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Jewish Families from Wadowice, Poland

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This project seeks to collect all of the Jewish families from the town of Wadowice in Poland.

Wadowice [Pol], Vadovitza [Yid], Vadovits, Vadovitse, Vadovitz Hebrew: ואדוביץ - 24 miles SW of Kraków. Jewish Population: 722 (in 1880), 1,437 (in 1921) 1900: Wadowice, Wadowice, Galicia, Austrian Empire 1930: Wadowice, Wadowice powiat, Kraków województwo, Poland

The history of the Wadowice Community (historical sketches) Dr. David Jakubowicz Translated by Sara Mages

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The Jewish settlement in Wadowice

The history of Wadowice's Jews is very short. The beginning of their settlement started in the second half of the 19th century. Until then, the Jews weren't allowed to settle in the city limit or trade there. This ban was based on a special law enacted on 6 November 1754 by King Augustus III of Poland and elector of Saxony, and was approved by Kaiser Franz in a law from 28 May 1793.

Presumably, the purpose of the law from 1754 was to continue the legal situation that prevailed until then. This assumption is expressed in the “Jewish Encyclopedia” edited by Dr. L. Katznelson. //media.geni.com/p13/26/10/e4/62/5344483f40bec516/wadowice_3_medium.jpg?hash=755f4a64b0c70b190e2c4b69e6674362d5c3a176992819374c324e254f1c511b.1709452799 According to this opinion, the law “Privilegium de non tolerandis Judaeis” [privilege of excluding the Jews] already existed for some time in Wadowice. Presumably, the reason for the renewal of the ban was related to the fear that the Jews will flow to the city on the grounds of obsolescence of the law. In Pinkas Va'ad Arba Arazot, that contains decisions from 1580-1764, and list the communities who paid state taxes during that period, there is no information about Wadowice.

Jewish communities and settlements in the western part of Krakow Voivodeship, meaning, in the districts of Wedowice, Biała, Myślenice, and Żywiec, don't appear in the map of Polish Jewry for the period of 1667-1764 (which is attached to the same notebook).Only the cities of Oświęcim and Kazanów, and Jewish communities and settlements in remote and isolated places appear there.

This bizarre situation stems from the fact, that in the Middle Ages the districts listed above (Księstwo, Oświęcimskie and Zatrorskie), except for Myślenice, didn't belong to the Jagiellonian Kingdom but to the Piast Dynasty, who in contrast to the kings of Poland carried an anti-Semitic policy, and only allowed the Jews to live in the cities of Oświęcim and Zator.

See also: Jewish Families from Andrychów, Poland

Early beginnings of the town

In the 16th–17th centuries Wadowice was a regional centre of crafts and trade. Among the most notable sons of the town was Marcin Wadowita, a theologian, philosopher and a deacon of the Kraków Academy. He was also the founder of a hospital and a basic school in Wadowice. However, several plagues and fires halted the prosperity and the town's growth was eventually halted as well.
In the effect of the 1st Partition of Poland, Wadowice was annexed by Austria, incorporated into the newly established Kingdom of Galicia, under direct Austrian rule, and renamed Frauenstadt.

  • The town's growth started soon afterwards, after a road linking Vienna with Lwów was built. The town became a seat of a communal administration and since 1867 – a county site. Small industries were developing slowly during the 19th century. New inhabitants settled in the area, attracted by the industry, new military barracks and various administrative institutions. In addition, a new hospital and a regional court were erected in the town centre.
  • Finally, in the last 25 years of the 19th century partial liberalisation of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy led to creation of various Polish cultural and scientific societies.
  • After the World War I and the dissolution of the monarchy, Wadowice became part of the newly-reborn Poland. The seat of a powiat remained in the town and in 1919 the inhabitants of the area formed the 12th Infantry Regiment that took part in the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919–1920. In 1920 Karol Wojtyła was born in Wadowice (later known as the bishop of Kraków and Pope Saint John Paul II).
  • After the Polish Defensive War of 1939, Germany occupied the area and on 26 October Wadowice was annexed by Nazi Germany. On 29 December of the same year the town was renamed to Wadowitz. //media.geni.com/p13/37/1c/58/ae/5344483f40b8ea63/wadowice_4_original.jpg?hash=c274e4326643cf4e787ec64b7862b0344dd3787de3eabd7e9acf1ad27209762e.1709452799
  • Initially the Polish intelligentsia was targeted by harsh German racial and cultural policies and hundreds of people from the area, most notably priests, teachers and artists, were murdered in mass executions. Hundreds more were expelled and resettled to the General Government in order to make place for German settlers.

Establishment of the ghetto

Between 1941 and 1943 a ghetto was established in the city. Almost the entire local Jewish population (more than 2,000) was exterminated, mostly in the nearby Auschwitz concentration camp. In addition, the Germans set up a POW camp for Allied soldiers and a penal camp that served as a transfer camp for various German concentration camps. Despite German terror, the Home Army units were active in the area, most notably in the town itself and in the Beskid mountains to the south of it.

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After the war

In 1945 Wadowice retained its powiat town status and until 1975 served as a notable centre of commerce and transport in the Kraków Voivodeship. After that the town was transferred to the newly created Bielsko-Biała Voivodeship. After the peaceful transformation of the political and economical system in Poland (in 1989), most of the local industry was found inefficient and went bankrupt.

However, the ecological and historical heritage of the area as well as its status as the birthplace of Pope Saint John Paul II led to fast growth of tourism. Currently more than 200,000 people visit Wadowice every year and this number is rising.

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Jewish Cemetery

Initially the Jews buried their dead in the Jewish cemetery at Zator. In the second half of the 19th century, a number of Jewish communities in Wadowice gmina/powiat founded burial places of their own as early as 1876. Only in 1882, did the kahal purchase two parcels measuring 5,866 sq m in the northern part of the town on the road to Tomic, now ul. Wojska Polskiego. //media.geni.com/p13/2f/85/a3/81/5344483f40bd6247/wadowice_jewish_cemetery_original.jpg?hash=221f5c114e21c904aadb5f3da0b5879bb43a63332ab1968398298ff83b79c56c.1709452799 Eventually, beit tahara and brick walls were added. In 1894, 941 square meters were purchased. In addition to typical matzevot are columns, obelisks and sarcophagi made of marble and other precious stones with inscriptions in Hebrew, Polish, and German. Entry through the brick wall is via the pre-burial.

  • About 600 graves exist, some with gravestones reconstructed with contemporary polychrome and original carvings. Buried here are Baruch Thieberg, a participant in the January Uprising and the first Jew allowed to settle in the city after the period covered by the "de non tolerandis Judaeis" privilege.
  • The cemetery also contains graves of WWI soldiers. The last funeral was on April 16, 1939 for Henry Taube. After the liberation, some families erected symbolic gravestones for the victims. [July 2009]

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Mass Grave

92 people murdered in 1943 in Makowie Podhalańskim were escapees from a deportation to Belzec, who hid for several months in the surrounding forests and caught by the Germans and executed. A monument was erected on the mass grave.

During WWII, the German authorities sold the cemetery to a company intended to export and use the matzevot for building purposes. These plans did not have time to come to fruition. Atarzyna Iwańska in 2004 was a curator of an exhibition about the Jews of Wadowice. She is caretaker of the Jewish cemetery in Wadowice. The Pope and the Jewish community. //media.geni.com/p13/c0/eb/b5/ce/5344483f40badd9e/wadowice_2_original.jpg?hash=eb5c034b03052859100deb3cb94a4c3ea2bf68c8f2c37733c6a659ad490a98da.1709452799

A history of local Jews in the Historical and Cultural "Wadoviana" (number 9) can be purchased by mail at the Museum in Wadowice (The Development of Jewish Settlements in Wadowice") website of the Museum. Photos. [July 2009]
Last Updated on Friday, 21 November 2014 13:26

The Birthplace of Pope John Paul II

Wadowice has got international recognition as the birthplace of Pope John Paul II. Born in 1920 as Karol Wojtyla, the future Pontiff lived in Wadowice till 1938 when he moved to Krakow to study at its ancient Jagiellonian University.

Yet to his last days the late Holy Father remembered fondly his Wadowice youth and places associated with it, the schoolmates, his teachers, and other local folks he had used to know. Also, he tried to include the town, when possible, in his visits to Poland.

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