Historic Sites in Krakow

History of and Historic Sites around Krakow:  Kazimierz-Podgorze

Cracow (in Yiddish CRUKE), a city in South Poland was the residence of the leading Polish Princes during the 12th Century, and later became the capital of Poland (until 1609). For many centuries it was the home of one of the most important European Jewish communities. In 1335 King Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) founded the city of Kazimierz near the southern end of Cracow where Jews settled in large numbers. His benevolence towards the Jews supposedly was based on his love for a Jewish girl Esther, who - according to the same legend - lived at 46 Ulica Krakowska in Krakow. Although Kazimierz was originally a separate and independent city, it later became incorporated into Krakow. The original area of Kazimierz, however, remained a Jewish district and was even called the Judenstadt. Although Jews were compelled to live there, Kazimierz was not really a ghetto. (The actual Jewish ghetto was established much later - during World War II - in Podgorze, a southern suburb of Krakow on the other side of the Vistula river.)  A synagogue, a bathhouse (mikvah) and cemetery are first recorded in the 1350's. During the centuries Jews in Cracow experienced persecution and riots, but at other times also benevolence and acceptance. 

The Jewish population of Cracow tfrom 1900's until now:

Year           Jewish Population        Total Population             % Jews

1900                25,670                            93,310                     28%

1910                32,321                            43,000                     21%  

1921                45,229                            64,000                      7%      

1931                56,800                          219,000                     26%   

1938                60,000                          237,000                    25%     

1948                 5,900                           299,000                     2%       

1955                 4,000                           335,000                      1%                                            

2008                Opening of a JCC in Krakow.

The Jagiellonian University in Krakow has established a Jewish Studies Program.

2014                JCC Krakow Ride for Living Established

2016                  8,000                          750,000                       1%  

 Kazimierz, the streets of the old Jewish Quarters 

Kazimierz is the former Jewish ghetto, established as the Jewish quarter in 1495.  Up until 1800, Kazimierz was actually a town in its own right, separately administered than Krakow. It had long been the home of Krakow's Jews, particularly after their expulsion from Krakow itself in 1494, and by the time of the Nazi occupation in 1941, there were an estimated 70,000 + Jews living in Krakow, mostly in Kazimierz, almost a quarter of Krakow's population. Beginning in 1941 the Jewish populace were relocated, finally ending up at concentration camps. Less than 1 in 10 of them survived by 1945. After the war the area lost its Jewish character, although many of the buildings survived, and were basically left to fall into complete ruin. Fortunately, it was a film about the destruction of Krakow's Jews (Steven Spielberg filmed "Schindler's List" was mostly filmed in Kazimierz), that marked a turning point in the area. Jewish heritage was slowly rediscovered, and money for building renovations became available by private donors. Today there is a well defined Jewish heritage trail; each site has a plaque outside giving a short description, and a guide map indicates the location of the next site.


                     ul. Szeroka, once the Jewish flea-market and now the centre of Jewish Kazimierz.

Krakow's Remu Synagogue
& Old Cemetery: ul. Szeroka 40

The Remu synagogue (acronym for Rabbi Moses Isserles) is located in Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of Krakow, and was founded in 1553 by Israel Isserles.  The Remu was considered to be the 'Maimonides of Polish Jewry' and was known for his universal outlook, his extensive Talmudic and secular knowledge, his manner of study, and his humility. His published works included treatises on halakhah, philosophy, kabbalah, homiletics, and science.

The adjacent Remu cemetery was used until 1799, and contains the graves of the Remu and his family.  Prior to World War II, thousands of Polish Jews visited his grave every year on the anniversary of his death. After the war, the cemetery was restored and pieces of broken headstones which could not be matched were used to make a memorial cemetery wall.  In the restored courtyard, you will find plaques dedicated by a number of our members.

ginal arch above entrance to Remu Shul courtyard. 

A 16th century synagogue, built in 1557. Behind the synagogue is a Jewish cemetery crowded with ornate Renaissance style, gravestones.

   Remu shul - Restoration

Arch above entrance to Remu Shul courtyard.Krakow's most active synagogue reciently renovated and currently in use.


 Remu shul - Cemetery

Renaissance gravestones in Remu'h Synagogue cemetery

The grave stones, shown in the photo above, represent the only ones from the Renaissance period that can be seen in all of Europe. The graves of the family of the founder of the Synagogue, Moses Isserlis, are in this cemetery. The Synagogue is named after Moses Isserlis Remu'h, the son of the founder, who studied in Lublin and became a famous rabbi and scholar.

The cemetery, which was used for burials from the 16th to the 19th centuries, was badly damaged during WWII when the Nazis used it as a rubbish site, smashing most of the gravestones in the process. Many of the fragments have been embedded in the graveyard wall, turning it into a sort of giant mosaic. However, during restoration work in the 1960s a great many gravestones were found buried, believed to have been hidden in the 19th century to protect them from the Austrians who were then occupying the city.

 Aron Kodesh' of Remu Shul. 

(Moshe Isserles' chair is to the right of the aron).

  Remu Shul Cemetery Wall

This present day wall around the Remu Shul Cemetery is made from countless gravestone fragments, turning it into a sort of giant mosaic.


Old Synagogue (Stara Synagoga) : ul Szeroka 24 

Old Synagogue in Kazimierz

As its name suggests, this is the oldest synagogue in Krakow, in fact the oldest in Poland. The building dates from the mid 14th century, although there have been many renovations and alterations since.  It was destroyed by fire in 1557 but was rebuilt by Italian architect Mateo Gucci in the 1570’s. The building just about survived the war, and in the 1960s, after a long restoration project, it was opened as part of the Historical Museum of Krakow.
It is currently being used as the Museum of Jewish History and Culture which houses a collection of photographs of life in Kazimierz before the Nazi occupation, as well as paintings by Jewish artists and religious objects. The main part of the exhibition is arranged in the main prayer room, furnished with the metal Bimah, Al-Memor (place where religious rituals are held), decorated Renaissance altar for the Torah scrolls, and a 17th-century stone alms box, and in the adjacent 16th-century cantors’ hall. Displayed in the rooms are objects of craft: on the one hand these are ritual objects among which there are e.g. holiday toys, and on the other works of Polish and Jewish painters (including Malczewski, Kossak, and Gottlieb).


Tempel Synagogue:  ul. Miodowa 24

 The late 19th century building (also known as Reformed Synagogue) is the newest of Kazimierz's surviving synagogue. The interior was renovated and has some marvelous stained-glass windows, painted walls,  gold-leaf and carved wood.  It currently is in need of additional renovation.


 Synagoga Isaaka (Isaac's Synagogue): ul. Kupa 18.

Izaak Synagogue


Izaak Synagogue in Kazimierz with stairs to women's gallery

 This mid 17th century is undergoing a thorough renovation after decades of neglect. Inside fragments of the original paintings have been preserved on the walls.  There is also a museum showing photographs and films detailing Jewish life in Poland and Krakow before the war. A wealthy community elder, Izaak Jakubowicz, built this synagogue in 1683.


Kupa Synagogue - ul. Warszauera 8

Kupa Synagogue is a 17th-century synagogue in Kraków, Poland. It is located in the former Jewish quarter of Kazimierz developed from a neighborhood earmarked in 1495 by King Jan I Olbracht for the Jewish community 


High or (Alta) Synagogue:  ul. Jozefa 38

Originally built in 1553-56 as a prayer room on the second floor above ground floor shops.  It was destroyed during the Holocaust. Today its is used as a monument restoration workshop.


The Bociana or Popper's SynagogueL ul. Szeroka 16,

Built in 1620 by a wealthy merchant, this synagogue is no longer used for ritual purposes.   All of its interior decorations were destroyed during the Holocaust.  It is now an arts center, a couple of Kosher restaurants, a Jewish hotel, and a bookshop.


 Miodowa Cemetery (New Cemetery): ul. Miodowa 55

Once the Remuh Cemetery fell out of use in 1800,  Jewish burials switched to the New Cemetery (Cmentarz Zydowski). This at the eastern end of Miodowa, under the small railway bridge. This huge cemetery is still in use, and many of the graves have fresh flowers or candles on them. Graves dedicated to entire families who were wiped out in the concentration camps are also located here.


Bath house and mikva:  ul. Szeroka 6. 

 This building housed the community bathhouse and mikva during the 16th century. It was remodeled in the 19th century. The Jewish practice of ritual baths kept them from getting epidemics. Today there is a café located there.



 Podgórze southern side of the Vistula River

Gate into Podgorze ghetto in Krakow*

The photo above shows the gate into the Podgorze ghetto. Above the entrance are the words "Yiddisher Woynbezirk" written with the Hebrew alphabet. This means "Jüdische Wohnbezirk" in German and "Jewish Residential Area" in English. *This portion of the gate no longer exhists, however there is a section remaining.

Empty Chair Memorial

 Plac Bohaterów Getta which used to be Plac Zgody (the Ghetto Heroes' Square) was the centre of the Jewish ghetto in the district of Podgorze, the point of departure for thousands of Jews to various camps. The monument that commemorates the heroes of the ghetto and remembers the victims of the Nazi Holocaust is in the form of oversized bronze chairs irrected in 2003. The chairs represent loss and absence as the ghetto in Krakow was cleared and all the residents’ possessions were strewn across the streets.

Narodowej Apteka pod Orlem  (Pharmacy Under the Eagles)

Pl. Bohaterow Getta 18

Located in Podgórze, which became the  Jewish ghetto under the Nazis.The pharmacy's owner, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, decided to stay on in Podgórze and do all he could for the thousands of people who lived, often two or three families to a room, in this last stop on the way to genocide. 
The pharmacy is now open as a museum, which, portrays life in the Podgórze ghetto, Art/Photography Exhibition on the Plaszow concentration camp.


Copyright © ncfs 1965-2021    The New Cracow Friendship Society, Inc.    501(c)4    All rights reserved.
updated  7/28/2021  SHS

We acknowledge the contribution of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany in helping to maintain this website.

siteseal gd 3 h l m