Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 23

Jews in Kraków
Edited by Michal Galas & Antony Polonsky

Kraków―one of the great centres of Jewish culture in east-central Europe―has always had a special place in the hearts of its Jewish inhabitants, much more so than was ever the case elsewhere in Poland. Considering Jewish life in the city from a wide range of social and cultural perspectives, primarily in the last two centuries, the contributors to this volume present a fascinating detailed panorama to explain why this should have been the case.

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Few Polish cities have evoked more affection among their Jewish inhabitants than Kraków, and this volume brings together the work of leading historians from Israel, Poland, and the United States to explore how this relationship evolved. It takes as its starting point 1772, when Poland was partitioned between the Great Powers and Kraków came under Austrian rule, and examines the relationship between the Jewish minority and the Polish majority in the city in the different stages of its history down to the period of German occupation in the Second World War. An additional perspective is provided by a consideration of how Jewish life in Kraków has been remembered by Holocaust survivors, and how it is portrayed in post-war Polish literature.

The main explanation for the specific nature of relations between Poles and Jews in Kraków as it emerges from these studies seems to be that Jewish acculturation to Polish culture was more pronounced in Kraków than anywhere else in Poland. The Jewish community as a whole opened itself up to contemporary currents and participated in the life of the city, above all in its cultural dimension, while nevertheless retaining a highly articulated sense of Jewish identity and unity. This meant that they were able both to defend their interests effectively and to establish links with the rest of the population from a position of strength. An additional important factor appears to have been the more tolerant atmosphere which prevailed in the Austro-Hungarian empire, which meant that ethnic tensions were less acute than elsewhere on the Polish lands. Furthermore, the fact that the city was largely pre-industrial and conservative, and was a spiritual and intellectual centre for both Catholics and Jews, may paradoxically have mitigated ethnic conflict, as did the fact that the two societies—Polish and Jewish—were largely socially separate. While the increase in antisemitism after 1935 and the consequences of the Holocaust are still etched in the minds of many, the city nevertheless has a special place in Jewish hearts and will continue to be remembered as one of the great centres of Jewish culture in east-central Europe.

As in other volumes of Polin, the New Views section examines a number of important topics. These include a general investigation of the situation of the Jews in Galicia; an analysis of the position of Jewish slave labourers in the Kielce area under Nazi rule; an investigation into the resurgence after 1944 of the myth of ritual murder; and a discussion of the history of the Jewish settlement in Lower Silesia after the Second World War.


About the editors

Michał Galas is Associate Professor in the Institute of Jewish Studies of the Jagiellonian University and the Secretary of the Commission on the History and Culture of the Jews at the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków. He is the author of Rabin Markus Jastrow i jego wizja reformy judaizmu: Studium z dziejów judaizmu w XIX wieku (2007) and editor of Duchowość żydowska w Polsce (2000); Żydzi lelowscy: Obecność i ślady (Kraków, 2006); and Światło i słońce: Studia z dziejów chasydyzmu (2006). He has also written numerous articles on the history of Jewish religion in Poland, particularly on Sabbatianism and Frankism.
Antony Polonsky is Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Chief Historian of the Permanent Collection of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw. Until 1991, he was Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is chair of the editorial board of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry; author of Politics in Independent Poland, 1921–1939 (1972), The Little Dictators (London, 1975), The Great Powers and the Polish Question, 1941–45 (1976); co-author of The History of Poland since 1863 (1980) and The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (1981); and co-editor of Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland: An Anthology (2001) and The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland (2004). His most recent work is The Jews in Poland and Russia, Volume I: 1350–1881 (2009); Volume II: 1881–1914 (2010); and Volume III: 1914-2005, published by the Littman Library.


About the contributors

Sara Bender, Assistant Professor, Department of Jewish History, University of Haifa
Czesław Brzoza, Professor of History, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Andrzej Chwalba, Professor of History, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Janusz Fałowski, Professor of Modern History and Politics, Kraków Academy
Michał Galas, Associate Professor, Institute of Jewish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Anna Jakimyszyn, Department of Jewish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Hanna Kozińska-Witt, tenured researcher specializing in the history of eastern Europe, associated with the Geisteswissenschaftliches Zentrum Geschichte und Kultur Ostmitteleuropas and the Simon-Dubnow-Institut, both in Leipzig
Ryszard Löw, literary critic and publisher living in Israel
Rachel Manekin, Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Maryland
Sean Martin, Associate Curator for Jewish History, Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio
Emanuel Melzer, formerly scholar and teacher, Diaspora Reseach Institute, Tel Aviv University; co-editor of Gal-Ed: On the History of the Jews in Poland
Agnieszka Oleszak, Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies, University College London
Philip Pajakowski, Professor of History, Saint Anselm College, Manchester, New Hampshire
Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Jacek Purchla, Director, Department for Urban Development, Economic University, Kraków; and Director, UNESCO Department for Cultural Heritage and Urban Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Roman Rosdolsky, late historian and interpreter of Marxism
Rafael Scharf
Caroline Scharfer, educational consultant; formerly head of largest Jewish state girls' school in England and adviser to government departments on issues relating to faith schools, especially in areas of curriculum
Łukasz Tomasz Sroka, member of the Commission of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków on the History and Culture of the Jews, the Polish Association for Jewish Studies, and the Kraków Heritage Society
Michael C. Steinlauf, teaches Jewish history and culture and directs the Holocaust Studies programme, Gratz College, Pennsylvania
Monika Stępień, Department of Jewish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków
Natasza Styrna, art historian
Ewa Waszkiewicz, Associate Professor, Institute of Political Science, University of Wrocław
Marcin Zaremba, senior lecturer, Department of History, University of Warsaw, also attached to the Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences
Andrzej Żbikowski, Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
Barbara Zbroja, art historian specializing in urban planning and the architecture of Kraków
Katarzyna Zechenter, teacher of Polish literature and culture, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London



Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration



Jewish Primary and Seconday School Education in the Free City of Kraków (1815–1846)

Changes in the Jewish Community of Kraków in Autonomous Galicia

Ambiguities of Assimilation: The Kraków Conservatives and the Jews

The History of the Jewish Community of Podgórze

The Kraków Association of Progressive Jews 1864–1874

The Impact of New Ideologies: The Transformation of Kraków Jewry between 1895 and 1914

Orthodox Jewry in Kraków at the End of the Nineteenth Century

The Polonization of Jews: Some Examples from Kraków

Jewish Participation in the Elections to Kraków City Council during the Interwar Period (1919–1939)

The Political Thought of Nowy Dziennik in its Early Period: July 1918–February 1919

Between Politics and Spirituality: The Case of Dr Oziasz Thon (1870–1936), Reform Rabbi of Kraków

Soroh Schenirer (1883–1935), Founder of the Beis Yaakov Movement: Her Vision and her Legacy

‘The Borderland’: The Beys Yaakov School in Kraków as a Symbolic Encounter between East and West

Future Generations: Associations for Jewish Children in Kraków, 1918–1939

Jewish Artists in Interwar Kraków

Jewish Antiquarian Booksellers in Kraków

The Ethnic Panorama of Nazi-Occupied Kraków

The Jewish Orphanage in Kraków

The Image of Post-War Kraków in Jewish Writing, 1945–1950

‘Kraków was my world. My home was there and my mother; whoever of my family was alive would return to Kraków’ – Kraków in Post-1945 Jewish Literature

‘A World before a Catastrophe: Krakow Jews between the Wars’: An Exhibition at Kraków’s International Cultural Centre

Speech by Rafael Scharf given at the former building of the Jewish High School in Kazimierz


Notes on Galician Jews

Jewish Slaves in Forced Labour Camps in Kielce, Radom District, September 1942–August 1944

The Myth of Ritual Murder in Post-War Poland: Pathology and Hypotheses

A History of Jewish Settlement in Lower Silesia after the Second World War (1945–1950)

Abe Brumberg

Notes on the Contributors




'Together the essays give a well-rounded view of one of the oldest and largest Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.'
Reference & Research Book News

'This collection of studies on post-1772 Kraków Jewry is an extremely valuable and very readable contribution to the literature . . . Most are by well-known specialists, but not all of them have been widely published in English, which gives added value to this volume . . . corrects many misconceptions about Judaism in modern Poland. The articles can also stand alone, which adds to the utility of the volume for students. The glossary and fine index help to make this book very accessible to non-experts.'
Shaul Stampfer, Religious Studies Review