Wroclaw

Jewish Wrocław

21 Aug 2019
Wrocław’s Jewish community is one of the oldest in today’s Poland, dating back to the 12th century when the city was an important trade centre along the Amber Road. Though consistently confronted with persecution, Jews have steadily played a role in the development of the city. By the end of the 19th century, in fact, the Jewish community was so well integrated into Breslau society that many Jews had achieved leading positions in academic and scientific circles; at the time, these men were not considered any less German than they were Jewish. Breslau (as it was then known) possessed the second largest synagogue in Germany and its Jewish community was the third largest in the country with numbers that had risen to 30,000 by the time Hitler came to power.

It doesn’t require much detail from us to know what befell Breslau’s wartime Jewish population. The city’s once magnificent main synagogue - torched on Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938) – says enough, with only a small memorial remembering where it once stood at ul. Łąkowa 6. What less people are aware of is that after the war when German Breslau became Polish Wrocław, the city’s Jewish population actually increased dramatically beyond its pre-war levels as the city accepted some 70,000 Jews displaced by the war – many from the Soviet Union. Ironically, Wrocław’s Jewish population reached its peak immediately after WWII; however, the anti-minority politics of the Soviet Union and communist Poland slowly shrank their numbers until they had been forced out of the country almost completely, with the persecution culminating in 1968. Since the fall of the Soviet Union that number has been slowly rising again and today there are some 800 Jews living in Wrocław, part of a gradual transition from tracing the past to plotting the future - a ray of hope was the May 2010 reopening of the White Stork Synagogue.

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