History of the Jews in Poland

Reception of Jews in Poland, by Jan Matejko, 1889
Early-medieval Polish coins with Hebrew inscriptions
Casimir the Great and the Jews, by Wojciech Gerson, 1874
Casimir IV Jagiellon confirmed and extended Jewish charters in the second half of the 15th century
Sigismund II Augustus followed his father's tolerant policy and also granted autonomy to the Jews.
Number of Jews in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth per voivodeship in 1764
A Polish Jew in an engraving from 1703
Late-Renaissance synagogue, Zamość, Poland, 1610–20
Jacob Frank
Jewish dress in 17th (top) and 18th centuries
Berek Joselewicz (1764–1809)
Jewish merchants in 19th-century Warsaw
Map of Pale of Settlement, showing Jewish population densities
Caricature of Russian Army assailant in 1906 Białystok pogrom
A Bundist demonstration, 1917
Hasidic schoolchildren in Łódź, c. 1910s, during Partitions
Rabbi Baruch Steinberg before Warsaw Great Synagogue (1933), reading roll call of the fallen, organized by Union of Jewish Fighters for Polish Independence
Warsaw Great Synagogue
L. L. Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto
Isaac Bashevis Singer (Polish: Izaak Zynger), achieved international acclaim as a classic Jewish writer and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978
Shimon Peres, born in Poland as Szymon Perski, served as the ninth President of Israel between 2007 and 2014
Student's book (indeks) of Jewish medical student Marek Szapiro at Warsaw University, with rectangular "ghetto benches" ("odd-numbered-benches") stamp
Demonstration of Polish students demanding implementation of "ghetto benches" at Lwów Polytechnic (1937).
Graves of Jewish-Polish soldiers who died in 1939 September Campaign, Powązki Cemetery
Yiddish election notice for Soviet local government to the People's council of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic in Białystok, occupied Poland.
Jewish-Polish soldier's grave, Monte Cassino, Italy
Map of the Holocaust in Poland under German occupation.
Starving Jewish children, Warsaw Ghetto
Jewish Ghettos in German-occupied Poland and Eastern Europe
Walling-off Świętokrzyska Street (seen from Marszałkowska Street on the "Aryan side")
Announcement of death penalty for Jews captured outside the Ghetto and for Poles helping Jews, November 1941
Janusz Korczak's orphanage
Ghetto fighters memorial in Warsaw built in 1948 by sculptor Nathan Rapoport
Deportation to Treblinka at the Umschlagplatz
The cover page of The Stroop Report with International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg markings.
34 Mordechaj Anielewicz Street, Warsaw, Poland
Freed prisoners of Gęsiówka and the Szare Szeregi fighters after the liberation of the camp in August 1944
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 saw the destruction of what remained of the Ghetto
Page from a register of several hundred Jewish survivors who returned to Oświęcim after the war; created by a local Jewish Committee in 1945. Most remained for only a brief period.
Chief Rabbi of Poland – Michael Schudrich
Lesko Synagogue, Poland
Reform Beit Warszawa Synagogue
2005 March of the Living
President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, 26 June 2007
"Shalom in Szeroka Street", the final concert of the 15th Jewish Festival

The history of the Jews in Poland dates back at least 1,000 years.

- History of the Jews in Poland

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Occupation of Poland (1939–1945)

Formally concluded with the defeat of Germany by the Allies in May 1945.

German and Soviet soldiers stroll around Sambir after the German-Soviet invasion of Poland.
Expulsion of Poles from western Poland, with Poles led to the trains under German army escort, 1939.
Public execution of Polish civilians randomly caught in a street roundup in German-occupied Bydgoszcz, September 1939
Nur für Deutsche ("For Germans only") sign, on Kraków line-8 streetcar
Polish teachers guarded by members of ethnic German Selbstschutz battalion before execution
Polish Franciscan, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, at Auschwitz, volunteered to die in place of another prisoner.
1941 announcement of death penalty for Jews caught outside the Ghetto, and for Poles helping Jews
Photos from The Black Book of Poland, published in London in 1942 by the Polish government-in-exile.
Public execution of Polish priests and civilians in Bydgoszcz's Old Market Square on 9 September 1939.
Boys' roll call at main children's concentration camp in Łódź (Kinder-KZ Litzmannstadt). A sub-camp was KZ Dzierżązna, for Polish girls as young as eight.
Earliest World War II partisan unit, commanded by Henryk "Hubal" Dobrzański, winter 1939
German Panther tank captured by the Poles during 1944 Warsaw Uprising, with Batalion Zośka armored platoon commanded by Wacław Micuta
Walling-off Świętokrzyska Street seen from Marszałkowska Street on the 'Aryan side' of the Warsaw Ghetto, 1940
Identifying ethnic German prisoners massacred by Soviet secret police NKVD near Tarnopol, July 1941
Sovietization propaganda poster addressed to the Ukrainian population residing within Polish borders. The text reads "Electors of the working people! Vote for joining of Western Ukraine into the Soviet Ukraine"
Residents of a town in Eastern Poland (now West Belarus) assembled to greet the arrival of the Red Army during the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. The Russian text reads "Long Live the great theory of Marx, Engels, Lenin-Stalin" and contains a spelling error. Such welcomings were organized by the activists of the Communist Party of West Belarus affiliated with the Communist Party of Poland, delegalized in both countries by 1938.
During 1942–1945, nearly 30,000 Poles were deported by the Soviet Union to Karachi (then under British rule). This photo shows a memorial to the refugees who died in Karachi and were buried at the Karachi graveyard.
Monument to the Fallen and Murdered in the East, Warsaw
Polish-forced-workers' badge
Poster in German and Polish listing decrees of labour obligations
Notice of death penalty for Poles refusing to work during harvest

Around 6 million Polish citizens—nearly 21.4% of Poland's population—died between 1939 and 1945 as a result of the occupation, half of whom were ethnic Poles and the other half of whom were Polish Jews.

History of Poland (1945–1989)

The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 spans the period of communist rule imposed over Poland after the end of World War II.

Poland's old and new borders, 1945
Map showing the different borders and territories of Poland and Germany during the 20th century, with the current areas of Germany and Poland in dark gray
Destroyed Warsaw, January 1945
The PKWN Manifesto, officially issued on 22 July 1944. In reality it was not finished until mid-August, after the Polish communist Moscow group was joined by the late-arriving Warsaw group, led by Gomułka and Bierut.
Postwar Polish communist propaganda poster depicting "The giant and the putrid reactionary midget", meaning the communist People's Army soldier and the pro-Western Home Army soldier, respectively
ORMO paramilitary police unit during street parade at the Victory Square, 9 June 1946, Warsaw
Logo of the Polish United Workers' Party
The show trial of Captain Witold Pilecki, sentenced to death and executed May 1948
The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, initially called the Stalin's Palace, was a controversial gift from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin
Avenue of the Roses, Nowa Huta
1951 East German stamp commemorative of the Treaty of Zgorzelec establishing the Oder–Neisse line as a "border of peace", featuring the presidents Wilhelm Pieck (GDR) and Bolesław Bierut (Poland)
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Primate of Poland
Władysław Gomułka
The Fourth Congress of the Polish United Workers' Party, held in 1963
The Polski Fiat 125p, produced in Poland from the late 1960s, was based on technology purchased from Fiat
Standard-bearers of the 27 Tank Regiment, mid-1960s
Dziady, a theatrical event that spawned nationwide protests
Demonstrators in Gdynia carry the body of Zbigniew Godlewski, who was shot and killed during the protests of 1970
Edward Gierek
Queue line, a frequent scene at times of shortages of consumer goods in the 1970s and 1980s
Millions cheer Pope John Paul II in his first visit to Poland as pontiff in 1979
Lech Wałęsa speaks during the strike at the Gdańsk Shipyard, August 1980
25th anniversary of Solidarity, summer 2005 in Gdańsk
General Wojciech Jaruzelski led the People's Republic during its final decade and became one of the key players in the systemic transition of 1989–90
Apartment block residences built in People's Poland loom over the urban landscape of the entire country. In the past administratively distributed for permanent use, after 1989 most were sold to residents at discounted prices.
Adam Michnik, an influential leader in the transformation of Poland

Following the destruction of the Polish-Jewish population in the Holocaust, the flight and expulsion of Germans in the west, resettlement of Ukrainians in the east, and the expulsion and resettlement of Poles from the Eastern Borderlands (Kresy), Poland became for the first time in its history an ethnically homogeneous nation-state without prominent minorities.

Ashkenazi Jews

Ashkenazi Jews (יְהוּדֵי אַשְׁכְּנַז, ; אַשכּנזישע ייִדן), also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim, are a Jewish diaspora population who coalesced in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the first millennium CE.

The Jews in Central Europe (1881)
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at its greatest extent.
Jews from Worms (Germany) wearing the mandatory yellow badge.
The example of the chevra kadisha, the Jewish burial society, Prague, 1772

In the late Middle Ages, due to widespread persecution, the majority of the Ashkenazi population steadily shifted eastward, moving out of the Holy Roman Empire into the areas that later became part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth; these areas today comprise parts of present-day Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.


Revisionist Zionist youth movement founded in 1923 in Riga, Latvia, by Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky, the founder and first leader of Betar, shown here in Jewish Legion uniform.
Vladimir Jabotinsky in the company of Betar commanders, Palestine
Members of Betar in Europe, circa 1934
Members of Betar movement at a summer camp in the Polish resort town Zakopane in 1935
Betar formation in Berlin in 1936
Zeev Jabotinsky (bottom right) meeting with Betar leaders in Warsaw. Bottom left Menachem Begin (probably 1939).
Flags of the Betar youth movement permanently displayed at the Jabotinsky Institute in Tel Aviv
Betar members in front of the monument to Joseph Trumpeldor in Tel Hai

It was particularly successful in Poland, which had the largest Jewish population in Europe at the time.

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Museum on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto.

The museum building
The museum building
President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the POLIN Museum, 26 June 2007
Hebrew and Latin letters of the word Polin
Main hall
Traditional Mezuzah at the entrance
Gwoździec synagogue roof reconstruction
Reconstructed vault and bimah in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews
"On the Jewish Street" gallery with entrances to exhibition halls

The idea for creating a major new museum in Warsaw dedicated to the history of Polish Jews was initiated in 1995 by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.

Rescue of Jews by Poles during the Holocaust

Rudolf Weigl, Polish Righteous whose vaccines, smuggled into the Lwów and Warsaw Ghettos, saved countless Jewish lives.
The Król family of Polish Righteous west of Nowy Sącz Ghetto hid Jewish friends in the attic for three years. In close proximity, the Germans carried out mass executions of civilians.
The wall of the ghetto in Warsaw, being constructed by Nazi German order in August 1940
Public execution of Michał Kruk and several other ethnic Poles in Przemyśl as punishment for helping Jews, 1943
Underground Biuletyn Informacyjny announcing death sentence by Kedyw and the execution of named individuals who blackmailed Polish villagers hiding Jews, July 1943.
Announcement of death penalty for Jews captured outside the Ghetto and for Poles helping Jews
Irena Sendler smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto to safety.
Żegota members at 3rd anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Poland
Mother Matylda Getter rescued between 250 and 550 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto.
Polish priest Marceli Godlewski was recognized as Righteous among the Nations in 2009.
Holocaust resistor Witold Pilecki
Last page "Raczyński's Note" - official note of Polish government-in-exile to Anthony Eden 10 December 1942.
Diplomat Henryk Sławik helped save Jews with false Polish passports.
Clandestine poster warning of death penalty for blackmailing and turning in Jews, Żegota 1943.

Polish Jews were the primary victims of the German-organized Holocaust in Poland.


Capital and largest city of Poland.

A paper engraving of 16th-century Warsaw by Hogenberg showing St. John's Archcathedral to the right. The church was founded in 1390, and is one of the city's ancient and most important landmarks.
Warsaw New Town in 1778. Painted by Bernardo Bellotto
Water Filters, designed by William Lindley and finished in 1886
Sea of rubble – over 85% of the buildings in Warsaw were destroyed by the end of World War II, including the Old Town and Royal Castle.
The Warsaw Uprising took place in 1944. The Polish Home Army attempted to liberate Warsaw from the Germans before the arrival of the Red Army.
A tourist standing beside the iconic Palace of Culture and Science, 1965
Warsaw, as seen from the ESA Sentinel-2
View of Grzybowski Square in the central district of Warsaw. The city is located on the mostly flat Masovian Plain, but the city centre is at a higher elevation than the suburbs.
Autumn in Warsaw's Royal Baths
Hotel Bristol is a unique example of Warsaw's architectural heritage, combining Art Nouveau and Neo-Renaissance designs.
Main Market Square in Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
New World Street, one of the main shopping promenades in Warsaw
Łazienki Palace, also referred to as the Palace on the Isle
Saxon Garden with the central fountain
A red squirrel in one of Warsaw's parks
The Lutheran Holy Trinity Church is an important landmark
Neoclassical Commission Palace, the house of the city's government
Embassy of the Netherlands
Hala Koszyki, a former market hall from the early 20th century
The Warsaw Stock Exchange is the largest in Central Europe.
Praga Koneser Center within the former Warsaw Vodka Factory
Main TVP headquarters at Woronicza street
The main gate of the University of Warsaw
Warsaw University Library
S8 in Warsaw
Warsaw Chopin Airport
The edifice of the Grand Theatre in Warsaw. It is one of the largest theatres in Europe, featuring one of the biggest stages in the world.
Warsaw Philharmonic is a venue for the International Chopin Piano Competition
Museum of the History of Polish Jews opened in 2013
The 17th-century Ostrogski Castle (left) houses the Chopin Museum.
Wuzetka chocolate cake originated in Warsaw and is an icon of the city
Interior of the Wedel Chocolate Lounge on Szpitalna Street
Annual procession of the Three Wise Men (Epiphany) at Warsaw's Castle Square
The 1659 coat of arms of Old Warsaw on the cover of one of Warsaw's accounting books
1855 bronze sculpture of The Warsaw Mermaid in the Old Town Market Place
The Interior of the National Stadium before the UEFA Euro 2012 semi-final match between Germany and Italy on 28 June 2012
Stadion Wojska Polskiego, the home ground of Legia Warsaw football club
St. Anne's Church
Holy Cross Church
Carmelite Church has an original 18th-century façade
Wilanów Palace, once a royal residence
Belweder Palace, official seat of the President
Castle Square with the Royal Castle and Sigismund's Column
Krasiński Palace, a branch of the National Library
Canon Square (Kanonia) with the narrowest townhouse in Europe
St. Kazimierz Church at New Town Market Square
Three Crosses Square marks the entry into Old Town
Barbican, a remaining relic of historic fortifications.
Poland's bicameral parliament, the Sejm and the Senate
Chancellery of the Prime Minister
The Presidential Palace, seat of the Polish president
Supreme Court of Poland
Supreme Administrative Court
The seat of the administration of the Masovian Voivodeship
Mostowski Palace, the seat of Warsaw's police headquarters
The main gate of the Ministry of Health
Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Finance
Metro Line 2, Nowy Świat-Uniwersytet station
Tram car
Pendolino high-speed trains at Warszawa Centralna
Warsaw Suburban train

The aim of establishing a separate district was to accommodate new incomers or undesirables who were not permitted to settle in Old Town, particularly the Jews.

Jedwabne pogrom

Memorial in Jedwabne, Łomża County, Poland
The Jedwabne synagogue accidentally burned down in 1913.
Jedwabne crime scene, compiled from Polish court documents
Jewish children with their schoolteachers, Jedwabne, 1933, including three boys who survived the war by hiding on Antonina Wyrzykowska's farm. Back row, second left: Szmul Wasersztajn (who gave a statement in 1945); third, Mosze Olszewicz; and fourth, Jankiel Kubrzański.
Jan T. Gross, 2019
Jedwabne memorial, 2011
Antonina Wyrzykowska and her husband were beaten by fellow Poles for saving Jews in Jedwabne, and were later recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski apologized for the massacre in 2001.
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, 2014
77th anniversary, 2018, Jedwabne monument

The Jedwabne pogrom was a massacre of Polish Jews in the town of Jedwabne, German-occupied Poland, on 10 July 1941, during World War II and the early stages of the Holocaust.


Country in Central Europe.

A reconstruction of a Bronze Age, Lusatian culture settlement in Biskupin, 8th century BC
Poland under the rule of Mieszko I, whose acceptance of Christianity under the auspices of the Latin Church and the Baptism of Poland marked the beginning of statehood in 966.
Casimir III the Great is the only Polish king to receive the title of Great. He built extensively during his reign, and reformed the Polish army along with the country's legal code, 1333–70.
The Battle of Grunwald was fought against the German Order of Teutonic Knights, and resulted in a decisive victory for the Kingdom of Poland, 15 July 1410.
Wawel Castle in Kraków, seat of Polish kings from 1038 until the capital was moved to Warsaw in 1596.
King John III Sobieski defeated the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna on 12 September 1683.
Stanisław II Augustus, the last King of Poland, reigned from 1764 until his abdication on 25 November 1795.
The partitions of Poland, carried out by the Kingdom of Prussia (blue), the Russian Empire (brown), and the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy (green) in 1772, 1793 and 1795.
Chief of State Marshal Józef Piłsudski was a hero of the Polish independence campaign and the nation's premiere statesman from 1918 until his death on 12 May 1935.
Polish Army 7TP tanks on military manoeuvres shortly before the invasion of Poland in 1939
Pilots of the 303 Polish Fighter Squadron during the Battle of Britain, October 1940
Map of the Holocaust in German-occupied Poland with deportation routes and massacre sites. Major ghettos are marked with yellow stars. Nazi extermination camps are marked with white skulls in black squares. The border in 1941 between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union is marked in red.
At High Noon, 4 June 1989 — political poster featuring Gary Cooper to encourage votes for the Solidarity party in the 1989 elections
Flowers in front of the Presidential Palace following the death of Poland's top government officials in a plane crash on 10 April 2010
Topographic map of Poland
Morskie Oko alpine lake in the Tatra Mountains. Poland has one of the highest densities of lakes in the world.
The wisent, one of Poland's national animals, is commonly found at the ancient and UNESCO-protected Białowieża Forest.
The Sejm is the lower house of the parliament of Poland.
The Constitution of 3 May adopted in 1791 was the first modern constitution in Europe.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, located in Warsaw
Polish Air Force F-16s, a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft
A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter patrol van belonging to the Polish State Police Service (Policja)
The Old City of Zamość is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
PKP Intercity Pendolino at the Wrocław railway station
Physicist and chemist Maria Skłodowska-Curie was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes.
Nicolaus Copernicus, the 16th century Polish astronomer who formulated the heliocentric model of the solar system.
Population of Poland from 1900 to 2010 in millions of inhabitants
Dolina Jadwigi — a bilingual Polish-Kashubian road sign with the village name
John Paul II, born Karol Wojtyła, held the papacy between 1978-2005 and was the first Pole to become a Roman Catholic Pope.
Jagiellonian University in Kraków
The Polish White Eagle is Poland's enduring national and cultural symbol
All Saints' Day on 1 November is one of the most important public holidays in Poland.
Lady with an Ermine (1490) by Leonardo da Vinci. It symbolises Poland's cultural heritage and identity.
Selection of hearty traditional comfort food from Poland, including bigos, gołąbki, żurek, pierogi, placki ziemniaczane, and rye bread.
Traditional polonaise dresses, 1780–1785.
Andrzej Wajda, the recipient of an Honorary Oscar, the Palme d'Or, as well as Honorary Golden Lion and Golden Bear Awards.
Headquarters of the publicly funded national television network TVP in Warsaw
The Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw, home of the national football team, and one of the host stadiums of Euro 2012.

In 1264, the Statute of Kalisz introduced unprecedented autonomy for the Polish Jews, who came to Poland fleeing persecution elsewhere in Europe.

Piotrków Trybunalski

City in central Poland with 72,250 inhabitants (2020).

Poniatowski Park
Polish medallion from 1978 commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Crown Tribunal, then the highest court of Poland in Piotrków Trybunalski.
Gothic-Renaissance Royal Castle, now a museum
Piotrków in 1657
Memorial plaque at the site of the former prison for Polish insurgents of 1863–1864
Old Town in the 1930s
A roundup in German-occupied Piotrków Trybunalski
Memorial to the victims of the Katyn massacre
Adam Próchnik Municipal Library
Focus Mall shopping center.
Main train station
Eastern bypass
Bolesław I the Brave High School, founded in 1675
High Court of Piotrków
Birthplace and childhood home of Stefan Rowecki
Yisrael Meir Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, was born in Piotrków
Baroque Jesuit Church
Inside the Old Town
St. James Parish Church
Grodzka street near the Market Square
Szewska street in the Old Town
Rwańska Street in the Old Town with the Evangelical Church
Great Synagogue
Remaining old city walls
Municipal Culture Center
Nicolaus Copernicus Monument
Piotrkowska Manufaktura, a former textile factory
Bernardine Monastery

The city also hosted one of Poland's oldest Jewish communities, which was entirely destroyed by the Holocaust.