On the Jewish Street (1918–1939)

In the summer of 1914, the socio-political landscape of Europe changed beyond recognition. Trenches and barbed wire engulfed the continent, armies numbering millions stood up against one another. The war, which lasted for four years, brought the downfall of the three partitioning powers. Poland regained its independence.

The Second Republic offered Jews unprecedented opportunities for development, such as they had never seen before. The ambitious visions of Jewish leaders were reflected in the programs of political parties, the activity of charitable and social organizations as well as the work of artists.

The interwar period was also a time when various forms of Jewish nationalism developed within the Jewish community; at the same time assimilation, especially among youth attending Polish schools, deepened.

Due to the enormous wealth of Jewish life it witnessed, this period is also sometimes referred to as the second “Golden Age” in the history of Polish Jews.

The Second Republic, however, was not heaven on earth for Jews. New waves of pogroms, erupting already in November 1918, growing anti-Semitism and the economic crisis which went on for several years, forced many Jews to leave Poland in search of a better life. Tens of thousands of Jewish emigrants left for Palestine, Western Europe and the Americas, where they cultivated the culture and tradition of Polish Jews.

The Street is situated at the prewar location of Zamenhof  St. – the main artery of the Northern Distict, a neighborhood inhabited chiefly by Jews. This fact was very much present in the minds of the creators of the gallery, which is set up along a “street” whose frontage is formed by multimedia building facades. It is on these that presentations on topics of importance to this time period will be displayed. From the street, visitors will be able to go into building entrances, where they will discover the vibrant cultural and political life of the period, get to know the problems of daily life in the Polish provinces and see a new generation of Jews born in a free Poland growing up.

Lead Historian: prof. Samuel D. Kassow (Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut).

The design and execution of the core exhibition was financed and overseen by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, thanks to the support of donors from all over the world.