Since the Middle Ages history of Lublin is inextricably linked to the life of the Jewish community. For nearly 500 years, the Jewish community co-shaped the character of the city, its spiritual, mental and economic climate. Lublin has become one of the most important cities in the history of Eastern European Jewry, an important center of Jewish science and culture. World War II almost completely destroyed this community.
Zamość remains an example of the Renaissance “ideal city”. Almost from the very beginning, Zamość has gained the characteristic features of a multi-ethnic trading town. It has become an important place on the Jewish map of Poland. The German occupation of Zamość for the Jewish population was an ordeal that ended in death for thousands.
Pre-war Lviv was one of the most beautiful cities in Poland and the third largest in terms of population. The Jewish Community in Lviv was one of the oldest and most important in Polish-Jewish history.
Kolomyia, a city with a very colourful but also tragic history. The nationalities living in Kolomyia have gone through an extremely complicated relationship.
Izbica - a small town in the Lublin region, where almost exclusively Jews lived until 1942. During World War II Izbica ghetto served as a transfer point to the extermination camps in Bełżec and Sobibór for Jews deported from western Europe and Poland. From Izbica, very few Jews survived the Holocaust.
Drohobycz - Bruno Schulz's city. A city of the three cultures. A city where cultural influences of Jews and Ukrainians reflected in its history. In the interwar period, next to Poles and Ukrainians there were approximately 12,000 Jews residing in Drohobycz.
Chortkiv is a beautiful historical town with a large number of architectural monuments and rich, turbulent history. The Jews in Czortkiv were the second largest group after Poles. In 1939, 4,800-5,500 Jews lived in the town, that could hold 22 000 inhabitants.
Przemysl is a city with more than a thousand years of tradition. Like Rome, it lies on seven hills. For centuries Przemysl has been a place where different cultures and nationalities met. The first source documents confirming Jewish presence in Przemysl date back as far as 1030. With time, the qahal of Przemysl became one of the largest and most important Jewish communities in the former Ruthenian voivodeship.
There is nothing left of the Jewish shtetl in Tyszowce. There are no more streets: Zatylna, Mickiewicza, Bożnicza, and Wrześniowa. There is no synagogue, mikveh, and Tarbut school. The Jewish community was destroyed irretrievably. On the first day of Shavuot, 25 May 1942, the Germans herded 800 Jews to the town square and transported them to the Bełżec extermination camp.
For centuries Krakow has remained a multicultural city, whose history was connected with the presence of, among others, Jews. It was a royal city, whose prosperity was ensured by merchants and craftsmen. Artists and scientists contributed to the development of culture and science.
On June 11, 1942, the first of three deportations of Tarnów Jews to the German death camp in Bełżec took place. This is how this tragic day describes Naftali Spanglet:
Jews from Tarnów were taken to Bełżec. During the action, the Germans surrounded the district in the morning. I looked out the window. I was on the market. [...] The commanding officer put Gestapo officers in formation and instructed them how to operate. Those who did not have round stamps were to be displaced. The day before that there was a registration. The Germans gave three types of signs: one for displacement, one for staying on, one for being killed on the spot. Later, we registered.
Before the war, Kolbuszowa was one of many shtetls in the Lviv region. Most of the Kolbuszowa Jews were deported by the Germans in July 1942 along with transports from Rzeszów to the Bełżec death camp and murdered there. With the liquidation of the ghetto, Kolbuszowa lost the religious and cultural diversity created by the local Jews.
On July 7, 1942, the beginning of the Aktion in the Rzeszów ghetto took place. On that day, the Germans sent a transport of about 4,000 Jews to the death camp in Bełżec. This first deportation action was extremely bloody. On July 10, 14, and 17, 1942, further deportations took place.
Dąbrowa Tarnowska was a typical Galician town, where two cultures and religions met in everyday life: Christianity and Judaism. Before the outbreak of World War II, about 2500 Jews lived in Dąbrowa. On July 17, 1942, the Germans deported about 1800 Jews to the death camp in Bełżec from Dąbrowa.
July 21, 1942, was the beginning of the end of the Jewish history of Dębica. On that day, the Jewish residents of the town were transported to the death camp in Bełżec, where they were driven straight to the gas chambers.
On August 27, 1942, at 7 am, the Germans gathered about 6000 Jews from Wieliczka in the Bogucice fields. About 5000 of them were transported to the death camp in Bełżec, 500 - to the forced labor camp in Stalowa Wola, and 200 - to the camp in Płaszów. The rest were taken to Niepołomice Forest and shot.
After taking over Ternopil, the Germans exterminated the Jewish population. Eventually, on June 20, 1943, the ghetto was liquidated. Out of over 18 000 Ternopil Jews, about 800 people survived the war.
Borszczow was a town where Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews lived side by side. On September 26 and 27 the Germans carried out a deportation action, as a result of which about 800 Jews were sent to the death camp in Bełżec, and over 100 people, mostly the elderly and sick, were murdered on the spot.
Isydor Diener in his memoirs "Wspólnota żydowska w Kopyczyńcach" describes the moment of deportation of Kopyczyńce Jews to the death camp in Bełżec in the following way:
On Wednesday, September 30, 1942, on a sunny autumn morning, the town was surrounded by Gestapo, gendarmerie, and Ukrainian police units. The fire department also took part in the action. With a scream: Juden raus! scared people were taken out of their homes. The fire department chopped floors and walls with axes in search of hiding people, even looking into chimneys. (…) About 50 people were shot while trying to escape. Only a few managed to escape. Before the evening about 1200 Jews were rushed to the railroad station, where prepared freight cars waited.
The Jewish community in Bochnia was established in the 15th century. It can be assumed that Jews settled in the town as early as the 13th century, shortly after salt deposits had been discovered. At the turn of the 20th century, there were 2,035 of them, which constituted 21.2 percent of the town’s total population. In 1939, there were approximately 3,000 Jews in Bochnia. When the German occupation began, the victimization of the Jews started as well, assuming different forms. Three extermination actions organized by the Germans, which took place at the end of August 1942, in November 1942, and the beginning of September 1943, led to the murder of almost all the Jews of Bochnia.
Due to its location, Zhovkva was a place that was populated by different nationalities. The town was inhabited by Poles, Russians, Armenians, Germans, and in the last years of the 16th century the presence of Jews was also recorded. . In 1600 Stanisław Żółkiewski allowed Jews to build a ritual bath, a brewery, and kosher slaughterhouse. The famous synagogue was built in the years 1692-1698. In 1931, Zhovkva was inhabited by about 3,000 Jews. The German army entered the town at the end of June 1941. From the beginning of the occupation, various types of repressions against Jews were used. On November 22-23, 1942 the Germans carried out a deportation action, during which they sent about 1700-2400 Jews from Zhovkva to the death camp in Bełżec.
Buchach is a Galician town, located before World War II in the south-eastern part of the Second Polish Republic. It was inhabited by Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians. On the eve of the war, there were perhaps some 7,500-8,000 Jewish residents in Buchach constituting slightly over half of the town’s population. The anti-Jewish policy of Nazi Germany led not only to the destruction of Jewish culture in the town but most of all to the murder of its Jewish inhabitants. On November 27, the Germans organized deportation action to the death camp in Bełżec. About 2000 people were then deported and about 250 were shot on the spot.
On the eve of World War II in Przemyślany, there were a little more than 2.000 Jews, which constituted about 50% of the total population. During the war, the town was first under Soviet jurisdiction, and then from summer 1941 under German occupation. The Nazi Germans began their destructive work by setting fire to the synagogues, libraries, and about 40 Jewish houses, and ended with deportations to the death camp in Bełżec and mass murders of the Jewish population.
On December 5, 1942, the last deportation action took place in Przemyślany. The Germans and Ukrainian policemen led out of the ghetto about 3,000 Jews from Przemyślany and nearby towns, who were then taken to the railroad station, pushed into cattle wagons, and sent to the death camp in Bełżec.
In the interwar period, Rawa Ruska was a vibrant town with 16,000 inhabitants, located on the Warsaw-Lviv route. In the center, there were over 50 stores, a dozen or so diners, a restaurant with performances of Lviv cabaret, a Jewish theater, two cinemas. Every Tuesday a famous fair was held. All this ended with the outbreak of World War II. On September 14, 1939, during the Invasion of Poland, Rawa Ruska was captured by the Wehrmacht. The German troops left the town within days in accordance with the German-Soviet Frontier Treaty, and Rawa Ruska was occupied by the Soviet forces. In 1941 the German army entered the city again.
“Before the war and at the beginning of the occupation Lubycza was a small town where the majority of the population were Jews.[...] In addition to their own school, they had a temple - a synagogue - where they prayed. I remember the atmosphere in Lubycza at that time. Despite the religious and economic differences, people lived in harmony and tolerated each other. […] This idyll ended with the outbreak of war”.