Jewish city story of Krakow

Krakow: The Story of Jewish Poland

Krakow is one of the oldest and largest cities in Poland. Since the 7th century it has been the home of some of the greatest academic, artistic, and political minds in Europe. From the time of its establishment, the Jewish community of Krakow has contributed to this status of high culture and innovation. There weren't always good times to be had for the Jews of Krakow. The community has seen its fair share of discrimination and hardship. Today, however, Jewish culture has seen an uproar of appreciation and commemoration.   

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אתרים מומלצים Sites to see


The New Jewish Cemetery

The New Jewish Cemetery is a historic necropolis situated on 55 Miodowa Street in Kraków, Poland. Located in the former Jewish neighborhood of Kazimierz, it covers an area of about 11 acres. Since 1999, the cemetery is a registered heritage monument. The grounds also feature a well-preserved mortuary. The New Jewish Cemetery was founded in 1800 on grounds purchased by the Jewish Qahal from the Augustinians. It was enlarged in 1836 with additional land purchased from the monks. Following Poland's return to independence, the New Cemetery became nearly full. From 1932 on, burials were directed to a new plot bought in 1926 by the Qahal along Abrahama Street and the one at nearby Jerozolimska Street, both in the Wola Duchacka neighborhood (now part of Podgórze district). These two other cemeteries formed the site of the Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp during the Holocaust and no longer exist. The Jews from the Kraków Ghetto were sent there. Following the Nazi invasion of Poland in World War II, the New Cemetery was closed to outsiders and the Germans sold the most valuable stonework to local masons. Other headstones, as well as slabs, were turned into construction material and used for paving the supply road to the camp, including the courtyard of commandant Amon Göth, who is known for having insisted that the Jews pay for their own executions. Meanwhile, the old bones at the cemetery were often left uncovered and scattered around in what looked like an open-pit mine. Caretaker Pina Ladner, who used to live on premises, was sent to Płaszów and shot. Soon after the war ended, a local civil engineer identified only as Mr. Stendig, likely Jakub Stendig, a camp survivor, recovered many tombstones from the Płaszów camp site, and arranged to have them reinstalled at the New Cemetery. In 1957, the grounds were renovated with funds from the Joint Distribution Committee. After the collapse of communism on March 24, 1999, the cemetery, including the 1903 mortuary, were entered into the register of historical monuments of Kraków. The New Jewish Cemetery features a renovated brick mortuary hall from 1903, as well as the postwar lapidary memorial fitted with old headstones and crowned with a block of black marble. The cemetery contains over 10,000 tombs, the oldest dating from 1809. There are many monuments commemorating the death of Jews killed during the Holocaust.


Tempel Synagogue

The Tempel Synagogue is a synagogue in Kraków, Poland, in the Kazimierz district. Tempel Synagogue is not only a major place of worship, but also a booming center of Jewish culture, which hosts numerous concerts and meetings, especially during the Festival. The main room is spacious and airy, with a high ceiling and inner balconies that are matched in golden floral decor. The Tempel Synagogue is adorned with beautiful mosaic work of gold foliage, pale blues and burgundy. The bimah sits in the middle of the main hall, along with a white marble and golden-crowned Aron Kodesh that is detailed with houses resembling Polish folk art, as opposed to the Moorish designs found in the rest of the building. During World War II, the Nazis stored ammunition in the synagogue, which had many elements destroyed during that period. However, soon after the war, Tempel was reopened for prayers and in 1947 the synagogue saw the addition of a mikvah. The synagogue was used for prayer until 1985 and in the 90s it saw a massive renovation that brought it to the state it is in today. As one of the active synagogues in Kazimierz, the Tempel Synagogue hosts many celebrations and festivities throughout the year but does not host regular prayer sessions. For this, community members head to the Remuh Synagogue. Nonetheless, a visit to this beautiful worship space is highly recommended. Image attribution: Jakub Hałun, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons Photo: Marcin Konsek / Wikimedia Commons

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Tours of Krakow


Traditional Polish Food Tour

Don’t commit the tourist crime of traveling to a new place without trying the local food. Thanks to the Traditional Polish Food Tour, finding all the must-have meals and traditional treats is easy. Don’t waste your time walking around aimlessly looking for authentic food and risk getting caught in a tourist trap. Save yourself the time of researching all the best Polish cuisine and join a Traditional Polish Food Tour instead. These carefully cultivated tours may focus on food but add a beautiful blend of history, culture, and traditions into their recipes. Enjoy the many flavors of Poland as you make friends with other travelers and hear anecdotes and stories from one of the knowledgeable guides. The tours are kept small to keep the experience personal and intimate - chatting is welcome, as are any questions on Polish food, history, culture, or geography. The Krakow tour explores historically significant Kazimierz and its lively array of Poland’s favorite foods and treats. Along the tour you will not only hear about the food but eat it, too! You’ll sample around 15 different Polish foods, as well as craft beer and vodka. Start the tour on an empty stomach and try and leave room for the end - the dessert is served last! The Traditional Polish Food Tour runs twice a day (either a lunch or dinner option) and takes about 3.5 hours total. There’s a minimum of 1 participant per tour and a maximum of 12. Over the course of the tour you’ll visit 5 or 6 establishments and take in not just the food but the atmosphere and culture. A foodie map, cookbook, and great recommendations are given out by your guide so you can take what you learn about Polish food culture beyond your visit to Poland.

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מסעדות בסגנון יהודי JEWISH STYLE RESTAURANTS


Once Upon a Time

Step back in time to the Kazimierz of yesteryear with a visit to Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz. From its ancient floorboards to the authentic wood furniture and adorned with artefacts of Kraków’s past, this restaurant is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for your stomach. Merging the histories of Polish and Jewish culture, Once Upon a Time pays a real tribute to the culture-rich past of Kraków. From the outside, the restaurant is decorated like the shopfronts of the past with weathered window shutters, shabby window displays and peeling shop signs that proudly display their names. The interiors of each shop front is preserved to look as it would’ve in the past, a glimpse at the grocers of the early 20th century but the cultural tributes go beyond that. The Once Upon a Time menu is decorated to look like an antique newspaper, and is stocked with traditional fare like pierogis (Polish ravioli), cholent (a thick meat stew) and borsch (a beetroot soup). They offer a wide selection of beers, liquors, traditional meads and ciders, as well as soft drinks for everyone’s liking. On top of the traditional lunch and dinner menu, Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz offers a special breakfast menu with a mixture of typical Polish and Jewish breakfast feasts, such as shakshuka, ‘omlet’ and grilled lamb. It’s a great place to fill up on a hearty breakfast before starting a day of touring and exploring. In the evening, the restaurant hosts live music concerts paying tribute to the klezmer and traditional sounds of the region. Whether you make it a pitstop or a focal point of your evening, Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz is a one-of-a-kind restaurant that truly speaks to the souls of its guests, whether local or international. Visit Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz for every day from 10am until midnight for an unforgettable Jewish-Polish cultural experience.  

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מדריכים בעיר CITY GUIDES



Anita Stanislawska is a licensed Kraków City Guide and Kraków enthusiast, passionate about sharing her wonderful and magical city with tourists. With Anita, you can explore Poland’s former capital with a broader look of its historical relationship with the rest of Europe. Learn about past kings, popes, cultures, religions, and how they have all shaped the Kraków of present times on one of Anita’s specially curated tours. Anita organizes private guided tours for individuals, small groups, and large groups, such as schools. Aside from traditional tours around historical sites and monuments, you can enlist in a Recreation and Day Spa in Kraków, a day of City Games, or a meeting with World War II survivors - experiences that can enrich your trip and make it all the more memorable. Typical tours include private guided trips within Kraków with a special focus on the Jewish district, Kazimierz, as well as memory tours to Auschwitz and Birkenau, historic tours of the Salt Mine, and nature-based tours to incredible sites like Zakopane, Tatra Mountains, Dunajec River, and the Pieniny Mountains. If you’re interested in learning about another religion that has important ties in Poland’s history, Anita offers Catholic tours, among other options. Tours can be given in English, Russian, German, Italian and an array of other languages, either by the tour guide or with use of a translator. Regardless of your tour needs and desires, Anita is here to help you experience Kraków and Poland and all its historical and cultural treasures.

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World Jewish Travel Official June 28, 2022

Krakow, Poland: The Height of Jewish Success and Collapse in Poland

Krakow: The Story of Jewish Poland Krakow is one of the oldest and largest cities in Poland. Since the 7th century it has been the home of some of the greatest academic, artistic, and political minds in Europe. From the time of its establishment, the Jewish community of Krakow has contributed to this status of high culture and innovation. There weren't always good times to be had for the Jews of Krakow. The community has seen its fair share of discrimination and hardship. Today, however, Jewish culture has seen an uproar of appreciation and commemoration.    Prosperity Despite Hardship: The Resilience of Jewish Krakow  The first wave of Jewish immigration came during the early 13th century with Jews traveling along trade routes from Germany to Prague. In 1335, the community established its roots rather quickly in an area of Kazimierz, located just outside of the city walls. This would become the city’s official Jewish quarter, a bustling hub for culture and trade. Jews could own homes and even trade property.  However the good times did not last long. When Jewish life and culture drifted outside the boundaries of the quarter there was an escalation of violence. Blood libels and attacks on Jews in the street became a common occurrence. Finally, in order to protect Jewish subjects from attacks, the King deemed that all Jews must reside in the quarter. They were not be allowed to own property outside of its limits and were only able to sell property to non-Jews. Still the community persevered and built several synagogues as well as a mikveh, yeshiva, marketplace and cemetery.   The Holocaust and the Jews of Poland By 1931, the Jewish community had grown from 2,000 individuals to well over 50,000. After years of legal and religious battles with the city, Krakow had become the epicenter of Jewish life and prosperity in Eastern Europe. They were bankers, merchants, doctors, lawyers, restaurateurs, and were considered to be the best craftsmen in the city. The community managed to grow by an additional 10,000 people when World War II made its way to Poland. In 1939, Germany occupied Krakow and in 1940 began to expel and deport Jews from the city to the countryside. Not long after that the first ghetto was established in Podgorze. Life in the Podgorze Ghetto consisted of sickness, starvation, and back-breaking labor. [caption id="attachment_38820" align="alignnone" width="1599"] Podgorze Ghetto wall in Krakow; Fred Romero from Paris, France, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] In 1943 the ghetto was liquidated and some 2,000 Jews lost their lives in the process. The remaining population was deported to Plaszow, a forced labor camp, or were sent to Auschwitz for immediate extermination. After the war ended in 1945, Jews attempted to return home to Krakow. However, they were met with extreme antisemitism and pogroms. Most elected to leave Poland and by 1990, only a few hundred Jews remained in the city.         Kazimierz: The Jewish Quarter of Krakow Today the Jewish quarter of Kazimierz remains a physical symbol of Jewish culture and resilience. Some of the original pre-war synagogues still stand in addition to other museums and monuments dedicated to the memory of Jewish Krakow. Kazimierz is also one of the best destinations for food and nightlife with a wide range of bars and restaurants to suit any occasion. The town itself represents such a strong cultural history that it has since been named a UNESCO world heritage site.  [caption id="attachment_38821" align="alignnone" width="1200"] Kazimierz[/caption] Commemorated Jewish Life and History in Poland Situated inside the town of Kazimierz is the New Jewish Cemetery. The land for the necropolis was purchased in 1800 from the Augustinians. More land was eventually added to the cemetery acquired from the Christian monks in 1836. When the Nazis invaded Poland, they desecrated the cemetery by removing and selling the headstones to local masons. One portion of the cemetery was entirely removed so that the land could be used to build the Plaszow work camp. This was later converted into a concentration camp. Today, the cemetery is considered a heritage site. There are estimated to be nearly 10,000 graves in the cemetery.      Holocaust preservation is a crucial piece of Krakow historic sites. The Oskar Schindler’s Factory Museum tells the story of one man who risked his life to save thousands of Jews. The factory became a safe haven for Jews. Schindler even paid off Nazi guards to keep his workers at the factory, saving them from certain death. He is the only member of the Nazi party to be granted the title of “righteous among the nations.”  [caption id="attachment_38817" align="alignnone" width="1600"] Schindler's Factory in Krakow; Zorro2212, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] Intellectuals and the Artists: A Jewish Legacy of Krakow The devastation of the Holocaust cost the Jewish community of Poland some of their most famous artists, poets, and intellectuals. One of these individuals who perished in the Holocaust was considered to be one of the greatest Jewish poets in Krakow’s history. Mordechaj Gebirtig composed his songs, plays, and poems in Yiddish. Some of his most memorable tunes are still sung by Yiddish speakers today. Classics such as Es brent, Reyzele, Moyshele Mayn Fraynd, and Kinder Yorn. [caption id="attachment_38818" align="alignnone" width="904"] Poet Mordechaj Gebirtig[/caption] However, the memory of Jewish life doesn’t always surround the Holocaust. There were plenty of influential Jewish figures in Krakow’s history that led a life of peaceful intellectual development. One such man was Rabbi Moses Ben Isserles. The rabbi lived and taught Torah in Krakow, but his name became immortalized for his commentaries on the Shulkhan Aruch. This would become one of Judaism’s most prominent legal and kabbalistic texts.  The Resurgence of Jewish Culture in Krakow Although the Jewish community of Poland has seen devastation, today the culture and history is finding new avenues of representation. There is an abundance of festivals and restaurants that celebrates one of the city's most historic communities. Be sure to check out the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival for all the latest and greatest additions to the rich world of Jewish culture in Poland.  [caption id="attachment_38819" align="alignnone" width="2048"] Krakow Jewish Culture Festival[/caption]    

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Hotels in Krakow


Imperial Hotel

Located in the heart and soul of Kraków on the corner of Market Square, this hotel proudly lies on a prime slice of realty. However, Hotel Imperial has more to offer guests than its location. This four-story hotel holds 33 fully-furnished rooms, that are available in a variety of sizes and standards. You can opt for single, twin, or double rooms with classic or premium furnishings, or take your holiday up a notch with a deluxe room boasting stunning views of Market Square and exquisite finishing touches. Hotel room amenities include free Wi-Fi, tea and coffee facilities, centrally controlled air-conditioning, and many other comforts. Each morning, you can enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee and a buffet breakfast as you look out over the Market Square from the reception or breakfast room. For lunch or dinner, enjoy delicious traditional and international cuisine at the Imperial Hotel Restaurant. The proximity to Market Square and it’s centralized location in Old Town, means many of Kraków’s famous historic sites are within walking distance. The hotel itself is also laden with a rich history. The building was built in the first half the 14th century by St John Capistrano’s instruction. He was an active member of the Catholic Church and often hosted his sermons next to the building, which were said to impact many in the community. There is a commemorative statue of Saint Capistrano on the first floor of the hotel. The Imperial Hotel was also one of the first to host members of the Turkish royal party in 1494, who brought camels and horses to the city of Kraków for the first time. Another famous resident of the hotel was Master Twardowski, who was considered a famous sorcerer in the 16th century, and many myths and legends surround his presence in the city. The modern day Imperial Hotel, however, appears sorcerer-free and lusciously decorated. It hosts a friendly and knowledgeable team of staff who are truly willing to make your stay as pleasant and personalized as they can, fulfilling the hotel’s goal of providing Kraków’s guests with a place that feels like home.


Hotel Wentzl

Enrich your visit to Kraków with a stay in this historic venue right in the heart of Old Town. The magical Hotel Wentzl was originally constructed at the turn of the 16th century and miraculously survived the great fire of 1550, where most of the surrounding buildings were spared. The hotel was named after the Wentzl family who married into the ownership of the building in the early 19th century and brought a lot of tradition and charisma to the institution. If you’re looking for an authentic stay in the heart of Old Town, Hotel Wentzl cannot be beat. This 4.5-star institution has beautiful rooms overlooking the Main Market Square and is the only hotel at such proximity to the town center. Choose between 11 divinely decorated double rooms or double lux rooms, that can accommodate for up to 4 people. Rooms are spread over 3 floors and there is an elevator for convenience. The hotel offers some wonderful services such as airport pick-up and drop-off, car rental services, and concierge service. Additional facilities include free Wi-Fi access, complimentary bike rental (for strolls around town), and in-room massages at an additional fee, among many other offers. When it comes to dining, the hotel boasts two restaurants and a cafe with a focus on Wentzl classics and traditional Polish food, as well as European cuisine. Enjoy breakfast in the Wentzl restaurant from 7-10.30 AM and return after a day of touring for a delicious warm meal in the cellar restaurant, Da Pietro. There’s truly no better location in this vibrant and lively city than the market square that hosts Hotel Wentzl. Every day you can easily wander out of the hotel and enjoy a new part of the city. Stay for a few days and get to know the lovely staff and market vendors, enhancing your stay in beautiful Kraków all the more.


Queen Boutique Hotel

Located in the heart of Kraków, this stylish boutique hotel is just a hop away from many of the city’s main tourist attractions. This award-winning hotel goes above and beyond to offer guests an incredible stay. From design and decor to friendly, knowledgeable staff and delicious menus, the Queen Boutique Hotel offers a seriously thought-out guest experience. From crisp white sheets on your bed to a stupendous breakfast buffet (bottomless sparkling wine included), the Queen Boutique Hotel is truly dedicated to providing a number of useful services and facilities. Check into this wonderfully-located boutique hotel and enjoy 24-hour front desk service where hotel staff members are happy to assist in organizing transportation, tours, and excursions, and even purchasing concert and event tickets. Upon arrival, you and your party will also receive a welcome snack, and you’ll have access to the bespoke Amaryllis restaurant and bar as well as 24/7 room service. The hotel can also provide takeaway lunches for days when you’re on tour and picnics along the Vistula River. When you’re done with days of trudging around the town, enjoy some time in the freely accessible sauna or relaxation room - other spa treatments are available for purchase. Foodies will love the Amaryllis restaurant, which is open late and hosts a resident sommelier ready to recommend wine from a phenomenally curated selection. There’s a warm fireplace lit in the colder months of the year, creating a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. The balcony boasts a spectacular view over the Wawel Castle gardens and makes for the perfect place to enjoy a nightcap or a glass of champagne at sunset. No matter what your notion of visiting Kraków is, the Queen Boutique Hotel is here to make it better. From excellent guest services to beautifully decorated rooms, treat yourself to a luxurious stay at this top-rated hotel in the heart of Poland’s former capital. Note: If you’ve rented a car, there is a guarded car park less than half a kilometer from the hotel, otherwise, the hotel offers taxi services, airport transfers, and private tours.

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Jewish quarter Krakow
High Synagogue
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Shabbat. Krakow ’23

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