By Leah Leonidas
The Krakow District is a district within the city of Krakow, which has 18 districts in total. Jews controlled most of the Krakow District, the more affluent Jews residing in central Krakow and the poorer Jews residing in the nearby district of Kazimierz.1 Before the outbreak of World
War II, Jews held many prominent positions, such as lawyers, journalists, and physicians. Many Jews worked in various types of manufacturing and the sale of material goods such as cotton, linen, and metals.2 However, in the 1930s Jews were not allowed by law to work in civil services or banks and very few worked as public school teachers and railroad workers.3
Jewish businesses in the Krakow district were nearly non-existent after the Germans invaded Poland and occupied Krakow in September 1939. The discrimination of Jews began almost immediately and many were forced to fill trenches dug for defense of the town. There were approximately 70,000 Jews residing in Krakow during this time, which was an increase due to the Jews that fled into the city from the countryside and the arrival of Jews that were deported from the German-occupied District Wartheland in Poland. Krakow was the capital of Krakow District and the first District Governor after Germany occupied Krakow was SS Major General Otto Wächter.
Due to the German occupation of Krakow District, instead of working previous occupations Jews were required to report for forced labor beginning in October of 1939. For example, Germans seized Jews and made them clear snow during the winter. Jews were also required to identify themselves by wearing a white armband with a blue Star of David. All Jewish enterprises and premises were taken by the Germans by the end of February of 1940. By March 1940, Jews began to be expelled to the neighboring countryside by the Germans. The SS and police expelled more than 55,000 Jews by March of 1941. By September of 1940, Jews were to be concentrated in ghettos. The remaining 15,000 to 20,000 Jews in the city lived in these ghettos in Krakow, which were enclosed by barbed-wire fences and sometimes stone walls.
Inside the ghettos, the Germans established factories, including the Optima and the Madritsch textile factories, in which Jews reported for forced labor.
On October 28, 1942, nearly half the remaining Jews, approximately 6,000, were deported by he Germans to Belzec in Poland, the first extermination camp created by the Nazis as part of the Final Solution. During this operation, the SS shot and killed about 600 Jews in the ghetto, half of which were children.4
- Jewish Ghetto in Krakow | Krakow Ghetto | Podgorze.” Jewish Ghetto in Krakow | Krakow Ghetto | Podgorze. Accessed April 06, 2016.http://www.local-life.com/krakow/articles/krakow-ghetto.
- JRI – Poland Business Directory Project.” JRI – Poland Business Directory Project. Accessed April 06, 2016. http:// jri-poland.org/bizdir/start.htm.
- Poland Virtual Jewish History Tour | Jewish Virtual Library.” Poland Virtual Jewish History Tour | Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed April 06, 2016.http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vjw/Poland.html.
- “Krakow (Cracow).” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. January 29, 2016. Accessed April 06, 2016. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005169.