Lublin's Guidebooks – Following the Traces of Lublin Jews
The trail contains existing and non-existent places connected with the history and culture of the Jews living in Lublin before the II World War.
- The map of the trail
- Stop 1: The Grodzka Gate
- Stop 2: The Lamp of Memory
- Stop 3: The Plac Zamkowy (the Castle Square). The plaque commemorating the Jewish city
- Stop 4: The site of the House of Yaakov Yitzhak Horowitz-Sternfeld – "the Seer of Lublin"
- Stop 5: The site of the former Great Lublin Synagogue – Maharshal-shul
- Stop 6: The Well on Former Szeroka Street
- Stop 7: The Old Jewish Cemetery
- Stop 8: The New Jewish Cemetery
- Stop 9: The Yeshivah Hakhmei Lublin (The Academy of Sages of Lublin, Rabbinical Academy)
- Stop 10: The former Jewish hospital
- Stop 11: The Peretz’s Centre of Jewish Culture
- Stop 12: The Anna Langfus's Family House
- Stop 13: The Chewra Nosim Synagogue
- Stop 14: The Place After Gate to the Ghetto
- Stop 15: The Kowalska Street
- Stop 16: The Seat of the Central Jewish Committee in Poland and the Vivodship Committee of Jews in Lublin
- Stop 17: The Orphanage for the Jewish children (the "Shelter")
- Stop 18: The Henio Żytomirski’s house
- Stop 19: The Monument to the Victims of the Lublin Ghetto
The map of the trail
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For many centuries Lublin was a vibrant centre of Hebrew and Yiddish culture and where Judaism flourished so much that historiographers referred to Lublin as the "Jerusalem of the Polish Kingdom" or the "Jewish Oxford". The first records of the Lublin Jews date back to the second half of the 15th century and coincide with the sojourn of Rabbi Jacob of Trento. At the beginning of the 16th century a separate Jewish quarter was established at the foot of the castle. Next Jewish settlements extented around the castle and in the Old Town giving rise to what later became known as the Jewish District. From the 16th to the 17th century Lublin was the seat of the Council of the Four Lands (Waad Arba Aratsot) which became the supreme body of local government or all Jews who inhabited the Kingdom of Poland. Here in the 17th century Yaakov Yitzkak Horowitz ("The Seer of Lublin") and the father of the Polish Hasidic Movement was born. The international fame of Lublin is also credited to Isaac Bashevis Singer. One of his highly acclaimed novels – "The Magician of Lublin" – describes the life of the Jewish community in the 19th century. Jews had always constituted a significant proportion of Lublin's inhabitants. In 1602, for instance, some 2000 Jews lived here. It was ¼ of the total population of the town. In 1931 lived here 38 937 Jews. It was 34,6% of the total population of the town. Much of the Jewish material culture was destroyed during II World War as a result of the Nazi's extermination and systematic liquidation of the entire Jewish district.
Stop 1: The Grodzka Gate
The Grodzka Gate is one of the first brick elements of the city’s fortifications built in 1342 with the permission granted by King Kazimierz Wielki. At the end of the 18th c. the reconstruction of the building was carried out according to the design by Dominic Merlini. Throughout centuries the Grodzka Gate was also called the Jewish Gate, because it used to be a passage from the Old Town to the Jewish District. With the passage of time, it became a place on borderland of two worlds: the Christian and the Jewish one. At present, the "Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre" Centre is located here, where are collected the materials connected with Lublin’s history and cultural heritage.
READ more >>> about the building of Grodzka Gate
READ more >>> about The "Grodzka Gate – Theatre NN" Center
READ more >>> about the history of The "Grodzka Gate – Theatre NN" Center
Stop 2: The Lamp of Memory
The Lamp of Memory – the "eternal lamp" – was lit in the place after the old Jewish District out of the "Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre" Centre initiative in 2004 as a commemoration of the world which no longer exists. It is one of the last extant pre-war street lamps in Lublin. The lit lamp does not go out night and day. By being lit day and night it reminds us about the Jewish city and its dwellers. It is a testimony of our remembrance about the world which no longer exists. Before the II World War the lamp was located on crossroads of Krawiecka Street and Podwale Street.
READ more >>> about the Lamp of Memory
Stop 3: The Plac Zamkowy (the Castle Square). The plaque commemorating the Jewish city
At the foot of Lublin Castle, on the right side of the stairs is a plaque displaying the plan of the old Jewish city. There are information written in Polish and Yiddish – the everyday language of the disctrict dwellers. There are only few houses and streets left in comparison to what is presented on the plan. The plaque was created in 80s of the 20th c. thanks to great effort made by Symcha Wajs. Before the II World War in the place where it is located there were buildings of Szeroka Street.
Stop 4: The site of the House of Yaakov Yitzhak Horowitz-Sternfeld – "the Seer of Lublin"
The plaque on the building at the Castle Square 10 commemorates the personage of a prominent man from Lublin – Yaakov Yitzhak Horowitz-Sternfeld – the "Seer of Lublin". He was a tzaddikim, one of the spiritual leaders of Hassidic movement, a student of Elimelech from Leżajsk. The "Seer of Lublin" founded the manor house and the synagogue at Szeroka Street 28.
Stop 5: The site of the former Great Lublin Synagogue – Maharshal-shul
At Jateczna Street there was the oldest and the biggest synagogue in Lublin, also called Maharshal-shul's Synagogue after the name of Salomon Luria (1510–1573), one of the greatest rabbins and rectors of the local yeshiva during the Old Polish times. The building was built around 1567, after the King Zygmunt August granted the permission for the building of synagogue and college. In former times, there was here a wooden synagogue built on the plot of land given to the Jews of Lublin by Izaack Maj. Together with the Maharshal’s synagogue, under the same roof there functioned the smaller Mahram synagogue and the small Szywe Kryjem synagogue.
The reconstruction of the synagogue took place in 1855–1862, after the ceiling had collapsed. Only the old walls and Aron Ha-Kadesz were left after the old synagogue. The whole Jewish community of Lublin collected money for the reconstruction of their place of prayers. During the II World War Maharshal’s synagogue ceased its functioning as a religious building. The building was turned into a foundling hospital for the uprooted and refugees. There was a kitchen here, where the poorest ghetto inhabitants were given food. At the time of the liquidation of the Lublin ghetto, the Nazi turned Maharshal’s synagogue into a rallying point for people who were transported to the extermination camp in Bełżec. After the liquidation of the ghetto, similarly to the majority of buildings located in Podzamcze, the synagogue was pulled down. At present, on the place of its former location, there is a commemoration plaque.
>>>read more about the Maharshal synagogue
Stop 6: The Well on Former Szeroka Street
The well located nowadays in the centre of the bus station, till the end of the II World War functioned as a well supplying water for the dwellers of this part of the city. Today, it is a forgotten, voiceless witness of history, which was the centre of Szeroka Street during the pre-war times. The well came into being in 1865. Until now the building remained almost in its original form. In 1970 the well no longer functioned, without the owner and the user. It was described as a "dilapidated building for demolition". Nevertheless, on September 30th in 1972 it was listed in the register of historic buildings.
>>>Read more about the architecture of the well
Stop 7: The Old Jewish Cemetery
From 15th to 19th c. it was a place of interment of the Jewish population. We can find here the oldest extant up to our times gravestone located on its original place. It commemorates Jacob Kopelman who died in 1541. Near this tombstone there are also tombstones of rabbi Szalom Szachna and Salomon Luria. The most impressive is a metal tent built over the grave of Jacob Isaac Horovitz-Sternfeld – the “Seer of Lublin”. In the Jewish cemetery of Lublin there are tombstones from different periods of time, and thanks to this it is possible to trace back the development of sepulchral art typical to the Jewish cemetery.
Up to the 17th c. the Jewish tombstones were plain, with the inscriptions presenting the life and character of the dead person. However, in the 17th c. the decorative art of matzevahs developed. On the matzevahs we can find many depictions, expressed especially by means of animals and plants motifs. Judaism forbids depicting a human being, therefore the only picture appearing on the tombstones displays human hands (presented in gesture of blessing – signifies the tombstones of people from the line of priests; presented as a hand holding a pitcher – signifies somebody from the line of Levite, who cleansed priests’ hands; the tombstones of the writers were signed by the picture of hand holding a pen or books). Apart from that we can find here the images of objects connected with the cult (seven-branched candlestick is a symbol of Judaism and of the Temple in Jerusalem) or connected with the occupation. It is worth adding that frequently the animals signified the name of the deceased e.g. the lion symbolizes the names Arie and Lejb, the deer symbolizes the names Ciwi and Hersz, and the dove symbolizes Jona. The tombstones of women are very characteristic. There are presented broken trees or candles (a woman lights the Shabbat candles on Friday night). Women’s tombstones were located in a separate places, far from the male tombstones.
Stop 8: The New Jewish Cemetery
Because there was no place for further interments on the Old Cemetery, the new one was opened in 1831. With the passage of time, there were buried here the most imminent representatives of the Jewish municipality of Lublin, among others: Majer Szapiro, members of the Eiger dynasty, Marek Arnsztajn. The cemetery was completely destroyed by the Nazi in 1942. The fixing and commemoration on the cemetery area took place in 80s of the 20th c. as a result of the initiative taken by the Frenkl Family Charity.
Stop 9: The Yeshivah Hakhmei Lublin (The Academy of Sages of Lublin, Rabbinical Academy)
The building was designed by engineer Agenor Smoluchowski in 1926. It was erected in years 1928–1930. In 1930 thanks to the commitment of rabbi Meir Szapira there was established Rabbinical Academy. Its potent building remains intact. Inside there were: a room for prayer in the shape of rectangle, with built-in galleries supported by round columns. The Academy was famous for its perspicacious teachers and extensive collection of books in the library. In 1939 the Germans changed the school into a hospital. After the war the building became the Medical Academy. In 2002 it was given back to the Jewish municipality. In the renovated part of the building, on the ground floor in one of the rooms there is a place for prayer. In the 11th of February 2007 the synagogue was re-opened. In the rooms adjacent to the synagogue we may look at the exhibition keeping a record of the Yeshivah’s history and commemorating the personage of its founder: Majer Szapiro. In the 4th of November 2008, in 75th anniversary of rabbi Majer Jehuda Szapiro’s death there was unveiled the refurbished Aron Ha-kodesz and the renovated mykwa was made available to the public use.
>>>Read more about the building of the yeshivah
Stop 10: The former Jewish hospital
The hospital was built in 1886 with the funds of the Jewish Religious Congregation. Despite many financial problems during the mid-war period it was a very well equipped medical service. The most prominent Jewish doctors treated patients here. The first chief resident was dr. Beniamin Tec. In the hospital, there worked also Jacob Cynberg, Marek Arnsztajn – the husband of a poet Franciszka Arnsztajnowa, or Henryk Mandelbaum. Today, the sign of the past is the plaque on the hospital wall, commemorating its history.
>>>read more about the building of the hospital
Stop 11: The Peretz’s Centre of Jewish Culture
Szkolna St. 18
The Jewish I.L. Peretz’s Centre of Jewish Culture is currently a seat of the National Health’s Fund (Narodowy Fundusz Zdrowia). The building was built in the 30s of the 20th c. The initiative of the building center came from Bund's activists, who wanted to built the centre of culture comprising school, library, theatre and cinema. The ceremony of opening was supposed to take place on the 1st of September 1939. During the II World War the building was adapted for hospital. After the War Peretz’s Center became a centre of Jewish Life in Lublin, and functioned as a shelter for people who had lost their belongings at the time of war. Until 1949, there was a primary school for the Jewish children located in the building. After 1949 Peretz’s House was given to the Medical Academy.
Stop 12: The Anna Langfus's Family House
Lubartowska St. 24
Anna Langfus was born in 1920 in Lublin. She was a novelist, playwright and the author of texts about the extermination and the tragedy of the survivors. She was one of the first novelist who focused on these issues in her literature. After the war she lived in Paris and gained recognition as a Francophone writer. Her writings were translated into several languages. She received the most important French literary award Prix Goncourt for her novel "The Baggages of Sand" in 1962. In Poland, Anna Langfus’ work was almost unknown. The first edition of her book in Polish "Skazana na życie" (Sentenced to life) is an autobiographic account from the times of occupation, presented in the form of a novel’s fiction.
READ more >>> about Anna Langfus
Stop 13: The Chewra Nosim Synagogue
Lubartowska St. 10
It was built in 1889 as one of many private prayer houses. In the mid-war period it was used by the Jewish Funeral Society – "Chewra Nosim". Inside the building Mosze Ajzenberg and Dawid Muszkatblit conducted famous Talmud lectures. The synagogue survived the II World War because it was not located on the ghetto area. It functioned as the prayer house till 1984. After the renovation carried out in 1987 it is the Chamber Memory of the Jews of Lublin. Formerly, it was possible to find admirable exhibits in its collection. After the theft in 1995 there remained much less of them. Nevertheless, it is an exceptional place, strictly connected with the Jewish culture and tradition. This is the only place, which shows the visitors the most important aspects connected with religious and everyday life of the Jews. Among the exhibits there are several books belonging to the former library Yeshivah Hakhmei Lublin and objects connected with the religious cult.
>>>read more about the Chewra Nosim Synagogue
Stop 14: The Place After Gate to the Ghetto
The gate to the ghetto was located on the crossroads of Nowa, Kowalska and Lubartowska streets. The ghetto was created in Lublin on the 20th of March 1941, pursuant to the governor of Lublin dictrict – Ernst Emil Zoener’s order to create a closed Jewish Disctrict. The ghetto extended over the area from Grodzka Street to Lubartowska turnpike and embraced almost the entire area of Podzamcze. Referring to the initial period of the functioning of the ghetto, prof. Tadeusz Radzik states that: "The ghetto in Lublin was not closed at that time. Basically, it was, in the German nomenclature, a non-fenced Jewish Housing District with the possibility of moving around the town (except for several streets). At this stage the major aim was to gather the Jews in one part of the city". In 1940/1941 the number of Jews living in Lublin was estimated to be around 43 195 and increasing. In June 1941, Ernst Emil Zoerner ordered building the a three-meter high wall surrounding the ghetto. However, the wall had never been built. In 1942, the ghetto was divided into part A and B. The action of liquidation was carried out between the 17th of March and the 15th of April 1942. Around 28 thousands of people had been transported to the extermination camp in Bełżec.
Stop 15: The Kowalska Street
Together with Lubartowska Street, Cyrulicza Street and Furmańska Street Kowalska Street formed a block of tenement-houses. The biggest number of authentic buildings from the times of the Jewish District can be spotted here. Originally, it was a traffic route at the foot of the Old Town hill, leading from the downtown, beside the castle, to Kalinowszczyzna. Before the II World War, Kowalska Street was linked with Szeroka Street.
>>> read more about Kowalska Street
Stop 16: The Seat of the Central Jewish Committee in Poland and the Vivodship Committee of Jews in Lublin
Noworybna St. 3
Since August 1944, in the building there had been functioning the Central Jewish Committee in Poland (in 1945 transferred to Warsaw) and the Vivodship Committee of Jews in Lublin (functioning until 1949). The institutions located in the building were supposed to reactivate the Jewish community in the post-war Poland by means of running the Jewish school, collecting information from the survivors.
Stop 17: The Orphanage for the Jewish children (the "Shelter")
Grodzka St. 11
At Grodzka Street, in the building number 11 there were located: the Orphanage for the Jewish children, the offices of the Jewish Religious Congregation and the Shelter Room for the elderly and disabled Jewish people. The orphanage was created thanks to the commitment and dedication of the shoemaker Berk Cwajg. With the passage of time, there was set up a school which gave basic and occupational education to the orphanage inhabitants. During the II World War in the orphanage was situated the Judenrat (the Jewish council created by the Nazi, which was supposed to act as an intermediary between the invader and the Jewish community). On the 24th of March 1942, the Nazi transported all children and nurses, together with the elderly people to the meadows located in Tatary, where all of them were shot.
Stop 18: The Henio Żytomirski’s house
It is the house in which Henio Żytomirski was born. The fate of Henio and his family is a record of the history of the Jewish community in Lublin. Henio Żytomirski was born in 1933. There are several extant photos, taken at the beginning of war, in which Henio is present either embraced by his father, or with his mother on Litewski Square, or together with his grandfather on Krakowskie Przedmieście, at the birthday party, or when saying goodbye to his uncle Leon going to Palestine in 1937. We do not know what was happening with Henio during the II World War. It is certain, that after setting up the ghetto in Podzamcze the family of Żytomirski moved out from Szewska Street 3 to Kowalska Street 11. It is probable, that after the liquidation of the ghetto Henio together with his father were transported to the ghetto in Majdan Tatarski. Later, he was transported to Majdanek. We do not know what happened after that. The history of the family was recreated thanks to his cousin Netta Żytomirska-Avidar who, after visiting the "Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre" Centre, had given albums showing Henio and his family’s fate.
Stop 19: The Monument to the Victims of the Lublin Ghetto
The monument was exposed in 1962, on the 20th anniversary of the extermination of the ghetto in Lublin, out of the initiative of Izydor Sznajdman – a chairman of the Towarzystwo Społeczno-Kulturalne Żydów in Lublin. The shape of the memorial resembles the shape of tombstone (matzevah). The inscription placed on the memorial contains the fragment of a poem by Icchak Kacenelson "Seeking my dear and near in each handful of ashes...". Originally, the memorial was located at Świętoduska Street, nearby the place where was the main gate leading to the ghetto. In 2002 it was moved to Niecała Street next to the Primary School No 24.
Edited by: Monika Szabłowska-Zaremba, Joanna Zętar
Translated by: Agnieszka Pupiec
You can visit Lublin on the trail "Following the traces of Lublin Jews" by means of your mobile phone with the use of "Augmented Reality".
More details on the website: www.przewodniki.teatrnn.pl