by Rebecca Weiner
Lublin once served as one the most important
centers of Jewish life, commerce, culture and scholarship in Europe.
It had the world's largest Talmudic school, Yeshybot. Lublin was also
well known for its fairs and market days. Little remains today of its
- 14th - 16th Centuries
- 17th - 19th Centuries
- 20th Century
- The Holocaust
- Contemporary Period
- Jewish Sites of Interest
14th - 16th Centuries
Jews came to Lublin as transients, in 1316. King
Casmir III, in 1336, granted the Jews permission to settle on the
outskirts of the city and King Sigismund I permitted Jews to settle
near the castle.
By the mid-16th century, an autonomous Jewish city
existed in the district. Jews were given land to build their own
institutions and a cemetery. Jews were able to set up stalls and
shops to sell their goods. A Hebrew printing press was opened in 1547
and produced many important publication. In 1568, Jews were allowed
to bar Christians from living in their district.
Synagogue inside Chamber of Memory in the new cemetery of Lublin
The 16th century was a period of growth and
enlightenment for the Jewish community of Lublin, which had the third
largest Jewish community in Poland in this period. The Jeshybot
Yeshiva was established in 1515 by Shalom Shachna and became a center
of learning Talmud and kabalistic mysticism. The
great scholarship of those who studied there, including Moses
Isserles Remuh and Jakov ben Itzhak, led to the city being named the
"Jewish Oxford." The sages of the yeshiva received the
title of rector and equal rights to those in Polish universities with
the permission of the King in 1567.
Also in 1567, Lublins most famous synagogue,
the Maharshal Shul, was constructed. It was damaged in the great fire
of 1655 and was subsequently rebuilt. Lublin also had strong communal
institutions, such as a hevra kaddisha (responsible for
burials) and a "preachers" house for visiting preachers.
The city also hosted the Council of the Four Lands, the ruling
political body for Jews in Poland and Lithuania established in 1580.
Tensions existed in Lublin between the 16th and
18th centuries between the Jews and the Polish High Court. Blood
Libel cases at the Polish High Court led to attacks on Jews and their
homes. In 1648-49, during the Chmielnicki uprising, many Lublin Jews
The Jewish population of Lublin numbered 2,000 in
17th - 19th Centuries
In 1655, the Cossack and Muscovite armies attacked
Lublin and burned down the Jewish quarter, killing more than 2,000
people. Following this destruction, Jews began to buy shops in the
Christian quarters of the city, which was not well received by the
townsfolk. By 1787, the Jewish district was rebuilt and had a
population of 3,500.
During the late 18th century, Lublin became a
center for Hasidism. One
famous Hasidic figure was the Tzaddik Jacob Isaac ha Hozeh
(1745-1815), who became known as the Seer of Lublin. While blind, it
was said that the Seer was able to see directly into people's souls.
He died mysteriously by falling out of his window. The Eiger Hasidic
dynasty also played an important role in the rise of Hasidism in
At this time, opponents of Hasidism from the mitnagdit movement were also present in Lublin. Both groups had their own
yeshivas and heders (small elementary schools).
In the 19th century, Lublin's Jews were
only allowed to live in their own districts. Jews faced similar
restrictions in other Polish towns during the partition period. They
were permitted to buy land for civic purposes in 1862. At the time,
the Jewish population was approximately 9,000.
Jewish commerce and industry expanded during the
second half of the 1800's. In 1860, a Jew owned the largest cigarette
factory. Jews owned 95 percent of businesses in the tanning industry.
Jewish workers became an important sector of Jewish society. Trade
unions were formed and the Bund became active in the early 1800's. A
Jewish hospital was open in 1886, which contained bedrooms and a
small synagogue. By the late 19th century, students in Jewish schools
were taught in either Russian or Polish. In 1897, the first Hebrew
school was established. By this time, the population had more than
doubled the figure of 40 years earlier, reaching nearly 24,000.
The 20th Century
In 1917, the community of Wieniawa combined with
the Jewish community of Lublin.
After World War I, a number of Jewish
organizations and institutions were started in politics, education,
theatre and sports. A number of printing houses were functioning and
producing works in Hebrew.
A great yeshiva, Yeshiva Hachmei Lublin (Jewish
Rabbinical Academy), opened in June 1930 with 200 students.
Unfortunately, Meir Shapiro, its founder, died at the age of 46 and
did not live long enough to see the first class graduate four years
later. The books in the library were confiscated by the Nazis, in
1940 and the equipment was stolen or destroyed.
The Germans captured Lublin on September 18, 1939.
The Jewish population doubled again by 1941 and reached about 45,000,
including 6,300 refugees from other cities. Lublin became a center of
mass extermination of Jews during the Holocaust.
A Judenrat was formed on January 25, 1940. The Judenrat executed Nazi orders, as well as, established public kitchens,
hospitals and hostels for abandoned children in the ghetto.
The Nazis established two ghettos,
with a population of 34,000. Exit from the ghetto was restricted in
April 1941. Deportations began, at a rate of 1,500 daily, on March
16, 1942. A total of 30,000 Jews were deported to Belzec or murdered on the way in nearby forests. The remaining 4,000 were
transferred to Majdan Tatarski, a suburb of Lublin, which became a
"small" ghetto. On September 2, 1942, 2,000 Jews were
killed by the Nazis and another 1,800 were murdered in October 1942.
The remaining 200 Jews were sent to Majdanek.
small number of skilled craftsmen were able to stay in and work in
Lublin. Their shops were closed in May 1943 and the workers were sent
to Majdanek. Another 300
craftsmen were kept at the Lublin Fortress and worked until July
1944; they were put to death a few days before the Nazis evacuated
Lublin also hosted a prisoner of war camp for Jews
serving in the Polish army. Arriving in February 1940, they were
initially helped by the Judenrat and some succeeded in getting forged documents allowing them to leave
the camp. Some of the prisoners escaped to the local forests and
joined partisan groups; however, many were deported along with the
other Jews. The last deportation of prisoners took place on November
3, 1943, to Majdanek.
Lublin was the first city liberated in Poland by
the Russian army on July 24, 1944. Lublin served as a temporary
Polish capital until the liberation of Warsaw in January 1945. After the war, 5,000 Jews settled in Lublin, many of
whom lived in the Soviet Union during the Holocaust.
Many of the Jews left Lublin between 1946-50 because of anti-Semitism.
A mass exodus took place after the Kielce
Pogrom. A Jewish cultural society was active in the city until
1968, when the remainder of the population left Poland.
Today, there are only 20 individuals associated
with the Jewish community of Lublin and all of them over the age of
55. There may be as many as 40 others unaffiliated with the
Jewish Sites of Interest
Very little remains of the former Jewish quarter
of Lublin. There is a monument to the victims of the Holocaust in the
square between ul Rady Delegatow and ul. Hanki Sawickiej. One small
synagogue remains on the upper floor of the building on ul.
Lubartowska 8/10. At the synagogue, there is a small display of
ritual and historical documents of the Jewish community of Lublin.
Commemorative plaques can be found at the base of
the castle steps for the Jewish town that stood at the spot. Another
plaque can be found on the inside of the walls at ul Grodzka 11, the
site of the former Jewish orphanage, where Jewish children were
murdered by the Nazis on March 24, 1942.
The former yeshiva, built in 1924 on ul
Lubartowska 85, is the current Medical Academy building. Inside,
there remains an old lecture room of the yeshiva, as well as
commemorative room showing the history of the building.
old Jewish cemetery attracts many visitors. It contains tombstones
dating back to the early 1500's. It is the oldest Jewish cemetery in
Poland, which still exists. Many of the tombstones were destroyed by
the Nazis, however, some remain. The cemetery contains the tombstone
of Jacob Kopelman ha Levi (died in 1541), which is the oldest
tombstone in Poland, the tombstone of Shalom Shachna, who died in
1558 and the tombstone of Tzaddik Jacob Isaac ha Hozen (1745-1815),
the Seer of Lublin, which is a site of pilgrimage for Jews around the
new Jewish cemetery, on ul. Waleczynch, was established in 1829 and
was seriously damaged during the Holocaust.
It is still used today by the small Jewish community and has a number
of Holocaust memorials. Restoration of the cemetery has begun.
two miles from Lublin is the Majdanek death camp. Among the estimated 150,000 people who entered Majdanek as prisoners, about 80,000were killed and 60,000 of them were Jewish.
The State Museum at Majdanek documents the history of the camp and includes a
monument made from mounds of human ashes commemorates victims of the
Sources: "The History of the Camp," State Museum at Majdanek (copyright 2006, accessed August 2013).
Photo Credits: Holocaust photos courtesy of Andrew
- The Holocaust site. Cemetery photo courtesy of Ester Csaky's
memorial to the Jews of Lublin site.
Majdanek photo courtesy of Scrap