JEWISH CRACOW TOUR
Cracow, for many centuries, was definitely the most magnificent city in the Polish Crown. A wealth of culture and art definitely shaped this city’s character, which for many ages became the spirit of Polish earth. Here, we find the most impressive collection of monuments and traces of Jewish legacy in Poland. In 1335, King Casimir the Great founded a separate town named Kazimierz. At the beginning of the XVI century, this place was transformed into the largest Jewish conglomeration in the continent. This amazing achievement was affected to all the world’s Jewry. Jewish life in the cultural, social, and religious contexts flourished with very vital energy.
After the Swedish invasion of Poland, named in polish history as a Swedish Deluge (during this exhausting war, Warsaw’s destruction can be compared to that of 1944) many Jews from Kazimierz started to restore their possessions. It’s worth emphasising that in the middle of the XIX century Jews from this region, under the rule of Austria, were emancipated. Permission to settle in Cracow was received by inhabitants of Kazimierz and at the start of WW2, there were approximately 60 000 Jews living in Cracow, one-fourth of the entire population.
Duration – 14 hours
Distance from Warsaw: 294 km
I deal with individual customers as well as organized groups. I work for: traveling organizations, foundations, universities, corporations, embassies, business customers, private customers.
Each customer is served individually and the program is customized to particular needs.
Up to 5 persons – 375 $
6 – 8 person – 415 $
Kazimierz – nowadays full of local charm, narrow streets, in high tourist season, are filled with a bustle and a real hubbub, as once it could have been. The district magnetises and captivates passers-by with its abundance of historical traces of unquestioned value. Cosy cafes, restaurants, galleries, and antique shops are an inherent part of these streets. The seven large synagogues constitute the biggest such complex in Europe, comparable only with Prague.
We start our sightseeing from the well-known Remuh synagogue and nearby cemetery. This place is inseparably linked to the famous Talmudist, rabbi, and rector of the local yeshiva, Moses Isserles, who also grappled with astronomy and philosophy. The cemetery next to the walls of the synagogue possesses a special meaning in the context of the entire country – it served as one of the most crucial Kazimierz necropoleis from 1533 until the Austrians closed it during the partition of Poland. The historical and artistic value of its gravestones is priceless. Directly opposite, we can find the former mikvah which existed in the basement. We continue our tour to the synagogue of Wolf Popper, which now houses the museum of culture and has sadly lost its sacral character.
After this, we visit one of the oldest and most valuable preserved synagogues throughout the country, at Szeroka 24 street. Among other places, the High Synagogue created between 1557-1563 catches the eye because of its characteristic form. The XVII synagogue of Isaac is equally impressive – here you can visit an interior which attracts with its inscriptions and excerpts of Torah printed on the walls. The Kupa synagogue, from the beginnings of its existence, was linked with a Jewish hospital and poorhouse, the paintings in the prayer room for men depict the Wailing Wall and Jaffa Gate. The Tempel progressive synagogue has neo-renaissance and the famous Zionist activist Ozjasz Thon preached here before the war. There are many more places.
Strolling through the narrow streets of Kazimierz, which form a dense network, accompanied by eminent historical buildings, provides us with an excellent vision of how Jewish life looked.
PODGÓRZE – PŁASZÓW CAMP:
After the outbreak of the war, German administration was installed in Cracow as early as was possible. The main governor – Hans Frank, moved to the royal castle in Wawel and the cruel period of violence and atrocities had been opened. In 1941, the ghetto area was created with approx. 16,000 inmates in the so-called Podgórze district, which had previously been inhabited by 3,000 roomers.
The ghetto occupied 15 streets and 320 tenements with 3,167 rooms, the fragments of semi-circular walls are reminiscent of graves, which bear links to a cemetery, preserved in two places. Also, a few tenement houses in which the German and Judenrat institution installed its offices are still visible. Among these places the famous pharmacy – under the eagle – leaded by Tadeusz Pankiewicz, is of special interest.
In the Ghetto Heroes Square, a monument commemorating the victims has been installed. Nearby, the Oskar Schindler Factory of Enamelled Vessels ‘Emalia’ has been turned into a modern museum, devoted to the wartime period of Cracow.
In June 1942, liquidation of the ghetto started and most of the Jews were sent to Bełżec extermination camp, the rest had to transfer to a labour camp in Płaszów, which nowadays doesn’t possess any of the material links to the horrific past, but merely retains destroyed Jewish graves and a funeral home in the former cemetery, as well as a few monuments with a central commemorative memorial put on top of the hill to remind us of the tens of thousands of slave labourers who were brutally exploited here.