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There are countless reasons to fall in love with Warsaw


In Warsaw, in spite of the disasters that befell the Jewish community during World War II, you can still feel
the special atmosphere of the centuries-old co-existence, which also influences the modern face of this extraordinary city. The deep insight into the history of the Jewish culture in Warsaw can be found in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN.

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
The War
Present time


The first mention of the Jewish population in Warsaw dates back to the 15th century. Poland was then famous for its tolerance, which attracted many visitors. At first Jews settled in the Old Town, in Żydowska (Jewish) Street that does not exist today, nowadays it is in the area of Wąski Dunaj Street. With time, however, their growing prosperity caused that Warsaw burghers banned Jews from living within the city limits. For this reason, Jews started to settle near Warsaw – the memory of one of their settlements has survived in the name of Aleje Jerozolimskie (Jerusalem Avenue).

Rondo de Gaulle'a
Jerusalem Avenue (Aleje Jerozolimskie)

In 1774, near the present Zawiszy Square, a Jewish settlement called New Jerusalem was established – the road leading to it was called the Jerusalem Road. Warsaw authorities, recognising it as competition in trade, liquidated it a 2 years later, but the name has survived to this day. The installation of Joanna Rajkowska “Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue” – an artificial palm tree, similar to those that can be seen in Israeli cities, refers to the context of its creation. (fot. Filip Kwiatkowski)

Jews also settled in Praga district, which until 1791 was a separate city. A royal banker, Shmuel Zbytkower, after whom Szmulowizna housing estate is called today, was authorised to establish a Jewish Cemetery in Bródno.
Another trace of the presence of Jews in Praga are also the remains of the Jewish house of prayer,
in the annexes to buildings in 50/52 Targowa Street.

Muzeum Pragi
Museum of Warsaw Praga (Muzeum Warszawskiej Pragi)
ul. Targowa 50/52
It is housed in a restored complex of historic buildings at ulica Targowa 50/52, next to the famous Rożycki Bazaar. One of the buildings – former home to Jan Krzyżanowski – was built in late 18th century and is the oldest residential building of Praga district. Prior to 1839, it housed the Jewish elementary school, and the outbuildings housed three Jewish houses of prayer, which after the war were converted into warehouses. Fragments of paintings that depict the signs of the zodiac, the Wailing Wall and Rachel’s Tomb preserved in two of them. One wall features an inscription in Hebrew, which says that the paintings were made in 1934 with the donation of the sons of Dawid Grinsztajn.
Museum presents permanent and temporary exhibitions, Archives of Spoken History, ’Dying Professions’ Hall’, reading room and many other attractions. Institution is also focused on educational aspect of their works, it holds intelectual meetings and versages. More information
(fot. City of Warsaw)

Praga also had its synagogue. The building was demolished after the war, but the ritual bath – mikvah located next to it survived.

Mikvah (Mykwa)
ul.ks. Kłopotowskiego 31 (the former Szeroka Street)
A Jewish ritual bath operated here in the 19th century, the oldest established in 1840, but the present building was built in 1911-1914. It was rebuilt after the war. It housed the offices of the Central Committee of Jews, then a kindergarten. Most of the rooms of the old bath survived. Nowadays, the building is occupied by a multicultural highschool. (fot. Tomasz Nowak)

After the third partition of Poland, Prussian authorities abolished the ban on Jewish settlement in Warsaw. Jewish people were also given names. It is commonly believed that they were invented by E. T. A. Hoffmann – a German poet, composer and writer (author of the famous fairy tale entitled “The Nutcracker”), who served as city clerk. Apparently he was sent to Warsaw for a tendency to joke about his superiors, and this time his rebellious nature made itself felt. Names given by him often had a humorous connotation. Poor Jews were called, for example, Goldberg (gold mountain), or Goldstein (gold stone), or he used a series of “plant” names – Apfelbaum (apple tree), and Rosenbaum (rose tree). The names given in Warsaw at that time spread throughout the world.

The turn of the 18th and 19th centuries also marked the establishment of the Warsaw Jewish Commune and the establishment of the Jewish Cemetery in Okopowa Street.

Cmentarz Żydowski
Jewish Cemetery (Cmentarz Żydowski)
ul. Okopowa 49/51
tel. 22 838 26 22
Founded in 1806, it is one of the few currently operating Jewish cemeteries in Poland. Over 100 thousand tombstones survived here, many of high artistic value. Many prominent figures were buried at the cemetery – the creator of Esperanto, Ludwik Zamenhof, a writer Isaac Leib Peretz, an actress Esther Rachel Kamińska, and numerous rabbis and tzaddikim. There are also mass graves from World War II and graves of residents of the Warsaw Ghetto, such as leaders of the Judenrat Adam Czerniakow and Professor Majer Balaban. In 2009, Marek Edelman was buried here – the last leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but also an outstanding cardiologist, social activist and oppositionist.
Opening hours:
Mon.-Thu. 10 am - 5 pm (in autumn and winter till dusk), Fri. 9 am - 1 pm, Sun. 11 am - 4 pm. On Saturdays and Jewish holidays the cemetery is closed.
(fot. Tomasz Nowak)


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