History of the Jews in Poland – Wikipedia, the free …

Posted By on May 25, 2015

Polish Jews Polscy ydzi Total population est. 1,300,000+ Regions with significant populations Poland 80,000+ (~12,000 in registered communities)[verification needed][1][2] Israel 1,250,000 (ancestry, passport eligible);[3] 202,300 (citizenship)[4] Languages Hebrew, Polish, Yiddish Religion Judaism Related ethnic groups Other Ashkenazi Jews: Lithuanian Jews, Russian Jews, Ukrainian Jews, German Jews, also Sephardi.

The history of the Jews in Poland dates back over 800 years. For centuries, Poland was home to the largest and most significant Jewish community in the world. Poland was the centre of Jewish culture thanks to a long period of statutory religious tolerance and social autonomy. This ended with the Partitions of Poland which began in 1772, in particular, with the discrimination and persecution of Jews in the Russian Empire. During World War II there was a nearly complete genocidal destruction of the Polish Jewish community by Nazi Germany, during the 19391945 German occupation of Poland and the ensuing Holocaust. Since the fall of Communism there has been a Jewish revival in Poland, characterized by the annual Jewish Culture Festival, new study programmes at Polish high schools and universities, the work of synagogues such as the Nozyk, and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

From the founding of the Kingdom of Poland in 1025 through to the early years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth created in 1569, Poland was the most tolerant country in Europe.[5] Known as paradisus Iudaeorum (Latin for "Paradise for the Jews"), it became a shelter for persecuted and expelled European Jewish communities and the home to the world's largest Jewish community of the time. According to some sources, about three-quarters of all Jews lived in Poland by the middle of the 16th century.[6][7][8] With the weakening of the Commonwealth and growing religious strife (due to the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation), Polands traditional tolerance[9] began to wane from the 17th century onward.[10] After the partitions of Poland in 1795 and the destruction of Poland as a sovereign state, Polish Jews were subject to the laws of the partitioning powers, the increasingly antisemitic Russian Empire,[11] as well as Austro-Hungary and Kingdom of Prussia (later a part of the German Empire). Still, as Poland regained independence in the aftermath of World War I, it was the center of the European Jewish world with one of world's largest Jewish communities of over 3 million. Antisemitism, however, from both the political establishment and from the general population, common throughout Europe, was a growing problem.[12]

At the start of World War II, Poland was partitioned between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (see MolotovRibbentrop Pact). The war resulted in the death of one-fifth of the Polish population, with 90% or about 3 million of Polish Jewry killed along with approximately 3 million Polish non-Jews.[13] Although the Holocaust occurred largely in German-occupied Poland, there was little collaboration with the Nazis by its citizens. Collaboration by individual Poles has been described as smaller than in other occupied countries.[14][15] Statistics of the Israeli War Crimes Commission indicate that less than 0.1% of Polish gentiles collaborated with the Nazis.[16] Examples of Polish gentile attitudes to German atrocities varied widely, from actively risking death in order to save Jewish lives,[17] and passive refusal to inform on them; to indifference, blackmail,[18] and in extreme cases, participation in pogroms such as the Jedwabne pogrom. Grouped by nationality, Poles represent the largest number of people who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.[19][20]

In the postwar period, many of the approximately 200,000 Jewish survivors registered at Central Committee of Polish Jews or CKP (of whom 136,000 arrived from the Soviet Union)[20][21][22] left the Communist People's Republic of Poland for the nascent State of Israel and North or South America. Their departure was hastened by the destruction of Jewish institutions, post-war violence and the hostility of the Communist Party to both religion and private enterprise, but also because in 19461947 Poland was the only Eastern Bloc country to allow free Jewish aliyah to Israel,[23] without visas or exit permits.[24][25] Britain demanded Poland to halt the exodus, but their pressure was largely unsuccessful.[26] Most of the remaining Jews left Poland in late 1968 as the result of the Soviet-sponsored "anti-Zionist" campaign. After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, the situation of Polish Jews became normalized and those who were Polish citizens before World War II were allowed to renew Polish citizenship. Religious institutions were revived, largely through the activities of Jewish foundations from the United States. The contemporary Polish Jewish community is estimated to have approximately 20,000 members,[27] though the actual number of Jews, including those who are not actively connected to Judaism or Jewish culture, may be several times larger.

Jews originated from the Israelite tribes of the Middle East.[28][29][30][31] Initially, large numbers moved and lived in Greece (including the Greek isles in the Aegean and Crete) as early as the early part of the 3rd century B.C.E. The first recorded mention of Judaism in Greece dates from 300-250 Before Common Era (BCE) on the island of Rhodes.[32] and in Rome at least since the 1st century B.C.E. (Although They may even have established a community there as early as the second century B.C.E, for in the year 139 B.C. the pretor Hispanus issued a decree expelling all Jews who were not Italian citizens).[33] Then by late antiquity Jewish communities were found in modern day France and Germany.[34][35] Afterwards, due to various pogroms that took place during the Middle Ages, they fled mostly to Poland and Lithuania, and from there spread over the rest of Eastern Europe.[36][37]

The first Jews arrived in the territory of modern Poland in the 10th century. By travelling along the trade routes leading eastwards to Kiev and Bukhara, Jewish merchants, known as Radhanites, crossed the areas of Silesia. One of them, a diplomat and merchant from the Moorish town of Tortosa in Spanish Al-Andalus, known under his Arabic name of Ibrahim ibn Jakub, was the first chronicler to mention the Polish state under the rule of prince Mieszko I. The first actual mention of Jews in Polish chronicles occurs in the 11th century. It appears that Jews were then living in Gniezno, at that time the capital of the Polish kingdom of the Piast dynasty. The first permanent Jewish community is mentioned in 1085 by a Jewish scholar Jehuda ha-Kohen in the city of Przemyl.[38]

The first extensive Jewish emigration from Western Europe to Poland occurred at the time of the First Crusade in 1098. Under Bolesaw III (11021139), the Jews, encouraged by the tolerant regime of this ruler, settled throughout Poland, including over the border in Lithuanian territory as far as Kiev.[39] Bolesaw III for his part recognized the utility of the Jews in the development of the commercial interests of his country. The Jews came to form the backbone of the Polish economy and the coins minted by Mieszko III even bear Hebraic markings. Jews enjoyed undisturbed peace and prosperity in the many principalities into which the country was then divided; they formed the middle class in a country where the general population consisted of landlords (developing into szlachta, the unique Polish nobility) and peasants, and they were instrumental in promoting the commercial interests of the land.

Another factor for the Jews to emigrate to Poland was the Magdeburg Recht, or Magdeburg Law, a charter given to the Jews, among others, that specifically outlined the rights and privileges that Jews had coming into Poland. For example, they could define their neighborhoods and economic competitors and set up monopolies. This made it very attractive for Jewish communities to pick up and move to Poland.[40]

Gesta principum Polonorum states that Princess Judith of Bohemia, wife of Polish Prince Wadysaw I Herman ransomed many Christians with her own money from the bondage of the Jews.[41]

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