A Legacy of Judaism

Jews in Poland

"Paradisus Iudaeorum" is a Latin term meaning "Jewish Paradise" and that was Poland for the better part of a thousand years. Jews first settled in the Kingdom of Poland in the 10th Century. King Boleslaw IV granted them civil priviliges in 1254 which were reconfirmed and expanded by King Casimir the Great in 1334. King Casimir pronounced them to be "a people of the king." and invited Jews in western Europe, persecuted and blamed for the plagues, to join him in the Polish realm.

Later, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, freedom of religious practices was encoded in the Golden Liberty of 1575 and its Confederation of Warsaw Clause. Poland's Jewish citizens felt secure and a rich and vibrant Jewish culture emerged. Today, more than 70% of Ashkenazi, European Jewery, can trace their roots to Poland.

The Protestant Reformation brought about a decline in religious tolerance in the Polish Commonwealth but Poland's Jewish community was largely unaffected. It was after the repeated partitioning of the Commonwealth (1772-1795) and its complete disappearance from the map of Europe (1795) that Polish Jews were subjected to the discriminatory laws and pograms of the three occupying empires - Austria, Prussia, and Russia. While Jews faired better in the Austrian Partition, they were treated harshly in the Czarist Russian Partition. Alas, paradise was lost. Due to the events of World War II, from a prewar population of about 3.5 million there are less than 50,000 Jewish Polish citizens today.

For a map of Jewish population concentrations in the Polish Commonwealth, click here.

To navigate to JewishGen, click here.

Warsaw & Krakow - 1936

Lodz - 1930s

Paris - 1939

Krakow - 1940

History of Jews in Poland

Kolbuszowa - 1929

Sedziszow - 1935

Krakow - 1936

Various Shtetls
Various Shtetls

Karen Wisniewski & Dennis Benarz, USA 2011