First Jews in Kazimierz were settled probably during the reign of Casimier the Great, however first compact town, so called Oppidum Judeorumexists since 1497 when the king John Albert expulsed Jews from Krakow to adjacent city of Kazimierz. He chose for them eastern part of the city. Soon they inhabited the area by demarcating narrow and long square (today called Szeroka-street), one synagogue (Old Synagogue), cemetery (today meadow in northern part of the square), probably yeshiva (Jewish school), mikvah and wooden houses around. They separated themselves from Christian part by erecting the wall. To the Jewish part, so called Oppidum Judeorum, one could enter through 3 gates, today only one exists.
Until the mid of 16th century the society was composed exclusively of Ashkenazi Jews. However, in 16th century, because of religious situation in Europe, to Kazimierz came dozens Jews of another Sephardi branch. Those two branches, with two kinds of Talmud lived in peace, the then Rabbi, Moise Isserles, created one common Talmud for the whole society. Mose made something that anyone did before, he adjusted Ashkenazi and Sephardi versions of Talmud. Today Isserless’ grave is one of the most visited for Jewish sacral places in Europe.
At the beginning of 17th century Oppidum Judeorum was enlarged to the west. Jewish build two more synagogues – Synagogue of Isaac Jakubowicz and Synagogue Kupa. The second performed another function, as a place of worship for patients curing in adjacent hospital.
Until 1822 Oppidum Judeorum was the only legal settlement of Jews in Krakow (in 1800 Kazimierz was incorporated to Krakow). When the Jews got right to settle in any place in Krakow, soon they inhabited various parts of the city, mostly Kazimierz and Podgórze. Just before the II World war there was about 65 thousand Jews in Krakow. They created about one fourth of the inhabitants of Krakow.
II World War was the most tragic time in Jewish history. In 1941 Germans created ghetto in the Podgórze district and in 1942 they started preparing Labor Camp in nearby Płaszów. Most of the Jewish did not survive the war.
Today Krakow is inhabited by about 170 Jews. They practice they worship in several synagogues which after 1989 got sacral function.
Literature in English:
• Duda Eugeniusz, Jewish Cracow. A guide to the Jewish historical buildings and monuments of Cracow, Krakow 2003
• History and outline of spatial development of the Jewish town in Kazimierz, summary in English in: Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, t. IV Miasto Kraków, cz. 4 Kazimierz i Stradom, red. Izabella Rejduch-Samkowa i Jan Samek, Warszawa 1995