There are no sources that would make it possible to determine how many Jews lived in the Polish lands from the Middle Ages on; these numbers can only be estimated. The 1764 poll tax, however, makes a more precise estimate possible. Jews arrived the Polish lands in several waves (Jewish settlement in the Polish lands). In the early fourteenth century, there were fewer than a thousand Jews in Poland. In the second half of the fourteenth and in the fifteenth century, this number grew slightly. In a tax register from around 1507, fifty-four Communities were mentioned, though it omitted about thirty others. In the early fourteenth century, there were probably about 90 Communities (some towns even had two, such as Lwow or in Kazimierz, outside of Krakow). They were not large, having from a few dozen to one hundred people; only the most significant would have had several hundred members. Historians estimate the number of Jews living in the Polish and Lithuanian lands in the early sixteenth century at about 10,000-24,000. In the late sixteenth century, the number of Communities throughout the Commonwealth grew to approximately 200, with varying populations. Documents from 1619 show that for example in Pozna�, within the city itself and in its suburbs, there were over 3,000 Jews. Many Communities, particularly in the eastern areas of the Commonwealth, probably just had a few dozen members. According to estimates, in the early seventeenth century, there were from 80,000 to 100,000 Jews living in the Commonwealth; by the end of that century, the number could have grown to 200,000.

This significant population growth during the course of one century was not only because there had been an influx of settlers from other European countries. Despite the high mortality rate, disease, and frequent Tatar attacks, the Jewish population's natural growth rate was higher than for the Commonwealth's population as a whole. Many factors contributed to this. Judaism put more emphasis on hygiene, opposed people remaining unmarried, and did not have religious orders. It was possible to marry from the age of thirteen, and Jews were not required to serve in the army. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, groups of Jews were moving from the western to the eastern areas of the Commonwealth. The percentage of Jews there grew especially fast in the small towns. They increasingly began to settle in the countryside, where they would lease pubs and mills.

Chmielnicki's uprising caused a sharp fall in the population (even as much as 20-25%), which involved numerous pogroms, which spurred Jewish emigration. The wars of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries led to the economic collapse of many cities, which hampered the further development of those Communities. On the other hand, there were also many privileges supporting Jewish settlement issued especially by the szlachta (nobility) during that period; these contributed to the growth of old Jewish Communities and the establishment of new ones between 1675 and 1750. From 1764-1766, a poll tax was levied on every Jew over one year of age. Previously, that tax had been collected as one lump sum. According to the surviving sources, the poll tax was collected from approximately 600,000 Jews. Taking into account that some avoided paying the tax and some were infants, we can estimate that there must have been from 750,000 to 900,000 Jews living in the Commonwealth at that time, which would have been approximately 6% of the total population. (H.W./CM)

As a result of the partitions, most of the Polish Jews, approximately 500,000, found themselves under Russian rule. From the very start, the tsarist government implemented restrictions on their activities. They were removed from villages, and were ordered to move to towns and cities. Areas (rejony) where Jews could live were established (Pale of settlement).

In 1827, as many as 80.4% of the Jews in the Kingdom of Poland lived in the cities; in 1865, this figure rose to 90.5%. Their demographic growth was also high, as was their percentage of the population as a whole. During the years 1816-1913, the entire population of the Kingdom of Poland grew by 381%, while the Jewish population grew by 822%; as a result, their percentage within the population as a whole grew from 7.8% do 14.9%. This was in part due to the influx of Jews into the Kingdom of Poland who had been expelled from other areas of the Russian Empire, and those in search of work. In addition, this population had a particularly high natural growth rate.

From 1870-1900, the Jewish population in eleven of the Kingdom's largest cities grew several-fold: for example, in Warsaw it quintupled, and in Lodz in grew by a factor of twenty. The largest concentration of Jews in the Kingdom-and in fact in the entire world-was in Warsaw. The high natural growth rate among Jews was mitigated by their emigration to Western Europe and America.

Approximately 65,000 Polish Jews lived in the Prussian Partition, most of whom were living in Wielkopolska. In 1816, they numbered 52,000, or 6.3% of Wielkopolska's total population. For the most part, these Jews lived in urban areas-the result of legal restrictions, as in Russia. In 1816, a whopping 96% of the Jews in Wielkopolska lived in towns and cities. In the late nineteenth century, Jews began moving to larger centers. In 1910, sixty percent of the Jews in Prussia lived in cities with populations over 100,000. The largest Community in the Prussian partition was in Poznan; there were also large centers in Oborniki, Szamotuly, Leszno, Ostrow, Kepno and the Opole province. In the late nineteenth century, a constant decline in the number of Jews living in the Prussian partition can be observed, caused by emigration to other Prussian cities and the United States. During the period 1824-1890, over 65,000 Jews emigrated from the Grand Duchy of Posen.

After 1772, according to government figures, there were 171,000 Polish Jews in the Austrian partition, while in 1795 there were 215,000, or 9% of the population. Their numbers continued to grow steadily over the coming years. In 1850, there were approximately 333,000 Jews in Galicia; in 1869, there were 576,000 (10.6% of the total population); by 1910, the number of Jews had already reached 871,000 (10.9% of Galicia's population). In the nineteenth century, Galician Jews comprised almost two-thirds of the Austro-Hungarian Empire's total Jewish population. As in the Russian and Prussian partitions, they lived primarily in the cities, sometimes becoming the dominant group, as was the case in Brody, for example, where in 1910 they comprised 71.2% of the population; in Buczacz, this figure was 57.3%; in Rawa Ruska, 57.2%; and in Stanislawow, 51.3%. In the late nineteenth century, Jewish population growth slowed, which like in other partitions was the result of emigration. In 1881-1910, approximately 236,500 Jews emigrated from Galicia, primarily to North and South America. They also moved to larger Austrian cities, such as Vienna, which as a result had the second largest concentration of Jews in Europe, after Warsaw, during the second half of the nineteenth century.

The First World War brought large changes in the distribution and number of Jews living in Poland. The need to flee from the war, discrimination, pogroms in Russia and Ukraine meant enormous shifts in the Jewish population. The Russian commander-in-chief, Prince Nikolai Nikolaevich, accused the Jews of activities harmful to the army and ordered the Jews to be removed from all areas affected by the war. The evacuations intensified in central Poland and Galicia in early 1915. The largest group of displaced Jews was in Warsaw, where approximately 80,000 Jews arrived from 140 cities, towns and villages. In all, between 500,000 and 600,000 people were affected; the program was suspended only because of a German and Austrian counteroffensive.

In Galicia, fearing the approaching Russian army, thousands of Jews escaped to Hungary, Moravia, Bohemia and Vienna, where approximately 77,000 Jewish refugees found refuge. Special camps were created for them, and they were provided with shelter and food. It is estimated that approximately half of Galicia's Jewish population left their homes, or about 400,000 people. In the last two years of the war, Jews continued to leave the Polish lands. For the most part, they moved to German cities outside the war-affected areas. During the first years after Poland regained its independence in 1918, the Jewish population grew as refugees returned, primarily from Russia (approximately 600,000). Smaller groups returned from Austria and Czechoslovakia as well. Figures from the censuses and estimates for 1939 indicate a systematic growth in Poland's Jewish population. In 1921, there were 2,845,400 Jews in Poland; in 1931 - 3,113,900, and in 1939 - 3,460,000. Although the numbers indicate a growth trend overall, the percentage of Jews in Poland's total population declined during the period in question: from 10.5% in 1921, to 9.8% in 1931 and 9.7% on the eve of the Second World War. This was the result of a dwindling natural growth among Jews (in 1921-25, it was 15.6%, in 1926-30 - 12.6%, 1931-35 - 12.3% and in 1936-38 - 11.15%), as well as an increase in emigration, particularly among young people. The distribution of Poland's Jewish population was uneven, concentrated primarily in the cities and towns of the eastern regions and some of the central ones; this was the legacy of tsarist laws. As many as 76.4% of Jews lived in cities; only 23.6% lived in the countryside. The proportions for the Christian population were reversed: 22.1% lived in urban areas, while 77.9% made their homes in rural areas. One in four Polish Jews lived in the five large cities: Warsaw, Lodz, Lwow, Krakow and Wilno, representing a total of 24.6% of Poland's total Jewish population. In those cities, Jews comprised over 30% of the population. The percentage of Jews in the eastern voivodships and in Warsaw was even greater: for example, in Polesie - 49.2%, Wolyn (Volhynia) - 49.1%, Lublin voivodship - 42.9%, Nowogrod voivodship - 42.6%, Bialystok voivodship - 38.7%, Stanislawow voivodship - 34.8%, Warsaw and Tarnopol voivodships both of whose Jewish populations were 34.7% of the total. In many towns and cities, the percentage of Jews represented more than half of the total population, such as in Jedrzejow - 73.1%, Pinsk - 63.4%, Wegrow - 60.45%, Kobryn - 55.6%, Tomaszow Lubelski - 54.0%, Slonim - 52.8%, Brody - 50.5%).
In the western voivodships, the percentage of Jews in terms of the total population was negligible; in the Pozna� and Pomorze voivodships they only represented 0.3% of the population. In October 1939, Polish territories were divided between the occupying forces. Some of the areas occupied by the Germans (these included Pomorze, northern Mazovia, the Suwalki region, Silesia and Wielkopolska) were annexed to the Reich along with their Jewish populations (approximately 600,000 people). The Generalgouvernement was established in the remaining territories, in which there were approximately 1.5 million Jews.

From the very start, the German authorities took steps to isolate the Jewish population. Ghettos were created, where Jews were then concentrated (deportations). In 1941, the plan to exterminate the Jews was implemented. Approximately 1.2 million Polish Jews found themselves in the Soviet zone of occupation. In late 1939 and early 1940, when the border between the different zones were not sealed, many Jews (approx. 300,000) went to the Soviet zone. The authorities strove to eliminate Jews' cultural and religious identity in their respective areas of occupation. The many arrests and deportations primarily affected Jews who were active in the community and in politics, and people who were especially well-respected or recognized as "enemies of the people", such as merchants, industrialists, and the intelligentsia. From February 1940 to March 1941, about one million Polish citizens were deported, of whom approximately 30% were Jews. Some were sent to labor camps, others as laborers to cities, kolkhozes and sovkhozes in the northern districts of the Soviet Union.
In June 1941, after the German-Soviet war broke out, the Germans began carrying out their plan for the Endl�sung. The Wehrmacht and Einsatzgruppen launched a terror campaign on an unprecedented scale; there were mass executions of Jews. About one million people were killed in the Kresy (prewar Poland's eastern territories). Those who did survive were put in ghettos, and then sent to death camps. Some of Polish Jews managed to escape, either on their own, or with the help of the Soviet authorities. Approximately 4,000 joined Anders' army. The Soviet authorities allowed tens of thousands to leave for the Far East (primarily to Shanghai), and one thousand were granted permission to emigrate to Palestine. Overall, the losses among the Jewish population caused by the Second World War were approximately 85-89%, which means just 10% of the Jewish population survived the war.

After liberation, as part of a program to help Holocaust survivors, Jews coming out of hiding were registered; the first institution created to do this, as well as other things, was the Office for Aid to the Jewish Population, part of the Polish Committee for National Liberation (PKWN). In October 1944, the list included 8,000 people. In September 1944, PKWN and the Soviet government signed a treaty on the repatriation of Poles and Jews. From November 1944 to 1948, over 200,000 Jews returned from the Soviet Union. To this number should be added the prisoners from the concentration camps that had been liberated, partisans leaving the forests, children saved by Polish families and in convents, as well people hiding on the "Aryan side" and on "Aryan papers". Their number is estimated to be 50,000. After a short stay, however, many of them left Poland. In June 1945, the Central Committee of Jews in Poland registered 74,000 Jews; by late 1946, this number was 192,000. They were most numerous in the voivodships of Upper and Lower Silesia and Lodz. Repatriates were sent to the Western Territories--at first to Silesia, and then to Szczecin. The number of Jews dwindled as a result of emigration, which took place on a mass scale after the Kielce pogrom on July 4, 1946. By early 1947, approximately 140,000 people had already left. In March 1947, just 93,000 Jews were registered; two years later, there were 95,000. In 1949-1950, there was another wave of emigration, this time to Israel, which reduced the number of Jews in Poland by half. During the 1950's, no citizens were allowed to leave the country, and it was only in late 1955 and early 1956 that emigration resumed. Approximately 30,000 people left. Jewish enclaves disappeared or were liquidated in Poland, and Jewish young people assimilated. Following the events of March 1968, the last large wave of emigration occurred, reducing the number of Jews living in Poland to just a few thousand. In 1998, this number was approximately 5,000-6,000.

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