Duration: 3 - 4 hours
Lublin is one of the Polish cities where the Hebrew culture could develop freely over the centuries. Flourishing Hebrew sciences caused the city to be called the Jerusalem of the Polish Kingdom, and even the Jewish Oxford.
In the 16th century, the first Hebrew books and prayer books were published in Lublin. In 1578, a famous printing house was established by Kalonymos, the son of Mordechaj Jaffe. The printing and publishing traditions were maintained in the 19th century by Samuel Arct, subsequently relocating them to Warsaw. In the 16th-17th century, the Council of Four Lands (Waad Arba Aracot) operated in Lublin, acting as a local authority for all Jews in Poland. In the 18th century, Jacob Isaac Horowitz, the father of Polish Chassidism, known as the ‘Seer of Lublin’, was born in Lublin, where he also gave teachings and finally died.
Our city was made famous all over the world by Isaac Bashevis Singer from the region of Lubelszczyzna, the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, who showed the life of a Jewish character in the 19th-century’s reality in one of his well-known novels entitled The Magician of Lublin. The first reference to Lublin Jews comes from the second half of the 15th century; most likely, the Jewish district already existed back then. The main settlement, religious, political and administrative centre for Lublin Jews was the area around the castle, together with part of the Old Town. Subsequently, these lands became known as the Jewish city. Jewish settlements were also developed in the district of Kalinowszczyzna, in Piaski, known as Kazimierz Żydowski (the area of today’s railway station), and in Wieniawa. A significant share of the population of Lublin was always Jewish; for instance, in 1602 probably around 2,000 Jewish people were living here, while the entire city had around 8,000 residents; in 1865, 39.2% residents were Jewish, whereas in 1931 it was 34.6% of all Lublin residents – i.e. 38,937 people.
As a consequence of the extermination of the Jewish nation carried out by the German Nazis during the Second World War, together with the demolition of entire districts, synagogues and cemeteries, only part of the buildings which are a testament to the daily life, culture and customs of Lublin Jews can still be seen today.
The stone obelisk located at the Castle Square features a plaque commemorating the layout of the old Jewish district, which was established here as early as in the 16th century. Szeroka Street, which goes across the Castle Square, was the central point of the ‘Jewish city’. Synagogues, offices, great shops and tenement houses were located along the road. In the 18th century the manor of the Seer of Lublin (J. I. Horowitz- Sternfeld) was located at 28 Szeroka Street, which is commemorated by a plaque.
Beside Szeroka Street, new streets were built, such as Nadstawna Street, around which the educational life of Lublin Jews was centred. In 1941, the district was converted into a ghetto by the Nazis and subsequently completely destroyed after its closure in 1943.
The Neo-Gothic Castle of Lublin, from the first half of the 19th century, served as a prison where Jews and Poles were held during the Partitions, in the interwar period, and mainly during the Nazi occupation when the Gestapo imprisoned the residents of the Lublin ghetto. Jewish prisoners were later shot during mass executions at Górki Czechowskie and at the castle, together with Poles, on 22 July 1944, a few hours before the Polish and Soviet armies entered Lublin.
Between 1944-54, when the prison of the NKVD and the Secret Political Police operated here, a small group of Jews were held here among patriotic prisoners, even though people of Jewish descent often held senior posts at the Security Service.
The location of the old synagogue complex located at Al. Tysiąclecia, below the Jewish Gate, at the bottom of the castle, was commemorated with an obelisk and metal bas-relief featuring an image of Maharszalszul – the Great Synagogue.
In the 16th-17th century, the first Lublin Yeshiva operated at the church complex located here, established by Rabbi Salomon Luria. The synagogue complex was destroyed by the Nazis during the closure of the ghetto in 1943.
The old Jewish cemetery is located at Kalinowszczyzna and Sienna Streets on a high loessial bank which was originally a medieval settlement. The gravestone of Jakub Kopelman, from 1541, is the oldest Jewish grave in Poland still found in its original location. The cemetery is the resting place of many personalities from the Jewish community: Rabbis, academics and Jewish leaders, among others, J. I. Horowitz – the Seer of Lublin (died in 1815); his grave is ohel-shaped, i.e. a lattice metal shield covering a stone matzeva.
Burials took place here until the 19th century. Each preserved matzeva is a stonemasonry masterpiece in its own right.
The cemetery, which is an important place of religious cult and a valuable antique structure, is available to organised groups of visitors with a tour guide, upon obtaining the appropriate approval.
The new Jewish cemetery, located at Walecznych Street, established in 1829 and damaged by the Nazis, has now been restored. It is surrounded with a wall of symbolically-damaged matzevas.
At the entrance stands a building which constitutes a memorial mausoleum with a small synagogue which houses the Lublin Jews Memory Hall. Currently, the Jewish cemetery is the burial ground for today's very small Jewish community in the area.
Here, we can also see an obelisk commemorating the extermination of Jews, the military quarters of the Jewish soldiers serving in the Polish army between 1944-45, and an empty ohel left after the grave of Rabbi Maier Szapira, founder of the yeshiva in Lublin.
The old University of Wise Men (Jesziwas Chachmej Lublin), at the corner of Unicka and Lubartowska Streets. This large edifice, commissioned in 1930, was financed with contributions of the Jewish community from all over the world. The university referred to the great traditions of Talmudic studies which were developed in Lublin in the older days. It had an extensive, rich collection of books, including Hebrew prints from the 16th and 17th century. Inside, the old assembly hall is preserved, which formerly operated as a synagogue.
After the Second World War, the building belonged to the Music Academy; now it has been taken over by the Jewish community.
The old Jewish Hospital situated at 81 Lubartowska Street, currently a gynaecological clinic. The clinical directors and physicians at the hospital were the greatest Jewish doctors: Beniamin Tec, Marek Arnsztajn, Jakub Cynberg and Henryk Mandelbaum. The hospital's modern medical equipment was plundered by the Nazis and the clinic subsequently closed. The patients and a part of its staff were murdered.
The former People’s House named after Isaac Leib Peretz from 1936, located at the junction of Czwartek and Szkolna Streets. It used to belong to the Jewish left-wing labour organisation called ‘Bund’. Currently, it houses the Lublin Branch of the National Health Fund (NFZ).
The only preserved Lublin Synagogue built before the war located on the 1st floor of the tenement house at 10 Lubartowska Street. The building is a house of prayer and operates at the same time as the Lublin Jews Memorial Hall, the office of the Social and Cultural Society of Jews in Lublin and the Lublin Branch of the Jewish Religious Community in Warsaw.
This is where meetings are organised to celebrate the greatest Jewish holidays: Pesach, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah. The Synagogue is open to visitors on Sundays between 1:00PM and 3:00 PM.
Organised groups can visit the synagogue upon making prior arrangements with the custodian.
The Monument to the Ghetto Victims unveiled in 1962 used to stand between Lubartowska and Świętoduska Streets; at the beginning of 2007 the monument was temporarily relocated to Plac Szkolny at Niecała Street. The monument will return to its original position after the construction work on the underground car park near the Ghetto Victims Square has been completed. It is a huge, suggestive matzeva, featuring an inscription which is part of a poem by Itzhak Katzenelson:
In each handful of ash, I look for my loved ones...
The Old residence of the Central Committee of Polish Jews and Provincial Committee of Lublin Jews, situated at Rybna and Noworybna Streets in the Old Town. The committees were active between 1945-49, when attempts were made to reactivate Jewish life in an independent Poland.
However, not all Jews who survived the holocaust revealed their identities. Others were hiding outside of Lublin or had returned to the Soviet Union. The Committee established a Jewish school, published a newspaper for Jews and collected accounts of the survivors.
In 1948, around 500 Jewish people lived in Lublin. The last wave of emigration was a result of an anti-Semitic campaign of 1968. Today, only a handful of people of Jewish origin remain in Lublin.
The old Jewish Orphanage, the so-called ‘orphan asylum’, located at Grodzka and Plac po Farze Streets in the Old Town, currently the Youth Culture Club. The building also accommodated offices of the Jewish Religious Community and a shelter hall for the Jewish elderly and disabled. On 24 March 1942, the residents of the orphanage, carers and the elderly were executed by the German Nazis.
The Grodzka Gate, also called the Jewish Gate, was part of the curtain walls of the Old Town and a historical border between the Christian and Jewish cities and currently houses the Grodzka Gate Centre – NN Theatre, which commemorates, among others, the presence of Jews in Lublin. Here, a multimedia exhibition is presented showing the Jewish district before 1939. The mock-up model of the Old Town and Podzamcze is particularly insightful.