Brama Grodzka (Grodzka Gate) in Podzamcze, the Jewish neighborhood established at the foot of the city’s castle in the sixteenth century, Lublin, 1930s. Photograph by Józef Czechowicz. (Muzeum Lubelskie, Lublin)

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Lublin after 1795

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In 1795, when Lublin was annexed by Austria, the town’s Jewish population numbered 4,500. Around this time, Hasidism arrived in Lublin with Ya‘akov Yitsḥak Horowitz (“the Seer of Lublin”), a disciple of Elimelekh of Lizhensk. Horowitz’s main antagonist was a local rabbi who shared his surname, ‘Azri’el Horowitz, referred to as “the Iron Head” because of his intransigent attitude toward the new movement. Under these hostile circumstances, the Seer settled first in nearby Wieniawa (also called Chekhov) and only later went to Lublin. After his death in 1815, Lublin gained in strength as a Hasidic center. Yehudah Leib Eiger, a grandson of Akiva Eger, the rabbi of Poznań, settled there in 1857. The last Hasidic tsadik of the city, Shelomoh Eiger, died in the Bełżec concentration camp during the Holocaust.

Krawiecki Street in Podzamcze, Lublin, 1930s. Photograph by Wiktor Ziółkowski. (Muzeum Lubelskie, Lublin)

After the Congress of Vienna (1814–1815), Lublin was incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland and played an important administrative role. In 1877, the opening of a railway connecting the city with Warsaw contributed to an economic boom. As Christian residents moved from the area of the Old Town, Jews took their place, extending the reach of the Jewish quarter. By 1857, a total of 8,747 Jews lived in Lublin (forming 56% of the population); by 1897 these numbers had risen to 23,586 (50.9%). New factories were built, some of which were owned by Jews. By the end of the century, 95 percent of the tanning industry belonged to Jews.

Lublin served as a center of Jewish political life as well as a modern cultural hub. Jewish trade unions, the Bund, a Hebrew-language school (founded in 1897), printing houses, and bookstores flourished. The Bund grew increasingly active in the revolutionary years 1905–1906, while Zionist parties gained adherents as well.

World War I saw the development of a cultural life as well as of modern political movements. In 1916, a Jewish public library was opened, and in the same year assimilationists published the city’s first Jewish magazine, the Polish-language Myśl Żydowska (Jewish Thought). In 1918, the first issue of the daily Lubliner togblat was published; affiliated first with the Folkspartey and later with the Bund, it continued almost uninterruptedly until 1939. By 1921, the number of Jews in Lublin had risen to 37,337, forming 34.7 percent of the population.

In the interwar period, seven synagogues functioned, along with several dozen prayer houses and numerous social, cultural, educational, and recreational institutions. Yiddish newspapers flourished. Among the active political parties were Agudas Yisroel, the Folkspartey, and Bundist and Zionist organizations such as Po‘ale Tsiyon. In 1930, thanks to Rabbi Me’ir Shapira and the generosity of Polish and world Jewry, Yeshivat Ḥakhme Lublin was opened, serving as a model for other educational religious institutions.

Rabbi Me’ir Shapira with a model of the Second Temple at Yeshivat Ḥakhme Lublin, Lublin, ca. 1930s. At the time, the replica was the only model of the Temple in the world and drew international visitors, both Jewish and non-Jewish. (YIVO)

In 1939, Lublin was home to approximately 38,000 Jews (31% of the city’s population); this number rose to 45,000 (including 6,300 refugees) by 1941. A Judenrat was created in 1940 (its head was Henryk Beker), and a ghetto ultimately accommodating 34,000 people (including Jews deported from the Reich) was established in March 1941. Lublin was a headquarters of Odilo Globocnik, the SS and police leader responsible for Aktion Reinhard. The city also contained a prisoner-of-war camp for soldiers of Jewish origin. Mass deportations began in March 1942; the ghetto’s inhabitants were deported mostly to Bełżec and Majdanek. The last liquidation Aktion took place in July 1944.

In September 1944, the Central Committee of Jews in Poland (Centralny Komitet Żydów w Polsce; CKŻP) was established in Lublin and became the first postwar Jewish organization; its task was to register and support survivors. After 1944, a few thousand Jews who had survived the war in the Soviet Union settled in Lublin; however, the continuing antisemitism in Polish society caused most of them to emigrate before 1950. Nearly all of those who remained left Poland in 1968.

Lublin’s Jewish community numbered less than 50 in 2000 and was associated with the Warsaw Jewish Religious Community. A local branch of Towarzystwo Społeczno-Kulturalne Żydów (Social-Cultural Association of Jews) exists, and Lublin has a prayer house and a memorial display. The Jewish community reclaimed the building that had been the Yeshivat Ḥakhme Lublin, though its future use had not been determined by 2005. The old cemetery in Lublin is one of the oldest preserved Jewish cemeteries in Poland.

Suggested Reading

Majer Bałaban, Die Judenstadt von Lublin (Berlin, 1919), translated into Polish by Jan Doktór as Żydowskie miasto w Lublinie (Lublin, 1991); Yehoshua Baumol (Boimel), A Blaze in the Darkening Gloom: The Life of Rav Meir Shapiro, trans. Charles Wengrov (Jerusalem and New York, 1994); Jerzy J. Bojarski, ed., Ścieżki pamięci: Żydowskie miasto w Lublinie; Losy, miejsca, historia (Lublin, 2002), in Polish and English; Dos bukh fun Lublin (Paris, 1952); Robert Kuwałek and Wiesław Wysok, Lublin: Jerozolima królestwa polskiego (Lublin, 2001); Tadeusz Radzik, Yeshivah Hakhmei Lublin, English trans. Artur Blaim (Lublin, 1994); Tadeusz Radzik, Lubelska dzielnica zamknięta (Lublin, 1999).



Translated from Polish by Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov