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From Żydowska street to Umschlagplatz (2)

Jacek Leociak

     The first documentary evidence of the presence of Jews in Warsaw dates from the early 15th century. It speaks of the well developed life of a community mainly engaged in trade, usury and medicine. They lived within the city walls on Żydowska ("Jewish") Street in one of the busiest and most densely populated parts of the town. Żydowska Street was linked to the Market Square by W±ski Dunaj Street, and yet lay near the city mills which stood at the Podwale-Street end of Piekarska Street, right by the defensive walls. A brick synagogue stood at the corner of Żydowska and Dunaj streets. Aside from the explanations of the origins of Dunaj Street's name from the stream that once flowed here, there is another that it derives from the devout cries of "Adonai" coming from the synagogue.

Żelaznej Bramy sq. before I World War     In Old Warsaw Jews settled on land belonging to the Mazovian dukes and subject to their jurisdiction. This was one source of conflict with the Warsaw burghers. In the second half of the 15th century the conflict had gone beyond neighborly disputes, and by the end of the century began a long period of fighting for the right to reside within city limits and for the freedom to trade and practice crafts. While Jews fleeing from persecution found asylum in Poland, Poland was not free from the anti-Jewish feelings prevalent in the Europe of the day. In 1482 or 1483 Duke Bolesław ordered the Jews to leave the city. They moved to nearby towns: New Warsaw, Błonie, Pułtusk and Czersk. They returned after a number of years, only to disappear again at the end of the 15th century. After Mazovia was annexed to the Kingdom of Poland, King Zygmunt the Old issued in 1527 the privilege De non tolerandis Judaeis, forbidding Jews both to live or temporarily stay in Warsaw and its suburbs or to own homes there.

     The times of expulsion and return had come. Jews were allowed to be in the city on special occasions (parliament sessions, trade fairs), while permanent residency was forbidden. Only a few managed to remain in Warsaw by breaking the law or by virtue of individual privileges, thanks to the grace of protectors or special fees and taxes. The rest initially settled in jurydykas, which were privately owned towns outside the city's jurisdiction. They lived in the region of today's Tłomackiego, Bielańska and Senatorska streets and Teatralny Square. They crowded into buildings belonging to the high nobility, e.g. in the outbuildings of Sanguszko Palace in Marywil and in Pociejowski Palace on Senatorska Street. The famous "Pociejów" junk market moved to the corner of Marszałkowska and Królewska streets in 1809, and then in 1864 to the courtyard of a building on Bagno Street. The equally famous Nowa Jerozolima (New Jerusalem) existed in 1774 and 1775. It was a Jewish settlement on the territory of the Bożydar Kałęczyn jurydyka, which belonged to Prince Adam Sułkowski, in the area around today's Zawiszy Square and Główny Train Station. The road leading to this settlement was named Jerozolimskie Avenue, when it already cut across the entire city from the Vistula River to the western tollgates. Nowy ¦wiat, Grzybów, Leszno, Królewska, Marszałkowska, Twarda and Elektoralna - these were just a few of the streets inhabited by Jews. It was only in the 1840s that a distinct concentration could be perceived in the region that later became exclusively Jewish, known as the Northern District or Nalewki-Muranów.

Kierbedzia Bridge, 1940     The peregrinations of the Warsaw Jews can be divided into four main stages. The first: from 1483, i.e. the first banishment of the Jews, to the fall of the Republic. During the Prussian occupation of Warsaw (January 1796 - November 1806) Jews could legally stay in the city if they paid an earlier introduced entry fee and a "kosher fee," but the restrictions multiplied. The second stage was a time of forced moves from one place to another and the slow formation of a Jewish district in the north part of Warsaw. It lasted until June 5, 1862, when a proclamation by the czar lifted the residential restrictions for Jews (so-called restricted streets). The third stage was when Jews attained de jure the right to freely choose their place of residence and when the Jewish district in Warsaw finally took shape. This period lasted until the outbreak of the Second World War. And finally the fourth stage: the time of the ghetto and the Holocaust, marked by two culminating points: the great liquidation campaign of July 22 to Sept. 23, 1942 and the Ghetto Uprising from April 19 to May 12, 1943.

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