their way out of the ghetto into a world that operated in Polish, and Polish was making inroads into daily use within Kazimierz.
Krakow Jews had fought alongside Poles in a great many battles. There is a record of Mendel Izakowicz, a bridge builder and engineer from Kazimierz serving under Istvan Bathory (the Hungarian king of Poland) against the Russians. In 1664 Jezue Moskowicz, another Jewish engineer from Kazimierz, saved Polish artillery from falling into Russian hands. Poles and Jews suffered the difficulties of the Polish partition side by side. Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century Polish Jews were increasingly active in revolutionary politics and trade union work, and, while they were few in number, even this limited contact allowed for some closer understanding between Polish and Jewish communities.
In the closing years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century, the rising power of nationalist feeling in Germany and Russia had a particular impact in Poland. The nineteenth century, though it saw changes in the legal status of Jews in Kazimierz, had also been an incredibly harsh period. Galicia (Austrian-occupied Poland) has always been one of the poorest areas of Europe. It has been estimated that in this area throughout the nineteenth century over 40% of Jews were without permanent employment. In the years 1881-1900 over 150,000 Jews left Galicia for the USA; in the years 1900-14 another 175,000 followed. As a result of this huge outflow, Jewish cultural life in Krakow began to alter.
There had long been a widening gulf between rich and poor, and increasing social discontent at the ruling kahal oligarchy in Kazimierz, where the rashion (elders) of the community operated a closed electoral system, designed as far as possible to replicate itself. There had also been a growing conflict between Orthodox Talmudism, the Haskallah movement (Hebrew: knowledge, education) promoting secular modernization and enlightenment, and the plebeian Hassidic revivalists who revolted against Talmudic scholarship and prized faith and separation from the Gentiles above learning and integration. There was also conflict between the Hebrew and Yiddish languages, and between non-religious Jews, some of whom were assimilationists wanting to learn Polish in order to move out of Kazimierz, and others who wanted to preserve a distinct Jewish identity and remain among their own people.
But the fact was that daily life in Kazimierz was slowly beginning to operate not in Yiddish but in Polish. By the 1931 census, though 40% of the residents of Kazimierz claimed to speak Hebrew as a first language, this was probably an emotional rather than a realistic answer. Only 41.4% of the Krakow Jewish population claimed to speak Yiddish, a much smaller proportion than any other major Jewish settlement in Poland at that time. But this too was probably a reflection on the social standing of Yiddish rather than of the actual speech of the community.
By 1918 the collapse of the worldwide agricultural market hit the newly reborn Poland even harder than it hit Weimar Germany. The infant Polish democracy was tested by the assassination in 1922 of its first elected President, Gabriel Narutowicz, less than a fortnight after taking office, and then by a whole series of political assassinations. In 1926 Jozef Pilsudski led a military coup to take over the teetering Polish state. For most of the inter-war years Poland was ruled by the patriotic military Sanacja (cleansing) regime, supported by the Church with the right-wing Endecja (National Democratic) Party as the main party of opposition. Rather than offer the land reform that Poland so desperately needed, the military, fresh from a border war with the infant Soviet Union and a border dispute with Germany, became embroiled in an internal war against Polish trades unions. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression which followed, merely accentuated Poland's impossible economic situation, forcing it to adopt an embryonic form of central planning.
Although Marshall Pilsudski maintained an affectionate regard for the multinational Poland of the old Commonwealth period, and Poland had a most enlightened democratic and liberal constitution in the inter-war years, in practice there was also a persistent undercurrent of anti-Semitism to Polish nationalist thought. In inter-war Poland, as elsewhere in Europe, there was an atmosphere of national paranoia and chauvinism: a Jewish identity was deemed unPolish and therefore untrustworthy. The Catholic Church repeatedly pointed the finger at the Jews, blaming them for uncertainties about Poland's borders, about Poland's future, and linking them with the threat of Bolshevism.
Nevertheless, the Jewish population still made a significant contribution to the intellectual and artistic life of Krakow. Several fine Jewish painters had been natives of the city and several others studied there, among them: Maurycy Gotlieb (1856-79) the first Jewish student to attend the Krakow School of Fine Art; Szymon Rosen (1853-1908) the second Jewish student at the Krakow School of Fine Art; Maurycy Trebacz (1861-1941) who later perished of hunger in the Lodz ghetto; Leopold Gotlieb (1883-1934), Artur Markowicz (1872-1934) and Louis Marcousis (1883-1941). In addition, Filip Eisenberg became director of the Krakow Institute of Hygiene, though he was later to die aged 66 in the Lwow ghetto.
From 1935 onwards daily life for Polish Jews became increasingly difficult. When credit and banking facilities were withdrawn, Jews began to make their own credit arrangements. But this only heightened Polish suspicions. In the late 1930s the Endecja Party led a national boycott of Jewish businesses and organized anti-Jewish marches and demonstrations at which the Nazi salute was given. Throughout the late 1930s the Jagiellonian University, along with many other Polish institutes of learning, operated a numerous clausus, which restricted the number of Jews admitted to the university and which effectively excluded Jews from further education and from the professions. The introduction of a 'Jewish bench' into lecture halls made participation in classes physically dangerous for those who managed entry to higher education.
By 1939 Poland had the world's second largest Jewish population (after the USA). There were roughly 3,500,000 Jews in Poland -- more than one tenth of the total population of Poland, about one third of the world's total Jewish population. Poland, whether it liked it or not, was the world's major Jewish cultural centre, and Kazimierz was its intellectual heart.
The following figures have been published for the Jewish population of Krakow (C. Brzoza, 'The Jewish Press in Krakow: 1918-39', Polin 7 (1989), 134).
Total Jewish Jewish as population population % of total 1910 151,884 32,321 21.3% 1921 183,706 45,229 24.6% 1926 189,843 49,181 26.0% 1931 219,286 56,540 25.8% 1935 245,304 70,254 28.6%
While some Polish Jews saw a solution to their social problems in revolutionary politics, the promise of international brotherhood embodied in socialism and the illegal communist movement, others favoured emigration to America. As time passed there was a growing congruence of opinion between right-wing Poles and Zionists. Both agreed that a Jewish state would be a perfect solution to the Polish-Jewish problem. The Polish government investigated the possibilities of expelling its Jewish population to Madagascar or Mauritius, and in 1937 actually entered into purchase negotiations with the French Colonial Office, who viewed the idea favourably. The Polish government began to help arm and train hundreds of Polish Jews belonging to the Zionist Irgun movement in the hope that they would be prepared to fight for a Jewish state to which Polish Jews could then be sent. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s increasing numbers of Polish Jews saw Zionism and emigration to Palestine as their only hope. In the years 1922-39 a st aggering 400,000 Jews, most of them from Galicia, emigrated; 140,000 went to Britain, Canada, Australia and South America, but the bulk of these people headed for Palestine.
War on the Jews in Krakow
Krakow was occupied by the Nazis on 6 September 1939. The destruction of the Polish intelligentsia and the Jewish community began immediately. On 18 September Jewish shops and enterprises were obliged to display a Star of David. On 12 October 1939 Krakow was declared capital city of the General Gouvernement, which comprised four districts: Krakow, Lublin, Radom and Warsaw. Hans Frank, the new Nazi Governor of the General Gouvernement, described himself as 'the German king of Poland'. He declared on 26 October 1939 that immediate priority was to be given to making Krakow Judenrein (Jew free) as soon as possible. He ordered the 'voluntary departure' of all Jews, except those deemed 'economically necessary'. That same day he issued a decree which forced all Jews aged 14-60 to register for compulsory labour. Jews registering for work were assigned to teams and shipped off to one of the twelve labour camps in the area. The Nazis began to compile a list of residents who might be categorized as Jewish. It is estimat ed that by this time Krakow had a Jewish population of about 56,000, of whom 45,800 were observing Jews. As Jews from the surrounding towns and villages fled to Krakow the population grew. Eventually the Nazis listed over 68,000 residents as Jewish.
On 23 November 1939 Frank issued a decree ordering all Jews over 10 years old to wear an armband with the Star of David on their right sleeve. On 28 November he issued a decree creating a Judenrat (Jewish Council) in every ghetto. These councils recruited members of the Jewish community who felt that co-operation with the Nazis would bring the best results, and their membership had to be approved by the Nazis. The Judenrat were responsible for the execution of German orders within the ghetto.
On 1 December 1939 all Jews over the age of nine were instructed to wear a four-inch-wide white arm band with a 'Star of Zion'. On 4 December Jews were instructed to surrender all cars and motorcycles. On 11 December Jews were forbidden to change residence without permission, and at the same time the Nazis closed all Jewish schools and forbad Jewish teachers all work. Later that month Jewish bank accounts were frozen, then it was forbidden for Jews to hold bank accounts and all Jewish property had to be transferred to a trustee. Jews were also forbidden to own a radio. On 26 January 1940 Jews were forbidden to travel by train within the area of the General Gouvernement.
In April 1940 Frank recorded in his diary that he was determined to rid the city of Jews, so that, he explained, high ranking Nazi officers who now lived and worked in the city would not have to risk contagion by breathing the same air. On 18 April Frank issued a decree to the Judenrat stating that all Jews would have to leave the city, and on 1 May Jews were forbidden entry to most districts of Krakow. It was said that if the Jews left the city by 15 July they would be allowed to keep their remaining property. The Judenrat arranged for some 4,500 Jews to leave, but the Nazis were not satisfied. After the July deadline expired without much sign of movement, the Nazis took over the operation. On 1 August 1940 they expelled 32,000 people in one day, mostly to distant villages and to labour camps. By October 1940 they had expelled over 56,000 people from around Krakow, and it seems very likely that, as a result, the population of the Krakow ghetto had risen to over 80,000 people.
In December 1940 Frank addressed a Wehrmacht battalion stationed in Krakow. After sympathizing with their families, who worried that they were in a place so infested with Jews and lice, he went on to say that although he had only been in Krakow for a year, this was not long enough to 'solve' the problem entirely. Nevertheless, he said, the soldiers should all write home to say that with regard to both Jews and lice, the situation was improving steadily. And with the help of these soldiers, Frank went on to say, the situation would improve even further.
Under an order of Krakow District Governor, Dr Wacher, issued on 3 March 1941, a new Jewish settlement was set up south of the river in the district of Podgorze. By 20 March 1941 an exchange of populations was in progress: all Aryan residents had to leave Podgorze, while all Krakow Jews were to report to Podgorze. The new ghetto district occupied an area marked by the Wisla river, Plac Podgorze, Krzemionki and the Krakow-Plaszow railway line. The ghetto area measured approximately 656 x 437 yards, and included only some 320 apartments and houses. It had 3-metre high walls topped with barbed wire. The Podgorze ghetto had four gates. The first and main gate opened on to the Podgorski market; above the gate in Hebrew letters was written: 'Area of Jewish Habitation'. The second gate opened on to ulica Limanowskiego. A third gate opened on to Plac Zgody (renamed Plac Bohaterow Getta, Place of the Ghetto Heroes, now a bus terminal and office block). This was where selections for transports to the camps were made an d where executions were carried out. The ghetto was policed internally by a Jewish police force, known as the Ordnungsdienst or OD, but its walls and gates were guarded and patrolled by Polish police and sailors, and by German police. According to his diary, on 9 October 1941 Frank said to his regional governors that 'one way or another' the Jews had to be 'done away with'. On 18 November 1941 Wachter declared that all Jews found outside the ghetto without a special pass would be shot.
Though most printing work in Kazimierz ceased with the move of the population to the ghetto, at least one newspaper was published and circulated semi-officially throughout the area of the General Gouvernement. Gazeta Zydowska (Jewish Gazette), the official organ of the Krakow Judenrat, appeared between July 1940 and August 1942. The Nazis seem to have allowed it some freedom to publish reviews, short stories, poems and articles on religious, political and artistic matters, but for the most part it was simply a means of disseminating official proclamations and announcements. Because they saw the Judenrat as co-operating with the Nazis, and saw this press as a falsification of their situation, many writers refused to publish in this journal. Nevertheless the surviving copies of the journal are among the very few sources of information about life in the Podgorze ghetto.
The Nazis exploited the supply of cheap manpower available in the Podgorze ghetto by establishing factories. Each day several hundred Jewish prisoners were escorted to factories outside the ghetto. Establishments like the Madritsch factory, the Optima chocolate factory, Felix Dziuba's optical glass works, and the Tadeusz Pankiewicz's Apteka Pod Orlem (Pharmacy Under the Sign of the Eagle) on Plac Zgody, all functioned within the ghetto. Several Jewish social help organizations also began to function within the ghetto. The Judische Soziale Selbsthilfe (Jewish Social Selfhelp), the Judische Unterstutzungstille (Jewish Aid) and the Centralne Towarzystwo Opieki nad Sierotami (Central Association for the Care of Orphans) were among the main organizations, but isolated, without money or adequate support, they were soon overwhelmed by the sheer number of people forced into the ghetto. It is thought that over 17,000 people died in the Podgorze ghetto, from hunger and disease, before it was 'liquidated'.
Systematic evictions and mass murder were to increase in tempo in the Podgorze ghetto only after the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 had agreed on a 'Final Solution' to the Jewish problem. On 19 March 1942 the Nazis launched an 'intelligence action' in which they arrested, interrogated and then sent to nearby Auschwitz (Polish Oswiecim) some 50 prominent Jews from the ghetto. On 28 May 1942 the Podgorze ghetto was sealed off and preparations for the first major 'selection' were begun. On 1 June 1942, as the opening move in what was code-named 'Operation Reinhard', the Nazis changed the stamps that enabled people to remain in the ghetto. On the evening of 4 June 1942 the Polish pharmacists Tadeusz Pankiewicz, Irena Drozdzikowska, Helena Krzywaniuk and Aurelia Danek-Czortowa, working at the Apteka pod Orlem, witnessed the round-up of perhaps 7,000 people who were taken away by train to Belzec camp. The following day the Nazis returned to the ghetto in strength and another 6,000 people were taken away by trai n to Belzec. Unhappy at the degree of his co-operation, the Nazis made sure this selection also included Dr Aharon Artur Rosenzweig, second Chairman of the Judenrat, and his family. Between July and October the Nazis managed to transport a further 12,000 people from the Podgorze ghetto. It seems that all these people were gassed at Belzec.
Having destroyed any co-operation they might have received from the Judenrat, the Nazis replaced it with a tame Kommissariat. The Kommissariat was ordered to make out lists of names for those who were to be transported. The Kommissariat refused to co-operate, so on 27 October 1942, as a lesson to the Kommissariat, the Nazis rounded up perhaps 600 people and shot them on Plac Zgody. Next day the Kommissariat decided to co-operate with the Nazis: the ghetto was surrounded by Polish Police, German SS and Latvian and Ukrainian troops. That night over 6,000 people -- inmates of the old people's home, 2,000 children from the orphanage, the leading paediatrician Gizela Gutman, those too ill to work and, it seems, many members of the Jewish resistance groups -- were taken to Belzec. Next day, by special order, the children's clothing and property was redistributed from the stores at Belzec to SS families.
With the creation of the Podgorze ghetto the Nazis effectively severed a hard-won connection between Jewish intellectuals and the city of Krakow. Several musicians are known to have perished in the ghetto: Rysard Apte, Juliusz Hoffman, Mieczyslaw Hoffman, Dola Hoffman, Maria and Hanna Zimmerman, Stella Margulie, Ziuta Pflaster and Jakub Weissman. Among those who died was the Krakow folk musician Mordche Gebirtig (Mordecai Bertig, 1877-1942). He had been a carpenter who made up songs in his spare time; for the most part his songs were written down for him by other musicians because, although a composer by nature, he was musically illiterate. His songs frequently became hits in the Jewish theatre, and at least two collections of his songs were printed in the 1930s. During the war his song 'Fire, Our Town is on Fire', written in 1936 after a pogrom at Przytyk, became a call to arms for many Jewish defence units in the ghettos. Gebirtig had continued to create new songs in the Krakow ghetto. After a period when s mall concerts were permitted, only 'approved' music was allowed by the Nazis and the ghetto police, but he still wrote and performed his work for small gatherings. Gebirtig was selected for transportation to Belzec on 4 June 1942, but was shot on the road from the ghetto to the nearby Plaszow railway station. By the end of October 1942 the population of the Podgorze ghetto is thought to have been about 5,000.
However, the implementation of the 'Final Solution' was delayed by transport problems. Only on 13 January 1943, a year after the Wannsee Conference, did the General Directorate of the Eastern Railways in Krakow receive a telegraph from the Berlin rail Directorate, detailing trains, personnel and provisions for 'resettlement' to take place between 20 January and 28 February 1943. As part of their preparation, in February 1943 the Germans split the Podgorze ghetto into two compounds, separating skilled workers and technicians (thought to number about 4,000) in Section 'A' from their unproductive families (thought to number about 10,000) in Section 'B'.
On 13 March 1943 Sturmbannfuhrer Willi Haase, overseer responsible for the liquidation of ghettos in the Krakow area, Plaszow camp Commandant Amon Goth, and Police Commander Julian Schemer began the liquidation of the Podgorze ghetto. The residents of Section 'A' were transferred to Plaszow concentration camp. Those that refused to go were killed on the spot. Next day they did the same thing in Section 'B', with an even greater massacre -- particularly of children and those who had gathered at the 'hospital'. It is said that Amon Goth took an active role in these massacres. Most of those who survived from Section 'B' were sent to Plaszow camp or straight to Auschwitz where they were killed.
At that time the nearby Plaszow labour camp was bounded by an old Austrian hill fort, two Jewish cemeteries on ulica Abrama and Jerozolimska, and the roads ulica Kamienskiego and ulica Wiellczka. It was located just two kilometres south of the ghetto in Podgorze, next to a rail spur from Plaszow station. Headstones from the Jewish cemeteries were used as part of the road through the centre of the camp. Plaszow is unusual among Nazi concentration camps in that it was set up on the outskirts of a major city. It had originally been intended as a holding place for prisoners destined for Auschwitz, but by the end of the war it occupied over 200 acres, and was second in size only to Auschwitz, with two sub-camps, one in Prokocim the other in Biezanow. This growth was mainly the work of Amon Goth, who had taken over as Commandant from Hauptscharfuhrer Mueller in January-February 1943. This appointment was Goth's reward for the recent successful liquidation of the Lublin ghetto. Before the war he had worked in a Vien na publishing house and was considered by many to be a well read and intelligent man.
On 14 March 1943 a further 2,000 Jews were rounded up in the ghetto and taken to Plaszow. Before the trains arrived to take the prisoners away, the SS had killed several hundred children from the orphanage, old people, and patients from the hospital. Dr Zygmunt Fischer, who refused to leave his patients, was shot along with his family. Surviving Jews in the outlying camps of the Krakow area were killed in January-February 1944.
In September 1944 it became clear that before too long Red Army advances would threaten the Krakow area. The Nazis began to destroy all trace of their atrocities. In October 1944 the camp burial pits were reopened and some 8,000 corpses, their mouths plundered for gold, were burned. After this the Plaszow camp was levelled, those prisoners who could walk were marched to Auschwitz, those that could not were shot and their bodies burned. The last transport to Auschwitz left Plaszow camp on 12 January 1945, just three days before the Red Army arrived.
Jewish resistance in Krakow
The area around Krakow was forested and very hilly with the Carpathian mountains nearby. It could have been ideal territory for a Jewish resistance movement. Many Krakow Jews -- perhaps here more than anywhere else on the area of the General Gouvernement -- did try to find or to organize resistance. However, the Krakow Jews were mostly middle class, and many were Hasidim, with no recent tradition of revolution, armed struggle or even of social conflict to fall back upon. The large numbers of German troops stationed in the area to protect the headquarters of the Hans Frank's General Gouvernement, the lack of food, the absence of a surviving social network, and the often unpredictable attitudes of the local peasantry made the organization of any Jewish resistance movement extremely difficult.
Resistance in the Podgorze ghetto came initially from the Zionist Youth Movement Akiba. They were fired by a nineteenth-century European liberal socialist vision and were convinced of the ethical and economic advantages of the kibbutz system. A second underground group also operated in the ghetto, consisting mainly of socialist and communist members of Hashomir Hatza'ir, and was connected to the PPS (Polish Socialist Party). At first both these groups concentrated on education and mutual help schemes within the ghetto.
In 1941 representatives of the Jewish resistance groups organized by the Jewish Band and the right-wing Paole Zion met leaders from the PPS in Krakow, requesting that they be allowed to join the Polish underground in their common fight against the Nazis. However, the PPS, which had very little in the way of active resistance groups in the Krakow area, noted the lack of Jewish military experience among their membership, and did not see any practical way in which it could be involved in actions inside the ghetto. Though the PPS was to help with money, food, clothing, forged documents and escape routes whenever it could, the proposal for close co-operation and the request for military assistance came to nothing. The failure to make a connection left both sides frustrated and angry. The practical problems involved, and the inability of the Polish left and centre parties to overcome their nationalist sensibilities, meant that the Jewish resistance movement had no alternative but to seek help from the communists.
In 1942 the PPR (communist Polish Workers Party) founded a branch within the ghetto and helped to create its own People's Guard. This unit, under the leadership of Bernard Halbreich found ways to co-operate with Hashomir Hatza'ir, which was led by Hersz Bauminger. In September 1942 Gola Mirer, a veteran communist who had escaped from prison in 1939, convinced the Akiba movement that it should join forces with the People's Guard. Many in Akiba worried that any connection with the Polish communist movement would mean that Jews got all the dangerous assignments, but they were finally swayed by the promise that the Polish communists would help to establish Jewish partisan units in the surrounding countryside. In October 1942 the various Jewish resistance groups within the ghetto combined to form ZOB (Jewish Defence Organization). The leadership included: Adolf Liebeskind, Secretary General for the Krakow Akiba; Szymson Dranger and his wife Gusta editor of Hechalutz Halochem (Fighting Pioneer), the Akiba newslette r; Abraham Lejbowicz of Dror-Frajhajt, the Zionist Youth Movement; Hirsz Bauminger, Gola Mirer and Bernard Halbreich of the PPR. The Akiba group also distributed 40 copies of the Polish language Glos Demokraty (Voice of the Democrat), along with PPR publications. By the end of the year it had over 300 members organized in three Polish-Jewish mixed 'platoons' of about 50 people operating out of the forest of Jawor and Siedlisk, and two Jewish units operating in Krakow and the neighbouring Miechow district. Every Friday over 250 copies of Hechalutz Halochem, written in Polish and calling for armed resistance to the Nazis, were distributed in villages around Krakow.
Although the People's Guard knew of the Polish underground's secret stores of unused artillery shells in the Krakow area, there was little the resistance could do with these shells, and so ZOB was directed to addresses in Warsaw in order to purchase arms. Hela Schipper made the trip to Warsaw several times, returning each time with weapons. During the Warsaw ghetto uprising she helped five members of Akiba to escape and she returned to Krakow with five pistols and ammunition. Eventually, however, she was caught by the Germans.
ZOB was determined to defend the Jewish community as a whole and to take the armed struggle to the Germans in any way it could. However, right from the start it was dear that ZOB could not organize an armed uprising within the Krakow ghetto, where lack of arms, restricted space and the presence of large numbers of women, children and old people would hamper their activities and provide easy targets for reprisal. ZOB decided to fight in Krakow, and later if possible in the woods and hills near Karkow.
ZOB was unable to turn to the Judenrat for money at this time because it felt that the Judenrat was collaborating far too readily with the Nazis. Using stolen Aryan documents from raids in Krakow, forgeries manufactured by Szymson Dranger, documents supplied by a Polish communist employed at the town hall and by a Polish woman employed by the Luftwaffe at a nearby airfield, ZOB agents began to move about Aryan Krakow, to sell their forged documents to other resistance groups and to Poles in order to get money to buy arms. With the help of Poles they established a number of hide-outs in the working-class district of Nowy Pradnik. They also began to plan operations.
Between November and December 1942 ten major actions were conducted by ZOB, in which it acquired more arms and ammunition. It sabotaged the railway line between Krakow and Bochnia, running a train off the tracks. It raided the Optima clothing store, taking large quantities of clothing, boots, socks and boot leather, much of which it sold to other partisan units. It attacked a railway warehouse on ulica Wroclawska. In separate attacks it killed a German corporal, an SS man, a German soldier, a German pilot, two Gestapo detectives in a beer hall, and a high ranking aide to Governor Frank. It also burned the barracks of the Todt Organisation, destroying cars and machinery.
It was planned that on 22 December 1942 ZOB would hit several targets at once. Using grenades and bombs made by Dr Joel Dreilblat, an inmate of Plaszow camp, they were to attack simultaneously the officers' mess hail in the National Museum building, the Cyganeria, Zakopianka and Esplanade cafes, and ambush German officers leaving the Scala cinema. At the same time hundreds of leaflets were to be distributed and Polish flags were to be run up around the city. Things did not go to plan, however. The cinema operation was abandoned; the mess hail bomb refused to detonate. However, the attack on the city centre Cyganeria Cafe at ulica Szpitalna 38, a favourite haunt of German officers, was a success, killing eleven and wounding thirteen.
Within hours of the attack on the Cyganeria, using Polish and Jewish informers, the Gestapo had tracked ZOB members to their hide-outs and either killed or captured most of them. Yitzhak Zuckerman, though wounded, escaped to Warsaw. Bauminger and Halbreich also escaped, and a few days later set fire to the Krakow Labour Office, destroying thousands of records and documents, setting back Nazi plans for the deportation of Polish forced labour. After this the surviving members of ZOB took to the woods and hills. One member was captured and under torture revealed all he knew of hide-outs and secret stores in Krakow and in the Klimontow forest. As a result Bauminger and Halbreich were killed. Judah Tenebaum was killed resisting capture. Miriam Tenebaum escaped to Radom, but was then captured, tortured and shot. Dranger was arrested in January 1943 at the place where he published Hechalutz Halochem. Rather than face life without Dranger, his wife gave herself up shortly afterwards. While in prison Gusta Dranger wro te a diary on toilet paper, and it is only because of her record that we know anything at all about the Krakow Jewish resistance movement.
On 29 April 1943, as Jewish resistance fighters from Krakow captured during the December campaign were being driven to Plaszow camp, the Drangers escaped from their police lorry. On the same day Abraham Leib Leibowicz (one of the founders of ZOB in Krakow), Gusta and Gola Mirer, as they were being transferred, also attacked their SS guards and managed to escape. Most of the other prisoners in the transport were killed attempting to escape. The Drangers and Hillel Wodzislawski, one of the few surviving members of the Krakow ZOB, began to operate from dugouts in the woods, derailing trains, printing Hechalutz Halochem and finding ways to smuggle it into the camps. The last issue of Hechalutz Halochem appeared on 1 October 1943. Wodzislawski was killed by the Nazis at about that time. The Drangers were recaptured on 8 November 1943. One of the resistance groups from the forest, led by Leon Galczynski, is thought to have crossed into Hungary in 1944 and to have linked up with the Ha-No'ar ha-Tsiyoni (Zionist Yout h Movement) in Budapest. This brought to an end organized Jewish resistance in the Krak6w area. Though ZOB resistance continued in Plaszow, most of the witnesses and most of those involved did not survive to record their history. Reize Klingberg (born in Krakow in 1926), who had helped organize the attack on the Cyganeria Cafe and who had been arrested on 22 December 1942, was sent to Auschwitz but survived because she was registered as a criminal.
On the Aryan side of Krakow the PPS activists, Miriam Marianska and her husband Mordechai Peleg, helped form the Krakow branch of ZEGOTA (Council of Aid to Jews, formed in 1942 in Warsaw and Krakow by the Delegate of the Polish Government in Exile). Both these people could pass as Poles, and so were able to aid the escape of several hundred Krakow Jews. They acted as a post office, helped to gather photographic evidence, documents, poetry and paintings from Plaszow, and directed finance from Jewish organizations abroad to provide money, clothing, food, medicine, documents, shelter and escape routes.
At the end of the war Amon Goth, Commandant of the camp at Plaszow, was captured at an SS sanatorium in Bad Tolz, where he was being treated for diabetes. US troops under General Paton imprisoned him in Dachau for a while, then handed him over to the Polish authorities. In Krakow, from 27 August to 5 September 1946, Goth, the instrument if not the architect of so much suffering, stood trial. He claimed that he personally had killed only inmates who broke the rules of the camp. The Supreme National Court of Justice sentenced him to death. Goth was hanged on 13 September 1946. According to the Polish press, he gave the Nazi salute before he died. Oskar Schindler, acknowledged as having saved over 1,200 Jews, was declared a Righteous Gentile by the state of Israel, awarded the German Cross of Merit by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and declared a Papal Knight of Saint Sylvester by the Archbishop of Limburg. Schindler, however, failed to find success in his post-war business ventures and went bankrupt several times. For many years he eked out his German state pension and lived off handouts from the Jewish survivors he had protected. In spite of their best efforts he lived in poverty. In October 1974 he collapsed at his home in Frankfurt and died. He was buried in the Latin Cemetery in Jerusalem.
Very few of the pre-war inhabitants of Kazimierz returned from the camps, and those that did found a totally altered town. The Nazis had put an end to a thousand years of contact, culture and settlement, ended the unique contribution of Kazimierz to the history of the printed word, damaged the precious architectural heritage of Kazimierz, destroyed irreplaceable records, documents and libraries, and shamelessly plundered priceless art works and religious objects. They had systematically destroyed the Jewish community of Krakow and the record of its contribution to Polish, European and Jewish history.
In 1946 some 4,000 Jews who had fled to the USSR at the start of the war returned to Poland. Many took up residence in and around Krakow only to find that the miseries of the Occupation, followed closely by the start of the communist take-over and civil war, had not forged any common feeling between Poles and Jews. Rather, it had returned them to a medieval atmosphere of fear, suspicion and hostility. On 28 March 1946 a group of Krakow Jews travelling to Lodz were abducted, tortured and killed. On 12 April 1946, in nearby Nowy Targ, five Jewish camp survivors were shot. Their public funeral in Krakow, with 5,000 Jews in attendance, was openly mocked by local Poles. A few days later in Nowy Targ, another seven Jews were killed. On 20 August 1946, following accusations of ritual murder, there was an anti-Jewish riot in Krakow, followed by a rash of similar disturbances elsewhere in Poland. After the Kielce pogrom of July 1947, in which 42 Jews died, over half the surviving Jewish population decided to leave the country. In 1959 and again in 1968 anti-Semitic Party purges forced nearly all those Jews remaining to emigrate. The Polish poet Adam Zagajewski (born 1945), whose family were forced to move to the new post-war Poland from Russian-occupied Lwow in 1946, remembered Kazimierz as it stood when he was a student in the 1960s: 'One neighbourhood was empty and ruined: the one in which the Jews had lived. The rain rinsed the Hebrew signs from the walls of the synagogue. Feral cats and dogs wandered all over Kazimierz: there were no Jews.'
Today there are few signs of the Podgorze ghetto. A piece of the ghetto wall survives on ulica Lwowska, and here on 22 April 1983 a plaque was unveiled which read, in Polish and in Hebrew: 'Here people lived, suffered and died at the hands of Hitlerite butchers. From this place they took their last steps on the road to the extermination camps'. Nearby a plaque marks ZOB headquarters. At Plaszow camp, which incorporated a Jewish cemetery, there is a headstone for Jakub Chaim Abrahamer, which still stands; and there is a monument erected by the Polish communist government in September 1964 which, though it refers to the 'murdered victims', makes no mention of the Jews. Not far away a smaller monument set up by a group of Jewish survivors says: 'Hereabouts people were tortured, murdered, made into ash. In the years 1943-45 tens of thousands of Jews were forcibly driven here from all over Poland and Hungary. We don't have the names of all those who were murdered. Let us speak of them with only one word - Jews'. A t the Cyganeria (Gypsy) cafe, which is now a pizza parlour, there is a plaque which gets the date of the ZOB attack wrong, omits to say that the attack was conducted solely by Jews, and claims that the communist resistance had a hand in the operation.
Today the main market place in Kazimierz, reduced in size from its original medieval proportions, is called Plac Wolnica to commemorate King Kazimierz's original grant of 'free' market privilege. To one side of the square stands the old Town Hall which now houses the Museum of Ethnography. Thanks to post-war renovation work, seven Kazimierz synagogues have been restored or preserved: two are used for services, but only one is a regular place of worship. There is still a functioning community organization to cater for the 900 Jews who now live in Krakow.
The international success of Thomas Keneally's Booker prize winning novel schindler's Ark and Steven Spielberg's 'Schindler's List' have started a change. On ulica Szeroka it is possible to stay in the apartment where Spielberg lived while filming 'Schindler's List', and below the apartment a couple of restaurants now offer kosher food and 'genuine pre-war style' live music. It seems that the transformation of Kazimierz from a crumbling, neglected, largely derelict district into an uneasy and ambiguous tourist attraction has begun.
Author's note and acknowledgements
This article was originally a short pamphlet designed to introduce 'From Behind the Walls', the exhibition of Juliusz Feldman's diary at Manchester Jewish Museum, October 1997 to January 1998. The exhibition put the diary of Juliusz Feldman on display for the first time, allowing us to see one of the very rare first-hand accounts of Jewish life in Krakow under the Nazis, and one of the very few traces left of the Krakow Jews.
Nobody knows when the Feldman family moved to Krakow, but it was certainly before World War I. Zygmunt Feldman, Juliusz's father, owned a glass supply shop, probably in the Krakow district of Podgorze at about this time, and Jacob Feldman, Zygmunt's father, served in the Austrian army during World War I. The family glass business was eventually taken over by Szloma Feldman, Zygmunt's brother, but when the Nazis entered Poland in September 1939 he and his family fled to Russia, leaving the shop in the hands of Zygmunt, who had chosen to remain in Krakow with his wife Gusta and their two sons. The older of Zygmunt's Sons was Juliusz, born in Krakow, 24 December 1923. Unlike most of the other victims of Nazism, Juliusz Feldman left a manuscript diary behind. He began the diary on 11 February 1943, while he was imprisoned at the Plaszow labour camp where he was assigned to collect, sort and repair furniture left behind by Jews sent to the camps. Juliusz, it seems, bricked up his secret diary in the wall of the fu rniture factory. Entries in the diary end on 11 April 1943. After this nothing was heard from Juliusz Feldman. It is assumed that, aged 19, he was killed by the Nazis shortly after this date. After the war, while restoring the factory building, Polish workers found the diary still hidden in the wall. Juliusz's cousin, Anda Goldschmied-Novorl, who still lived in Krakow, was able to buy the manuscript. It was brought to London by Juliusz's aunt, Renia Feldman, and given to Juliusz's cousin, Oscar Feldman, for safekeeping. It later passed into the hands of Gisela Feldman. Juliusz Feldman's manuscript has yet to find a publisher.
I would like to thank Amy Troner and Jim Garretts of the Manchester Jewish Museum, and Professor MariolaZychowska of Krakow Polytechnik.
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|Publication:||Journal of European Studies|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2001|
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