Kazimierz Jewish Quarter in Krakow

 

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Kazimierz District lies to the south of Wawel Hill. In ancient times it was an island, a branch of Vistula river which does not exist anymore, separated the island from the Krakow Old Town. There were two settlements here: Skalka, which was a pagan religious centre before Christianity and village of Bawol. In 1335 King Kazimierz the Great engulfed those settlements and established a new town here and named it after himself.


Town has its own main square, town hall and defensive walls. In 1791 it was incorporated into Krakow, but physically was joined to the city in 1880 when branch of Vistula was filled in. The riverbed was where today's Dietla street runs. Mass settlements of Jews started here in the time of King Jan I Olbracht who gave such orders after blaming Jews for starting the blaze of big fire in Krakow in 1494. Until 1782 Jews were not allowed to settle outside the ghetto in Kazimierz which was separated by walls from the rest of town. Later on, thanks to Emperor Joseph II, Jews could assimilate and after many years only those poor and ultra-conservative stayed in Kazimierz. Today Kazimierz Quarter remained almost unchanged, only renovated a bit thanks to money invested by Jewish associations. The absence of the original Jewish inhabitants has been balanced out by a growing artistic community. It is easy to feel its unique atmosphere while strolling down narrow, historical streets of Kazimierz.



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