Beyond Auschwitz-Birkenau: the Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz

Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum concentration camp tours is extremely important to learn about the unimaginable horror of the Holocaust. However, to learn about the culture that was (almost!) completely destroyed, it’s absolutely essential to visit Krakow’s Jewish quarter.

If you’ve watched Steven Spielberg’s famous war movie Schindler’s List, you could already see bits of Kazimierz. The movie was shot mainly in this part of the city, as many of its buildings remained untouched by time. Because of Spielberg’s movie, the streets of Kazimierz became recognisable to many and turned into quite a tourist draw. When you visit Kazimierz, you can find plenty of the Schindler’s List filming locations.

However, the famous streets are not the only tourist attraction of Kazimierz Krakow. There are many places worth visiting. Including, e.g. the historic synagogue (one of the oldest in Europe), the former Jewish square, a couple of excellent museums and fabulous eateries and pubs.

Tragic History of the Polish Jews

The history of Kazimierz dates back to 1335 when it was founded outside of Krakow by King Kazimierz the Great. Jews started to move en masse to the area towards the end of the 15th century, as they were expelled from the then capital. They prospered under various kings and by the 17th century, turned Kazimierz into one of the most influential cities in Poland.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the century, three disasters struck Kazimierz in the span of a few years. First, a fire that destroyed many of the Jewish buildings. Then a plague hit the Ghetto and decimated the community. And then, four years later, the Swedish invaded and destroyed the city. Famine and ant-Jewish riots brought an end to the glory days of Kazimierz.

The Jewish presence in Kazimierz Krakow rose again in the 19th century. By 1939, there were around 60,000 Jews in Cracow, many of which lived in the Kazimierz area. With the outbreak of the war and systematic extermination of the Jewish nation, most of the Cracovian Jews were transferred to the nearby Podgorze Ghetto and then executed in death camps, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau. After the war, only 5000 Jews were left alive in Kazimierz.

A small Jewish community lives in Kazimierz to this day.

Krakow Oskar Schindler Factory museum Podgorze

Must-visit in the Jewish quarter of Krakow

Old Synagogue: The synagogue is over 500 years old adn to this day retains its pre-war charm. It’s an excellent place for history lovers.

Schindler’s List Streets: Walk down the streets on which the famous movie was shot. If you have seen the movie, you can try to identify the filming locations yourself.

Museums: There are two major museums in Kazimierz Krakow. The first is Jewish Galicia Museum, which offers glimpses of Jewish history in the region. It features some poignant photos and details about the Jewish presence. The second one is the Museum of Municipal Engineering. It houses a number of amusing exhibits from the history of automobiles to public transport and electricity. We especially recommend visiting the museums if you already took a tour to Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.

Eateries and Bars: If you want to taste authentic Jewish cuisine, Kazimierz is the place to visit. You can find restaurants here that offer delicious kosher dishes. In most of those eateries, you can try traditional Polish food too, if you’d like. Some of Krakow’s best bars are also in the area – it may be a good idea to drop by and cool down after a long day of sightseeing.

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