A Jewish world without Kazimierz would be as empty as a body without a soul. In a different time, in a different Kazimierz, one of the greatest Jewish scholars to ever life said: “the aim of man is to search for the cause and the meaning of things”. Let’s follow his advice and go deeper into the history of the Jewish presence in Kraków.
Poland is a place where Polish Jews and Polish Catholics lived together side by side for generations. The Jews had been present in Poland and Kraków since the very beginning. Their population grew rapidly over time, thanks to the religious tolerance and social autonomy they were granted here. The Jews, who had been expelled from countries all around Europe, found their home in Poland.
Here, in Kazimierz, Jewish history quickened, both in terms of culture and learning. Up until the mid-16th century, there was no other place in the Jewish world more significant than Kazimierz. Even today, Jews from all over the world travel to Kazimierz and Poland to find roots of their spirituality.
By the end of the 1930s, the Jewish community of Kraków constituted about 25% of the city’s population. This vibrant and diverse community was almost totally destroyed during the Second World War.
Today’s Kazimierz is a very peculiar place. One can experience here many contradictory emotions at the same time: joy at discovering the rich history, culture and traditions of Polish Jews; sadness and nostalgia for the pre-war, lost world, and excitement while becoming a witness to the rebirth of Jewish life. It is here in Kazimierz where the biggest Jewish Festival in the world takes place being the best proof that life and culture is always stronger than death and destruction!
Let us take you to Kraków’s Kazimierz and Kraków’s ghetto. You will hear hair-raising stories, but you will also hear ones that are uplifting and offer comfort. Here you can also face and challenge some of the stereotypes about Poland, Polish Jews and Polish-Jewish relations.
The significance of Kazimierz can be measured by one more thing. After years of communism, when culture was suppressed and silenced, it was here where a cultural outburst took place. Today, Kazimierz continues to be a favourite place among artists and other free spirits.