There is no specific date that marks the beginning of Jewish immigration to Poland, yet it is pegged somewhere around the 10th century. By the middle of the 16th century, it was estimated that almost 80% of the world Jewry had made Poland their home as Jews from all over Europe sought refuge from persecution. Religious life thrived and the Jews of Poland left an indelible mark on Judaism as a whole.
During the Nazi reign of terror, the Jews were subjected to a level of suffering unknown to mankind. After WW II, Jewish survivors were faced with the challenge of trying to reconstruct their lives in a Poland where Jewish life had ceased to exist or to try and create new lives elsewhere.
Transfers – by motorcoach throughout the tour
Tour Escort – English speaking tour escort throughout the tour
Porterage – one normal sized piece of luggage per person at the hotels
Accommodation – based on double occupancy in 4 or 5 star hotels with private facilities
Meals – Buffet breakfast at the hotel and lunch/or dinner at a local restaurant
Local guides – obligatory local guides for city tours
Sightseeing and visit as outlined
Entrance fees – Nozyk Synagogue, Okopowa Jewish Cemetery, Treblinka, Tykocin Synagogue, Majdanek, Poznanski Palace Lodz, Jewish Cemetery in Lodz, Residence of “Ksiezy Mlyn”, Remuh Synagogue and Cemetery in Krakow, Schindler Factory, Pharmacy under the Eagle, Temple Synagogue, Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, Jewish Center in Oswiecim, Jewish Cemtery in Tarnow, Synagogue in Lancut
Special Features – two private lectures in Krakow
Airfare, taxes, insurance, gratuities
Warsaw, Bialystock, Lublin, Lodz and Krakow
2 nights Warsaw, 1 night Bialystok, 1 night Lublin, 1 night Lodz, 4 nights Krakow
Arrival in Warsaw. Upon arrival, you will be met, assisted by your tour escort and transferred to your hotel. After completing check-in formalities, there will be time for relaxation before an orientation walk along the Old Town with its beautiful tenement houses, galleries and restaurants. In the early evening we gather for a welcome dinner to be served at one of the local restaurants located in the Old Town.
Following breakfast we are joined by our expert guide for a full day tour of Warsaw which includes the Nozyk Synagogue devastated during the occupation and renovated after the war serving all believers to this very day. Next is the Okopowa Jewish Cemetery, the largest one in Warsaw founded at the beginning of the 19th century. Many beautiful and richly ornamented gravestones displaying lions, deer, plant life and trees can be seen. Several eminent politicians are buried at this cemetery.
Continue to the Warsaw Ghetto area which includes the site of the bunker on Mila Street, the place where the chief staff of the Jewish Combat Organization committed suicide. You will also see the monumental Memorial of the Heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto located on the square which was once the site of one of the main bunkers of the Jewish Combat Organization and the Umschlagplatz. Return to your hotel to freshen up before dinner.
We leave Warsaw this morning for Bialystok stopping halfway between Warsaw and Bialystok to visit Treblinka, the site of the former Nazi concentration camp where 800.000 Jews tragically perished. See the monument, mausoleum and symbolic cemetery. Continuing our drive we come to Tykocin located near Bialystok where we will see a beautifully restored early Baroque masonry synagogue, a typical example of Jewish religious architecture now housing the Museum of Judaics. Overnight in Bialystok.
This morning we drive to Lublin, a place where a Jewish community settled in the mid-14th century and grew so rapidly that some 200 years later, the town had the third-largest Jewish population in Poland after Krakow and Lviv. In the mid-18th century Jews formed half of the city’s inhabitants. Return to Lublin for overnight.
Morning departure for Lodz. En route a stop will be made in picturesque town of Kazimierz Dolny, one of the most beautifully situated little towns in Poland. It enjoyed its greatest prosperity in the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century due to grain trade conducted along the Vistula River. It has become an economic backwater after that trade declined and this halt in economic development enabled the town to preserve its Renaissance urban plan and appearance.
From the 19th century onwards it has become a popular holiday destination attracting artists and summer residents. The history of Kazimierz Dolny is intimately linked with Jewish culture. From the town’s beginnings, Jews formed an important and expanding part of the community becoming the majority during the 19th century. Before World War II they formed over half the town’s population. Continue to Lodz for overnight.
After breakfast a tour of Lodz, one of the largest Jewish centers in Poland until the outbreak of World War II. Manufacturers of Jewish origin determined the character of 19th century Lodz. Their presence is recorded in the history of the city and its industry. Several large textile mills were in the hands of Jewish industrialists such as the Poznanski, Kohn, Ejtingon and Wislicki families. There is a rich and beautiful architecture from this period. Its characteristics features are magnificent Jewish palaces which decorations were of fashionable extravagance.
A prime example of how the barons of industry lived in Lodz, before World War II is the “Ksiezy Mlyn” residence awarded an honorary medal from the Europe Nostra Organization for its excellent reconstruction. Jewish contribution to the Polish culture was immense. The city’s most famous sons were Aleksander Tansman, the world famous composer; the pianist Artur Rubinstein and the poet Julian Tuwim. Also strongly represented is a Jewish painter named Jakiel Adler. Finally we will visit the Jewish “cemetery palaces” situated in the Jewish cemetery, the largest Jewish graveyard in Europe.
An afternoon departure takes us to Krakow, one of the most beautiful cities in Poland strongly connected with its Jewish presence. On arrival check into your hotel.
Tour of Krakow’s Old Town with the Main Market Square with its magnificent houses and palaces. There is a Cloth Hall lined in the middle of the Market Square built before 1349 and altered in the 16th century with many shopping stalls located inside the Cloth Hall. There is also a National Museum located on the first floor of the Cloth Hall which has a collection of Polish sculptures and paintings dating from the 18th to the 20th century.
Another characteristic element of the architecture on Market Square is the magnificent extensive Gothic Church of Our Lady with its famous wooden altar created by Wit Stwosz. During the tour you will be invited to a lecture with slides entitled: “Polish Jews before and after World War II”. The tour also includes a visit to Kazimierz – a former Jewish district town with its own Market Square, Town Hall and thriving culture.
Watch a short movie about Kazimierz district in the Center for Jewish Culture. You will also see a magnificent Gothic Old Synagogue and the Remuh Synagogue with the adjoining Renaissance cemetery. Visit the newest renovated Tempel Synagogue built for progressive Jews, decorated with stuccoes, paintings and stained glass. Return to the hotel at the end of the tour.
We invite you to a lecture given by former Director of the Center for Jewish Culture in Krakow, Mr. Robert Gadek, entitled: “History of Galician Chassidism”, a movement for religious renewal that had its genesis on Polish land under the leadership of the legendary Baalszem-tov. Afterwards we recommend a field trip to the places connected with Oscar Schindler including his factory and the Plaszow death camp where the Nazis relocated many Jews. Most of the events portrayed in the film “Schindler’s List” took place there.
We will also visit the moving museum entitled “Pharmacy under the Eagle”. It’s located in the Podgorze district of Krakow and is the actual site of Jewish ghetto during Nazi occupation. The museum tells the story of Tadeusz Pankiewicz, a Polish pharmacist who chose to remain in the ghetto for several years dispensing free medicines to the suffering Jewish community. Heartfelt letters of gratitude sent after the Second World War and chilling photographs of ghetto life are interspersed with the mortar, pestles and vials of his pharmacy. Afterwards transfer to Oswiecim to see the largest death factory in the history of humanity. The site of the camp now houses the Oswiecim State Museum which displays exhibits and documents concerning Nazi crimes. See a short documentary movie.
We will also visit the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oswiecim. The New York based Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation Inc. established in 1995 and the Polish-based Fundacja Zydowskie Centrum Edukacyjne founded in 1996 share the same mission: to establish and support a cultural center in Oswiecim that provides all visitors with an opportunity to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust through the study of the life and culture of a former Jewish town. The Auschwitz Jewish Center is a place of understanding, education, memory and prayer. Together with Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue it offers opportunities for study, discussion and archival research. Overnight in Krakow.
Morning transfer to Tarnow to visit an old Jewish district and the Jewish Cemetery that dates from the 17th century and features about 3000 tombstones. The original gate to the cemetery is now on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Continue to Rzeszow where we will see the 18th century New Town Synagogue now an art gallery and the 17th century Old Town Synagogue now the city’s registry and a center for studies on the history of local Jews.
Travel onwards to Lancut where you will see the biggest and the most beautiful synagogue in Poland built in the 1760’s. It has retained much of its decoration and has been opened as a museum. Return to Krakow for the farewell dinner. Overnight in Krakow.
In the morning time for a last walk through the charming city of Krakow with its fine architecture, colorful mosaic of cultures and traditions before being transferred to the airport for departure.
TOURS ARE BASED ON A MINIMUM OF 20 PARTICIPANTS, BUT CAN BE CUSTOMIZED FOR INDIVIDUALS BASED ON THEIR SPECIFIC REQUESTS.