Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 23: Jews in Krakow

Paperback / softback
Few Polish cities have evoked more affection from their Jewish inhabitants than Krakow, and this volume brings together the work of leading historians from Israel, Poland, Great Britain, and the United States to explore how this relationship evolved. It takes as its starting point 1772, when Poland was partitioned between the Great Powers and Krakow came under Austrian rule, and examines the relationship between the Jewish minority and the Polish majority in the city in the different stages of its history down to the period of German occupation in the Second World War. An additional perspective is provided by a consideration of how Jewish life in Krakow has been remembered by Holocaust survivors, and how it is portrayed in post-war Polish literature. The main explanation for the specific nature of relations between Poles and Jews in Krakow as it emerges from these studies seems to be that Jewish acculturation to Polish culture was more pronounced in Krakow than anywhere else in Poland. The Jewish community as a whole opened itself up to contemporary currents and participated in the life of the city, above all in its cultural dimension, while nevertheless retaining a highly articulated sense of Jewish identity and unity. This meant that they were able both to defend their interests effectively and to establish links with the rest of the population from a position of strength. An additional important factor appears to have been the more tolerant atmosphere which prevailed in the Austro-Hungarian empire, which meant that ethnic tensions were less acute than elsewhere on the Polish lands. Furthermore, the fact that the city was largely pre-industrial and conservative, and was a spiritual and intellectual centre for both Catholics and Jews, may paradoxically have mitigated ethnic conflict, as did the fact that the two societies-Polish and Jewish-were largely socially separate. While the increase in antisemitism after 1935 and the consequences of the Holocaust are still etched in the minds of many, the city nevertheless has a special place in Jewish hearts and will continue to be remembered as one of the great centres of Jewish culture in east-central Europe. As in other volumes of Polin, the New Views section examines a number of important topics. These include a general investigation of the situation of the Jews in Galicia; an analysis of the position of Jewish slave labourers in the Kielce area under Nazi rule; an investigation into the resurgence after 1944 of the myth of ritual murder; and a discussion of the history of the Jewish settlement in Lower Silesia after the Second World War.