[Yiddish, Pozen] - One of the oldest and most
important Jewish communitites in Wielkopolska. In 1264, Prince Boleslaw
the Pious granted Jews in Wielkopolska a privilege (the Kalisz
privilege) guaranteeing them the ruler's protection, and freedom of
residence and trade, which fostered the development of the Jewish
settlement in the area.
When exactly the Jews first settled in Poznan is not known. They
probably lived there as early as the thirteenth century, though the
first mention of their presence in Pozna� only dates back to 1379.
During the first half of the fifteenth century, the Community
developed rapidly. Jews, engaged in money-lending, comprised the city's
financial elite. They occupied one-fourth of the buildings on
Sukiennicza Street, which was renamed Zydowska (Jewish) Street; the
synagogue was built there as well. This area was destroyed in 1447 and
1464 by fire.
Because of the fires and an influx of German burghers, the Jewish
Community's economic position collapsed. The first conflicts with
Christians probably also took place then. Accusations were made during
this period that Jews had "profaned the Host" in 1399. This legend
spread in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
The sixteenth century was a period of rapid demographic growth for
the Community, even in the face of further fires and epidemics. In 1619,
a total of 3,130 Jews were living within Poznan proper and its suburbs.
They owned 138 buildings in the city. Overcrowding in the Jewish
quarter forced its residents to apply for permission to expand its area.
During this period, Poznan's Jews were involved
primarily in trade and crafts. They maintained close contacts with
trading centers in Germany, Italy and Turkey. The increasing number of
craftsmen prompted the establishment of guild organizations. In 1651, a
Jewish butcher's guild is mentioned in historical documents. The Poznan
Community had well-developed self-government, whose structure is known
in detail thanks to the Community records that have survived, the pinkas
books (the oldest dating back to 1611). The Poznan Community played an
important role in the Wielkopolska district administration and the
Jewish Sejm. The Jewish communities in the nearby towns were dependent
on it (przykahalki). Poznan was seriously damaged during the Swedish
invasions--or "flood", as they are known. The events of the Northern War
during the first half of the eighteenth century interrupted economic
renewal once again, as did a bad outbreak of the plague and a flood. The
Jewish Community's difficult situation was compounded by accusations of
ritual murder and a trial that took place in 1736.
As a result of the partitions, the city fell under Prussian control.
The introduction of new legislation and the foundation of secular
schools helped the spread of Haskalah influence, which marked the
beginning of the Jewish population's Germanization in Poznan. After
another fire in 1803, the Jews were allowed to live throughout the city,
which meant a gradual change in their habits and fostered assimilation.
The ties between the Poznan Jews and the German Communities became
increasingly strong, while contacts with Jews in the Kingdom of Poland
weakened. When Wielkopolska and Poznan became part of Poland after the
First World War, many Jews emigrated to Germany. In the late 1930's, the
Poznan Community numbered about 2,000 people.
Many Jews fled the city in fear of the Germans
in September 1939. Poznan was the capital of the Wartegau, annexed to
the Reich. In November 1939, it was announced that the city would be rid
of its Jews (Judenrein). In December, deportations to cities in the
Generalgouvernement began. From November 1939 to August 1943, a labor
camp known as "Stadion Miejski" ("Municipal Stadium") existed, along
with 13 satellite camps in the area. There, Jews from various cities in
Wartegau, Germany and the Czech lands were put to work building roads.
After the war, there were several hundred Jews living in Poznan, but
no Jewish religious or cultural institutions were reestablished. One of
its original synagogues, built in 1912, still exists: made into a
swimming pool, it continues to be used for that purpose today. In the
Jewish section of the city cemetery, there are gravestones dating back
to the eighteenth century that had originally been in the old Jewish