The Jewish Ghetto in Kraków

25 Mar 2018

Many Jewish institutions were transferred into the ghetto, and several non-Jewish businesses continued to operate, most notably Tadeusz Pankiewicz’s Pharmacy Under the Eagle on Plac Zgody. Many Jews also worked outside the ghetto, particularly in the Zabłocie industrial district, which included Oskar Schindler’s enamelware factory at ul. Lipowa 4.


Following an October 15th, 1941 decree requiring all Jews of the Kraków region – not just the city centre – to move to the Podgórze Ghetto, a further 6,000 Jews from villages around Małopolska entered the ghetto, making conditions unbearable. To alleviate the distress Nazi authorities happily announced that they would begin deportations, and 1000 people - mostly elderly and unemployed –were loaded into cattle cars and sent to Kielce, where they were expected to find aid from local Jewish authorities. Not knowing what else to do, many of them actually returned clandestinely to their families in the Kraków Ghetto.

Following the Wannsee Conference in January 1942, the Nazis began to initiate ‘The Final Solution’ – Hitler’s systematic plan for the annihilation of European Jewry. May 29th 1942 was the first of ten days of terror within the Kraków Ghetto as it was surrounded by Nazi troops and all documents were inspected. Those who couldn’t produce proper work permits were assembled on Plac Zgody before being transferred to Płaszów rail station, loaded into cattle cars in groups of 120, and sent to Bełżec death camp in eastern PL. Unsatisfied by the initial numbers, the Germans continued their arbitrary round-ups for days. One June 6th all previous documents were declared invalid and ghetto occupants were required to apply for a new ‘Blauschein’ or Blue Pass; those that were denied likewise met their deaths in Bełżec, including popular poet and songwriter Mordechai Gebirtig and renowned painter Abraham Neuman. By the end of the action, 7,000 Jews had been sent to their deaths, and many more simply shot in the streets. [The June deportations were one of the best documented of such actions, however photos from the events are still commonly misidentified as being taken during the ghetto's liquidation in March 1943.] Two weeks later the area of the ghetto was reduced almost by half to the north side of ul. Limanowskiego and demarcated by barbed wire. The increased density of the population and increasing brutality of the Germans set off a wave of suicides. Though some remained optimistic, worse was to come. Work was also beginning on the nearby Płaszów labour camp, which would eventually portend the end of the Kraków ghetto.

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