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WARSAW (Pol. Warszawa ), originally capital of the Masovia region; from the 16th century, capital of Poland. Jews were apparently living in Warsaw by the end of the 14th century, but the first explicit information on Jewish settlement dates from 1414. In 1423 the records show ten Jewish families paying tax in Warsaw, and about the same number exempted. The hostility of the townsmen of Warsaw to Jewish settlement in the capital was particularly strong. In 1483 the Jewish inhabitants were expelled, although some were living there three years later. There is no information about Jews in the city between 1498 and 1524; evidently they had either been driven from the city entirely or remained in the outskirts on property owned by the Polish magnates from where they could enter the city for business purposes. Eventually, in 1527, the townsmen of Warsaw obtained the privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis, authorizing the exclusion of Jews from the city. Because of its importance as a political and commercial center, however, their connection was not entirely severed. A number of Jews were able to continue to reside in the outskirts, and some managed to gain access to Warsaw itself. When the national Sejm (diet) transferred its sessions to Warsaw in 1572 Jews were permitted to enter the city during its conventions. The time permitted for their sojourn was subsequently extended to a period of two weeks before and after the sessions. In addition, Jewish representatives (shtadlanim) of the *Councils of the Lands, empowered to negotiate with royalty and the nobility, also visited Warsaw. A number of other Jews obtained authorization by various means to enter the city temporarily even while the Sejm was not sitting. One of the customary "arrangements" was the "daily ticket" system, which gave the holder of a ticket the right to stay in Warsaw for 14 days. A census of 1765 records that there were 2,519 Jews in Warsaw.

During the *Haidamack attacks of 1768 fugitives from the eastern districts of Poland flocked to the outskirts. The census for 1792 records 6,750 Jews in Warsaw, forming 9.7% of the total population: 30.4% of those economically active were engaged in commerce or as taverners, 26.7% in craft or industry, 41.4% in undefined occupations, and 1.5% in domestic employment or as simple laborers. Several scores of Jewish entrepreneurs engaged in flourishing business as moneylenders, court factors of royalty or the nobility, army suppliers, or agents for foreign embassies. These were the nucleus of the great Jewish bourgeoisie which subsequently formed in Warsaw; they were mainly immigrants from abroad or from other towns in Poland.

Throughout the period of unofficial settlement the townspeople spared no efforts to drive the Jews from the capital. A partial expulsion of the Jewish residents was enforced, in conjunction with organized street attacks, in 1775 and 1790. After the first partition of Poland (1772), Warsaw Jewry, in particular the poorer sector, took an energetic part in the Polish uprising against the Russians. Many Jews volunteered for guard duties, and a number joined in the fighting in the Jewish legion formed under Berek *Joselewicz. In their onslaught the Russian troops massacred the Jewish civilian population, in particular in the Praga suburb where resistance was fierce. Legend associates the name of Joseph Samuel *Zbitkower with large-scale rescue operations during the massacre.

After Warsaw passed to Prussia in 1796, Warsaw Jewry was subjected to the Juden Reglements of 1797. Only Jewish residents of the city prior to 1796 were allowed to stay; the others were only permitted the right of temporary domicile, in a reversion to the old "daily ticket" system. In 1805 fresh attacks on Jews in Warsaw were made by the Polish populace. Nevertheless, there was now continuous immigration of German-speaking Jews from Prussia, Silesia, and other places to Warsaw, and the Jewish population increased from 7,688 (12% of the total) in 1797 to 11,630 (17.4%) in 1804.

Within the Duchy of Warsaw (1807–13)

After the formation of the Napoleon-sponsored duchy of Warsaw the Jews were not deprived of the rights of citizenship, but in 1808, under the "infamous decree" of *Napoleon, restrictions were imposed on Jewish rights for ten years. During this period Warsaw Jewry was burdened with heavy taxes. In 1809 a "Jewish quarter" was established outside in which the only persons permitted to reside were Jewish owners of real estate, wholesale merchants, manufacturers, bankers, army suppliers, and doctors, on condition that they wore European dress, were able to read and write Polish, German or French, and sent their children to general schools. The "daily ticket" was abolished in 1811. The vicissitudes of war between 1812 and 1815, and the inimical attitude of the government of the duchy, led to a reduction of the number of Jewish residents in Warsaw, who in 1813 numbered 8,000.

From 1527 until the Prussian conquest no authorized community (kehillah) had existed in Warsaw. However, the Jews living in the city and environs met for prayers, established prayer houses and charitable associations, and appointed a syndic-parnas, to direct the tax administration, exercise judicial power, and organize the census, among other duties. He was assisted by dayyanim and a sworn-in meturgeman (interpreter). Rabbis had also officiated without authorization. The Prussian administration had appointed a representation for Warsaw Jewry with the right to exercise the *ḥerem (ex-communication) to facilitate tax collection. Thus the Warsaw community was revived and had the opportunity of appointing authorized rabbis. During the existence of the duchy of Warsaw the community extended its authority until it was transformed in practice from a local body to an institution representative of the Jewry of the whole duchy.

*Ḥasidism spread to Warsaw toward the latter part of the 18th century. A celebrated public disputation between spokesmen of the ḥasidim and Mitnaggedim was held in the Praga suburb in 1781. On the other hand, a small circle of maskilim also formed in this period, which included a number of wealthy arrivals from abroad, physicians, and others. In 1802 Isaac Flatau founded the "German Synagogue," in which traditional services were held but sermons were delivered in German. A government-sponsored rabbinical seminary was established in 1826, which the Orthodox members of the community strongly opposed. It continued for 37 years, until the Polish uprising of 1863, and became a center for assimilationist and reformist tendencies.

Within Congress Poland (1815–1915)

During the existence of Congress Poland, the size of the Warsaw community increased to become the largest in Europe. The Jewish population numbered 15,600 (19.2% of the total) in 1816, 72,800 (32.7%) in 1864, 130,000 (33.4%) in 1882, 306,000 (39.2%) in 1910, and 337,000 (38.1%) in 1914. Natural increase was responsible for only part of this growth, which was mainly the outcome of the migration to Warsaw beginning in the 1860s and particularly after the *pogroms in Russia of 1881, when 150,000 Jews moved to Warsaw, a substantial number coming from Lithuania and Belorussia, and from the Ukraine.

From 1815 there was a sharp deterioration in the status of Warsaw Jewry. The area of the "Jewish quarter" was further restricted, the system of "daily tickets" was reintroduced, and the animosity of the general populace increased. The second half of the 19th century inaugurated a change for the better, and was marked by some rapprochement between certain Jewish and Polish circles. In 1862 the restrictions relating to all the Jews of Congress Poland were lifted. The Jews of Warsaw took an active part in the two Polish uprisings against Russia, especially in the second in 1863.

At the end of the 1870s there was a recrudescence of anti-Jewish feeling in Warsaw and throughout Poland. In December 1881 a pogrom broke out in Warsaw in the wake of the Russian pogroms, motivated in particular by the notion that the "Litvaks" (Lithuanian Jews) were the promoters of russification in Poland. The elections to the fourth Imperial *Duma of 1912, in which Warsaw Jewry returned a left-wing candidate, further aggravated anti-Jewish hostility.

Throughout this period, the Warsaw Jews considerably extended their activities in the economic sphere, and the social and economic differences within the community grew more marked. Jews played an important role in finance and all sectors of commerce and also in industry. Of the 20 bankers in Warsaw in 1847, 17 were Jews. Jewish bankers initiated and developed various industries in the state, participated in the construction of railroads, held the monopoly for the sale of *salt and alcoholic beverages, leased the Jewish taxes, and engaged in other activities. In 1849 Jews formed 52% of the total persons engaged in commerce. Nevertheless this haute bourgeoisie, despite its economic importance, formed a negligible percentage in the total Jewish population of Warsaw, in 1843 forming 2.2% of the number of Jews actively employed there. In this year about 30% of the Jews earned a livelihood from commerce, mainly as shopkeepers or peddlers, about one-third as artisans and laborers, 13.5% as carters, porters or day laborers, and 12.5% as domestic workers. The proportion of Jews engaged in commerce increased until the 1870s but afterward dropped in face of growing Polish competition.

In 1862 the main source of livelihood for the Jewish proletariat was commerce and crafts: 31.7% were employed in commercial establishments, 27.9% in crafts, and 4.5% in industry; the number in industry later increased, although mainly in small or medium industry, large industries, even under Jewish ownership, taking a smaller number of Jewish workers; 2.8% of the Jews were employed in finance, 1.9% in transportation, and 1.9% in the liberal professions. The large percentage of domestic workers (29.3%) reflects the migration of unemployed women to the metropolis. Later, part of this number was absorbed into the garment and tobacco industries.

Social and Cultural Developments

Ḥasidism spread rapidly in Warsaw. In 1880 two-thirds of the 300 approved synagogues, and many prayer rooms, were ḥasidic, and this also reflected the proportion of Ḥasidim to the total Jewish population in the city. The Mitnaggedim were augmented by the end of the 19th century with the advent of the "Litvaks."

The tendency to *assimilation in Warsaw began with the penetration of German cultural influences, in which an important role was played by the wealthy arrivals from the West at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, whose ranks were reinforced by wealthy Jews of Polish birth. Later the attachment of the assimilationists became closely orientated to Polish culture and society, and in the second half of the 19th century the tendency spread to the youth of wider circles. The assimilationists took an active role in the leadership and cultural life of the community. The incidence of conversion in Warsaw became the highest in Eastern Europe: in the first half of the 19th century 70 bankers, industrialists and large-scale merchants, 15 printers, and 20 officials adopted Christianity.

In 1883 the society of She'erit Israel of the Ḥovevei Zion was established in Warsaw, led by Israel Jasinowski and Saul Phinehas *Rabinowitz, and in 1890 the society Menuḥah ve-Naḥalah was founded, led by Eliyahu Ze'ev *Lewin-Epstein, which established the moshavah of *Reḥovot in Ereẓ Israel. The Geulah Company, formed in 1904, participated in acquiring land for the society of Aḥuzzat Bayit which pioneered the building of Tel Aviv. The circles of Ḥovevei Zion in Warsaw concentrated in particular in the synagogue of Ohel Moshe, founded in 1885, and subsequently in the Moriah synagogue founded in 1908, at which Isaac *Nissenbaum served as preacher.

A number of Zionist youth and student circles, whose leadership included Jan Kirshrot, Yiẓḥak *Gruenbaum, and Yosef *Sprinzak, combined in the society Ha-Teḥiyyah in 1903. Its ranks included supporters of differing national and socialist ideologies who soon separated. Some of its members joined the Zionist Democratic Fraction, under the leadership of Gruenbaum. Another group became a formative influence in the Po'alei Zion, under the leadership of Yiẓḥak *Tabenkin and Ben-Zion Raskin, and in Ẓe'irei Zion, led by Sprinzak. After the split in the Sixth Zionist Congress over the *Uganda scheme (1903), the supporters of Theodor *Herzl and the political Zionists joined in the Meginnei ha-Histadrut which established its headquarters in Warsaw.

At the end of the 19th century Jewish socialist societies and workers' circles were consolidated into the *Bund, under the leadership of Leo Goldman, John Mill, and Ẓiviah Hurvitz, originally from Vilna. The Bund conducted its activities among the Jewish workers, organized strikes and May 1st demonstrations, and promoted Yiddish culture: it was opposed to Zionism and the movement to revive Hebrew.

Until the end of the 1860s the Warsaw community leadership was mainly Orthodox, excepting for the periods 1841–44 and 1856–58, when the president of the community was Matthias Rosen, an assimilationist who was acceptable to all groups of the community. After a financial criterion was established in the elections, the assimilationists assumed the leadership of the community by agreement with the Ḥasidim, and controlled its affairs for over 50 years, between 1871 and 1926. Zionist opposition to the assimilationists was organized for the first time in 1899.

Four rabbis served for the whole of Warsaw and its vicinity, all Mitnaggedim : Solomon Zalman *Lipshitz, 1819–39; Hayyim *Dawidsohn, 1839–54; Dov Berush *Meisels, 1854–70; and Jacob *Gesundheit, 1870–73, who was not accepted by the Ḥasidim and was removed from office with the help of the assimilationists. The rabbis served in conjunction with dayyanim. Attempts to establish a *Reform synagogue in Warsaw were unsuccessful. The only innovation introduced by the "modernized" congregations was that sermons in their synagogues were preached in German or Polish. Rabbis in these synagogues were Abraham Meir Goldschmidt, Isaac Kramsztyk, Mordecai *Jastrow, Isaac Cylkow, Samuel Abraham *Poznanski, and Moses *Schorr.

The main trend of Jewish education in Warsaw was Orthodox. In the middle of the 19th century, 90% of all Jewish children of school age attended ḥeder. Subsequently the percentage decreased, and by the end of the century only 75% attended ḥadarim. In 1896 there were 433 authorized ḥadarim, in Warsaw and a large number of unauthorized ones. In 1885 circles of Ḥovevei Zion established the first ḥeder metukkan, or modern ḥeder, in Warsaw. In 1820 three state schools for Jewish children had been opened under the supervision of Jacob *Tugendhold, but the Orthodox opposition curbed the development of general schools. On the threshold of World War i there were 20 elementary schools in Warsaw in which the language of instruction was Russian. Attempts to open private schools for boys met only with limited success. On the other hand, the girls' secondary schools, which disseminated Polish culture, were more popular; even Ḥasidim, who normally insisted on an extreme Orthodox education for their sons, sent their daughters to them. In 1895, 19 schools of this type existed in Warsaw. Vocational training courses, a secondary school with a scientific trend (1878–88), and a trade school were also opened. The first Hebrew kindergarten was founded by Jehiel Heilperin in 1909, in conjunction with a course for kindergarten teachers, opened in 1910.

Jewish Press

The Haskalah literature in Warsaw was of an inferior standard and made little impact. However, in the 1880s, Warsaw became the center for Hebrew publishing in Poland and throughout Russia. The daily and weekly press, the many literary organs, and other periodicals which now began to burgeon, marked the transition from the world of Haskalah to the new Hebrew literature. They provided a platform for the elite of the writers, poets, scholars, and journalists. In 1862 the Hebrew periodical *Ha-Ẓefirah was established as a weekly by Ḥayyim Selig *Slonimski, which after a series of intervals and setbacks became a daily in 1886 and the central organ for Russian Jewry. Other daily or weekly Hebrew newspapers also published in this period did not continue for long, generally for lack of readership; the heavy hand of the censor also proved a stumbling block. The pioneer of Hebrew publishing in Warsaw was A.L. Ben Avigdor (see *Shalkovich) while the most active personality in journalism and literature was Nahum *Sokolow.

The first Yiddish (and Polish) weekly was Der Beobakhter an der Weykhsel, published in 1823–24 by assimilationist circles. The transition in *Yiddish literature to new forms and contents originated with Y.L. *Peretz and his circle and the literary publications which they founded, Yidishe Bibliotek (1891–95) and Yontev Bletlakh (1894–96). After a number of unsuccessful attempts, two Yiddish periodicals became established which soon began to overtake the Hebrew press: Samuel Jacob Jackan began to publish the daily Yidishes Tageblat in 1906, changed in 1908 into *Haynt. Zevi *Prylucki established the daily *Moment in 1911. Polish periodicals also appeared, first sponsored by the assimilationists, among them the weekly Jutrzenka. At the beginning of the 20th century national newspapers were also published in Polish.

World War i and the Polish Republic

During World War i thousands of refugees arrived in Warsaw. In 1917 there were 343,400 Jews (41% of the total population). The German occupation brought improvement from the political standpoint, but the concentration of refugees and the havoc wrought by war increased the economic distress.

During the period of renewed Polish independence (1918–39) the Jewish population of Warsaw showed marked growth, but a decrease compared with the general population. In 1918 the total was 320,000 (42.2%), and in 1938, 368,400 (29.1%). The tendency of the Polish state to centralize economic activity in its own institutions, the antisemitic direction of its policy and the antisemitic feelings rife among the Polish public, as well as the economic action taken against the Jews (see *Poland), severely affected Jewish life in Warsaw. The number of Jewish unemployed reached 34.4% in 1931, while that of those without means of livelihood was even greater. In 1933 half of the members of the Warsaw community were exempted from the communal tax as they were unable to furnish the minimal payment of five zlotys a year. Consequently the pressure of emigration increased, in particular to Palestine.

Warsaw was the headquarters of Jewish parties and movements in Poland, the arena of the struggle for Jewish representation in the state Sejm and Senate, and the center of Jewish cultural and educational activities, of the arts, scholarship and literature, and of the Jewish national press. A fierce political struggle was waged over the character that Jewish life in Warsaw should assume. Ḥasidism continued to be an important factor in Jewish affairs. Many of the hasidic admorim of various dynasties settled in Warsaw. Assimilation became a less important issue, and the chief political struggle was between the Zionist factions and the Orthodox-ḥasidic groups, which combined in the *Agudat Israel. Between 1926 and 1936 the direction of Warsaw communal affairs was in the hands of Agudat Israel and the Zionists, either in coalition or alternately. However, in 1936 the Bund gained the lead in both the elections to the communal leadership and the Jewish representation on the Warsaw municipality. The Polish government annulled the results of the democratically held communal elections and appointed another community board (kahal) which continued in office until the German occupation in World War ii.

jewish educational institutions

During the inter-war period a number of Jewish school systems existed: six Hebrew-national elementary schools, established by the Zionist Tarbut organization; four Yiddish secular schools established by the cysho supported by the Bund and the left Po'alei Zion; a Yiddish-Hebrew school of the Shulkult organization, separated from the cysho; an Orthodox school of Agudat Israel (Ḥorev for boys and *Beth Jacob for girls) – the exact number of their schools is not known but the number of the pupils exceeded that for other schools; two bilingual (Polish-Hebrew) elementary schools and one secondary school of the Yavneh founded by *Mizrachi; and numerous private secondary schools. Most Jewish children attended the state schools. In neighborhoods where there were Jewish concentrations, some of these schools were solely intended for Jewish pupils: lessons were held on Sundays instead of the Sabbath, and the schools were known as szabatówki. In 1928 the Institute for Jewish Studies, Makhon le-Ḥokhmat Yisrael, was opened, and the name was subsequently changed, as its sphere of activity expanded, to Makhon le-Madda'ei ha-Yahadut. Moses Schorr, Meir *Balaban, Abraham *Weiss, and Menahem (Edmund) Stein served as principals.

During this period Hebrew literature and press declined. Many of the Hebrew writers emigrated to Ereẓ Israel. Attempts to continue publication of Hebrew dailies were unsuccessful; not one lasted for an appreciable time. The most important publishing house of Hebrew books in Warsaw was that of A.J. *Stybel. On the other hand, the Yiddish and Polish Jewish press increased its output. Other Yiddish dailies were published alongside the Haynt and Moment, including party organs and unaffiliated papers, with a wide public and considerable influence on their readers. In 1917 Nasz Kurjer was published under the editorship of Jacob Apenszlak, which changed to Nasz Przegląd in 1920, a national independent daily. Other weeklies and periodicals were also published.

[Avraham Rubinstein]

Hebrew Printing

The beginning of Hebrew printing in or near Warsaw was due to the desire of the government to stem the outflow of capital abroad for the import of Hebrew books. In Warsaw the first Hebrew book (Ẓevi Hirsch b. Ḥayyim's notes on the Yalkut Shimoni Ẓemah le-Avraham) was printed by Peter Zawadzki in 1796. After his death his widow continued printing – mainly anti-hasidic literature – until 1801. Another non-Jewish Hebrew printer was V. Dombrowsky (to 1808). The first Jewish-owned press was that of Ẓevi Hirsch Nossonowitz of Lutomirsk, who printed, with Krueger's Novydwor type, from 1811, in partnership with Avigdor Lebensohn 1818–21, and afterward the two of them separately, Nossonowitz now changing his name to Schriftgiesser ("type-caster"). He died in 1831, succeeded by his son Nathan; the firm continued for another century, printing a Talmud edition (1872). Lebensohn and his descendants were active to 1900. More than 30 additional presses were established in Warsaw during the 19th century, including that of S. Orgelbrand and sons, who printed Talmud editions as well as Turim, Maimonides' Yad, the Shulḥan Arukh, and a Mishnah edition.

Among the moving spirits of Hebrew printing in Warsaw was Isaac Goldmann (1812–1887), who ran his own press from 1867 producing more than 100 books, among them Talmud tractates. In 1890 the brothers Lewin-Epstein established a Hebrew printing house, which is still active in Israel. A dozen or so more presses were set up in the first quarter of the 20th century. At the outbreak of World War ii in 1939 more than 1,000 workers were engaged in the Hebrew printing works in Warsaw.

Holocaust Period

When German forces entered the city on Sept. 29, 1939, there were 393,950 Jews, comprising approximately one-third of the city's population, living in Warsaw. Between October 1939 and January 1940 the German occupation authorities issued a series of anti-Jewish measures against the Jewish population. These measures included the introduction of forced labor; the order that every Jew should wear a white armband with a blue star of David, and the special marking of Jewish-owned businesses; confiscation of Jewish real estate and other property; and a prohibition against Jews using the railway and other public transportation.

the ghetto

In April 1940 the Germans began constructing a wall to enclose the future Warsaw ghetto. On October 2, the Germans established a ghetto for all Warsaw Jews and Jewish refugees from the provinces. Within six weeks all Jews or persons of Jewish origin had to move into the ghetto, while all "Aryans" residing in the assigned area had to leave. The ghetto originally covered 340 hectares (approximately 840 acres), including the Jewish cemetery. As this area was gradually reduced by the Germans, the walls were moved, and the number of gates changed. In the autumn of 1941 the ghetto was divided into two parts, joined by a bridge over Chlodna Street. The gates were guarded by German and Polish police from the outside and by the Jewish militia (Ordnungsdienst) from the inside and only those with a special permit could enter or leave the ghetto. In the beginning, the Warsaw city hall, German political authorities, and a special office, the "Transferstelle," responsible for financial affairs, dealt with the ghetto's administration. However, from April 1941 a German commissioner, Heinz Auerswald, was appointed over the ghetto. The head of the Jewish community council was Adam *Czerniakow, an engineer who had been appointed by the mayor of Warsaw during the siege (Sept. 23, 1939). By order of Hans Frank (Sept. 28, 1939), a *Judenrat was created, consisting of 24 members, and presided over by Czerniakow. Czerniakow carried out his functions for the general good under trying conditions, often interceding with the German authorities to ameliorate the repressive regulations. He tirelessly supported social and cultural institutions in the ghetto and provided relief wherever possible.

Originally some 400,000 Jews were crowded into the area of the ghetto. The reductions in its size necessitated internal shifting and further overcrowding, so that thousands of families were often left without shelter. The situation was further aggravated when some 72,000 Jews from the Warsaw district (see *Poland) were transferred to the ghetto, bringing the total number of refugees to 150,000 (April 1941). The average number of persons per room was 13, while thousands remained homeless. The ghetto population during various periods prior to July 1942 is estimated to have been between 400,000 and 500,000. The confiscation and plunder of Jewish property was conducted by the "Transferstelle." In January 1942, Jewish goods valued at 3,736,000 zlotys ($747,200) were confiscated; in February – 4,738,000 zlotys ($947,600); in March – 6,045,000 zlotys ($1,209,000); and in April-6,893,000 zlotys ($1,378,000). The ghetto population received a food allocation amounting to 184 calories per capita a day, while the Poles received 634, and the Germans 2,310. The price per large calorie was 5.9 zlotys (about $1) for Jews, 2.6 zlotys (50 cents) for Poles, and 0.3 zlotys ($.06) for Germans. The average allocation per person in the ghetto was four pounds of bread and a half pound of sugar a month. The dough was mixed with sawdust and potato peels.

The ghetto suffered from mass unemployment. In June 1941, 27,000 Jews were active in their professions, while 60% of the Jewish population had no income at all. A small number of Jews who had their own tools and machines found employment in factories taken over by Germans. Wages were minimal. For 10–12 hours of strenuous labor, a skilled worker earned 2½–5 zlotys ($0.50–1.00) daily. There was an acute shortage of fuel to heat the houses. In the winter of 1941–42, 718 out of the 780 apartments investigated had no heat. These conditions led to epidemics, especially typhoid. The streets were strewn with corpses due to starvation and disease. Bands

of children roamed the streets in search of food. A few women and children occasionally slipped across to the "Aryan" side, in an attempt to find food or shelter. The Polish police usually seized them and turned them over to the Germans. In October 1941 the authorities declared that leaving the ghetto without permission was punishable by death.

From time to time the authorities rounded up able-bodied people in the streets and sent them to slave labor camps. In April 1941 some 25,000 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto lived in these camps under conditions that rapidly decimated their numbers. After the outbreak of the German-Soviet War (June 1941), many of the inmates in the camps were executed.

It is estimated that by the summer of 1942, over 100,000 Jews died in the ghetto proper. Nevertheless, the morale of the ghetto inhabitants was not broken, and continual efforts were made to overcome the German decrees and organize relief. Illegal workshops were gradually established for manufacturing goods to be smuggled out and sold on the "Aryan" side. These included leather products, metals, furniture, textiles, clothing, and millinery. At the same time raw materials were smuggled in. In this way thousands of families were sustained. The smuggling of foodstuffs into the ghetto, carried out by Jewish children, was especially intensive. In December 1941 the official import of foodstuffs and materials into the ghetto was valued at 2,000,000 zlotys ($400,000) while illegal imports totaled 80,000,000 zlotys ($16,000,000). Social welfare institutions were active to combat hunger and disease. The *Centos for social welfare, the *Toz for health services, and other organizations re-formed and established hospitals, public kitchens (daily providing over 100,000 soup rations), orphanages, refugee centers, and recreation facilities. In each block of houses a committee for charitable work functioned and also engaged in cultural and educational activities, such as reading groups, lectures, and musical evenings. A network of schools, both religious and secular, as well as trade schools functioned in the ghetto. Some of these schools were illegal and could operate only under the guise of soup kitchens. Similarly, medical, technical, and scientific training was given under the guise of trade courses. By the end of 1940 the Jewish historian, Emmanuel *Ringelblum, established a secret historical and literary society under the code name of Oneg Shabbat. This group set up secret archives on the life and martyrdom of the Polish Jews under the Nazis. These archives, which were hidden in several places, were discovered after the war. Despite the closing down of all synagogues and the prohibition against public worship, clandestine services were held, especially on holidays. Yeshivot secretly functioned. The ẓaddikim of *Aleksandrow and *Ciechanow were hidden and cared for by their followers. Many religious Jews held the view that their sufferings were preliminary to the coming of the Messiah. There were many instances of heroism by ultra-Orthodox Jews in the face of death. Hillel *Zeitlin, the famous religious writer, arrived at the "Umschlagplatz" (assembly point) during the 1942 deportation, proudly dressed in his religious garb. Janusz *Korczak, the director of the Jewish orphanage, continued to give hope and courage to his wards until he boarded the death train together with the children.

formation of resistance

The main form of resistance in the ghetto revolved around the underground political life which existed throughout the German occupation. The most active were the Zionist groups – *Po'alei Zion, *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, Deror, *Betar, *Gordonia, as well as the Bund and the Communist-inspired Spartakus organization. As early as Passover 1940 the Germans, with the cooperation of Polish hooligans, provoked a pogrom in the Jewish district. Underground Jewish groups organized effective self-defense. After the ghetto was established, underground activity increased, as the purely Jewish environment offered better security against denunciations and infiltration of German police agents into the ranks of the underground. The political underground movements in the ghetto engaged in such activities as disseminating information, collecting documents on German crimes, sabotaging German factories, and preparing for armed resistance. A series of illegal periodicals appeared in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Polish. Among the best known were the following Hebrew publications: Deror, circulated by the *He-Halutz organization; El Al, Itton ha-Tenu'ah, and Neged ha-Zerem by Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir: Magen David by Betar; Sheviv by the General Zionists; Yiddish publications: Bafrayung by He-Halutz; Morgenfray and Biuletin by the Bund: and Polish publications: Awangarda by Po'alei Zion; Jutrznia and Plomienie by Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir.

The first Jewish military underground organization, Swit, was formed in December 1939 by Jewish veterans of the Polish army. Most of its members were Revisionists. The organization was headed by David Apelbaum and Henryk Lipszyc, aided by a Polish major, Henryk Iwanski.

Early in 1942 a second underground fighting organization emerged, created by four Zionist groups: Po'alei Zion, Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir, Zionist Socialists, and Deror, as well as the Communist organization. It soon became known as the anti-Fascist bloc. Its leaders were Szachna Sagan, Aron Lewartowski, Josef Kaplan, and Josef Sak. Four commanders were appointed: Mordecai *Anielewicz, Pinkus Kartin, Mordecai Tenenbaum, and Abram Fiszelson. The Bund did not join the bloc but created its own fighting organization "Samo obrona" (self-defense) under the command of Abraham Blum. None of the three military organizations of the ghetto succeeded in acquiring arms prior to July 22, 1942, when mass deportations to *Treblinka death camp were initiated by the Nazis.

first mass deportations

The deportations were preceded by a series of terrorizing "actions," when scores of people were dragged out of their homes and murdered in the streets. Just one day before the mass deportations to Treblinka began (July 21, 1942), 60 hostages were taken to the Pawiak Prison. Three days later, the president of the Judenrat, Adam Czerniakow, committed suicide following a demand by the Nazis that he cooperate with them in the deportations. His successor, Maksymilian (Marek) Lichtenbaum, also an engineer, obeyed the Nazi orders. The number of deportees averaged 5,000–7,000 daily, sometimes reaching 13,000. Some of the victims, resigned to their fate as a result of starvation, reported voluntarily to the "Umschlagplatz," lured by the sight of food which the Germans offered to the volunteers, and by the promise that their transfer to "the East" meant they would be able to live and work in freedom. In the beginning, the Germans exempted from deportation employees of the ghetto factories, members of the Judenrat and Jewish police, and hospital personnel, as well as their families. Thousands of Jews made feverish attempts to obtain such employment certificates. In the course of time even these "safe" categories were subject to deportation. The number of victims, including those murdered in the ghetto and those deported to Treblinka, totaled approximately 300,000 out of the 370,000 inhabitants in the ghetto prior to July 1942. This major Aktion lasted from July 22 until Sept. 13, 1942. Following the deportations, the ghetto area was drastically constricted so that some factories and several blocks of buildings were left outside the new walls and cordoned off with barbed wire to prevent anyone finding shelter there. The Germans also fixed the number of inhabitants allowed to remain in the ghetto at a maximum of 35,000 persons.

active resistance

The leaders of the underground movements appraised the new situation. At their first meeting, they decided to create the Jewish Fighting Organization (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa-zob), and take active steps to oppose further deportation. A few members of the underground managed to escape from Treblinka, and brought to the ghetto information about the real fate that awaited the deportees, namely physical annihilation. Because of the blockade it was not even possible to pass this information on to the non-Jewish population.

Some 30,000–35,000 Jews, most of them factory workers and their families, legally remained in the ghetto and were employed within or outside the ghetto. In addition, there were between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews living on in the ghetto "illegally." By the end of 1942 there was an influx of several thousand Jews from the labor camps which had been closed. At this time some Jews hiding on the "Aryan" side were seized and returned to the ghetto. In this period intensive preparations were made for armed resistance. The Bund also joined the zob, while the Revisionists continued to adhere to their separate organization, Swit. Appeals were made to several Polish underground organizations for the acquisition of weapons. An emissary of the zob, Arie (Jurek) Wilner, succeeded in persuading the commanders of one of the Polish underground armies (Armia Krajowa) of the necessity of supplying weapons to the ghetto underground and, after long negotiations, about 100 firearms and some hand grenades were sent into the ghetto. Another small quantity of arms was supplied by the Communist "People's Guard." The Revisionists also obtained several loads of arms from two Polish underground organizations led by Major H. Iwanski and Captain Szemley (Cesary) Ketling. Several secret workshops were established in the ghetto to manufacture homemade hand grenades and bombs, and some additional arms were bought on the black market. At the same time, a network of bunkers and subterranean communication channels was constructed to enable combat against the superior German forces and to protect the non-fighting population.

The second wave of deportations began on Jan. 18, 1943, when the Nazis broke into the ghetto, surrounded many buildings, and deported the inhabitants to Treblinka. They liquidated the hospital, shot the patients, and deported the personnel. Many factory workers who had been employed outside the ghetto were included among the deportees. The underground organizations, insufficiently equipped and ill-prepared, nevertheless offered armed resistance, which turned into four days of street fighting. This was the first case of street fighting in occupied Poland. The Germans, fearing the impact of this outburst on other parts of Poland, stopped the deportations, and attempted to carry out their aim by "peaceful" means, namely by voluntary registration for the alleged labor camps. The underground, in turn, conducted an intensive information campaign about the real intentions of the Nazis. As a result the second wave of deportations was suspended after four days, during which the Germans managed to send only 6,000 persons to Treblinka. About 1,000 others were murdered in the ghetto itself.

the ghetto uprising

After this Aktion, daily life in the ghetto was paralyzed. Walking in the street was punishable by death. Only groups of workers marching under armed guard were to be seen. Social institutions ceased to function and the Judenrat, most of whose members were killed in the January Aktion, were reduced to a small office. The underground organizations, however, were preparing for armed resistance in case a further attempt would be made by the Germans to liquidate the ghetto. Mordecai Anielewicz now headed the zob. The members of his command were: Itzḥak (Antek) *Cukierman, Herz Berlinski, Marek Edelman, Zivia Lubetkin, and Michal Rojzenfeld. The entire force was divided into 22 fighting units, each unit affiliated with one of the political groups. Israel Kanal was commander of the units operating in the central area of the ghetto; and Eleazar Geller and Marek Edelman commanded the factory units. The zob underground headquarters were at 18 Mila Street. The Revisionist commanders were Leon Rodal, Pawel Frenkiel, and Samuel Luft.

On April 19, 1943, a German force, equipped with tanks and artillery, under the command of Col. Sammern-Frankennegg, penetrated into the ghetto in order to resume the deportations. The Nazis met with stiff resistance from the Jewish fighters. Despite overwhelmingly superior forces, the Germans were repulsed from the ghetto, after suffering heavy losses. Sammern-Frankennegg was relieved of his command, and Gen. Juergen *Stroop, appointed in his stead, immediately resumed the attack. Street fighting lasted for several days, but when the Germans failed in open street combat, they changed their tactics. Carefully avoiding any further street clashes, the Germans began systematically burning down the houses. The inhabitants died in the flames, while those hiding in the canals and bunkers were killed by gas and hand grenades. Despite these conditions, the Jewish fighting groups continued to attack German soldiers until May 8, 1943, when the zob headquarters fell to the Germans. Over a hundred fighters, including Anielewicz, died in this battle. Several units continued to fight even after the fall of the zob and Revisionist headquarters. Armed resistance lasted until June 1943. With the help of the Polish "People's Guard" some 50 ghetto fighters escaped from the ghetto and continued to fight the Germans in the nearby forests as a partisan unit named in memory of Anielewicz.

The Warsaw ghetto uprising had an enormous moral effect upon Jews and non-Jews throughout the world, especially since it was prepared and carried out under conditions which practically excluded a priori any attempt at armed resistance. Despite the vastly unequal forces, the uprising continued for a long time and constituted the largest battle in occupied Europe before April 1943 (excepting in Yugoslavia). This battle also had its impact upon the Polish population, resulting in the intensification of resistance by the Poles as well as by Jews throughout the country. On May 16, 1943, Stroop reported to his superiors on the complete liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto. As a token of his victory he blew up the Great Synagogue on Tlomacka Street. According to his report, the Germans in the course of one month's fighting had killed or deported over 56,000 Jews. The Germans themselves officially suffered 16 dead and 85 wounded between April 29 and May 15, but it is conjectured that the German casualties were in fact much higher. In the course of the following months, the Germans penetrated the empty ghetto and hunted down the remnants hiding in the ruins, often using fire to overcome sporadic resistance, which continued until August 1943.

The Warsaw ghetto uprising became an event of world history when details of what happened became known after the war. Among the writers who depicted life in the ghetto and the underground fighters were Yiẓḥak L. Katznelson, John Hersey, and Leon *Uris.

After the liquidation of the ghetto, the surviving members of the ghetto leadership continued underground work on the "Aryan" side of Warsaw. The underground's main activity was to assist Jews living on the "Aryan" side, either in hiding or by means of forged documents. According to their figures, the number of Jews on the "Aryan" side reached 15,000 (May 1944). They also established contact with Jewish organizations abroad and received financial assistance. Among their leaders were Adolf *Berman of Po'alei Zion and Leon Fajner of the Bund. Emmanuel *Ringelblum continued his scientific work of collecting evidence on Nazi crimes until March 1944, when he was seized and executed. Hundreds of Jews were active in the Polish underground of Greater Warsaw, particularly Hanna Szapiro-Sawicka, Niuta Tajtelbaum, Ignacy Robb-Narbutt, Menasze Matywiecki, and Ludwik Landau. When the Polish uprising in Warsaw broke out on Aug. 1, 1944, over 1,000 Jews in hiding immediately volunteered to fight the Germans. Hundreds of them fell in the battle, among them a member of the high command of the People's Army, Matywiecki, and Pola Elster, a member of the Polish National Council. In addition, the remnants of the zob, under the command of Cukierman, and a group of liberated prisoners from the city concentration camp, participated in the uprising.

[Danuta Dombrowska]

Post-War Developments

About 6,000 Jewish soldiers participated in the battle for the liberation of Warsaw. Warsaw's eastern suburb, Praga, was liberated in September 1944, and the main part of the city on the left bank of the Vistula on Jan. 17, 1945. On that day only 200 Jewish survivors were found in underground hideouts in the ruins of destroyed Warsaw. By the end of 1945 about 5,000 Jews had settled in Warsaw. That number was more than doubled, when Polish Jews, who had survived the war in the Soviet Union, returned. Warsaw became the seat of the Central Committee of Polish Jews. On April 19, 1948 (the fifth anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising) a monument executed by N. Rapaport in memory of the ghetto fighters was unveiled in the square called "The Ghetto Heroes' Square." In 1949 a number of Jewish cultural institutions (The Jewish Historical Institute, the Jewish Theater, editorial staffs of the Yiddish papers Folksshtime and Yidishe Shriften) were transferred from Lodz to Warsaw. A club for Jewish youth, "Babel," was opened there and one synagogue was rebuilt. After the war Warsaw Jews left Poland in three main waves: in 1946–47 after the great pogrom in *Kielce; in 1957–58; in 1967–68 when the Polish government launched its official antisemitic campaign. After 1968 Jewish institutions, although officially not closed, had actually ceased to function. The number of remaining Jews, mostly aged people, was estimated at 5,000 in 1969.

[Danuta Dombrowska /

Stefan Krakowski]

In the following two decades Jewish life in Warsaw was dormant, as in all of Poland, with one synagogue open and no rabbi. With the fall of Communism Jewish life revived. Poland now had a chief rabbi whose seat was in Warsaw. A primary school and kindergarten were opened and Jewish courses were offered at the university. Warsaw's Jewish Historical Institute housed Emanuel *Ringelblum's famous ghetto archive as well as a 60,000-volume library while the Warsaw Yiddish Theater was the only regularly functioning Yiddish theater in the world, though most of the actors were non-Jews. In the early 21st century the majority of Poland's 8,000 registered Jews lived in Warsaw, though it was believed that there were many more people of Jewish ancestry.


S. Dubnow, History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, 3 vols. (1916–20), index; R. Mahler. Divrei Yemei Yisrael, Dorot Aḥaronim, 1, pt. 3 (1955); pt. 4 (1956); 2, pt. 1 (1970), indexes: idem, Toledot ha-Yehudim be-Polin (1946), index; A. Levison, Toledot Yehudei Varshah (1953); eg (1953, 1959); Pinkas Varshe (Yid., 1955); E. Ringelblum, in: Historishe Shriftn, 2 (1937), 248–68; idem, in: Zion, 3 (1938), 246–66, 337–55; idem, in: yivo Bleter, 13 (1938), 124–32; idem, Kapitlen Geshikhte … (1953); idem, Geshikhte fun Yidn in Varshe, 1–3 (1947–53); A. Kraushar, Kupiectwo warszawskie (1929); H.D. Friedberg, Toledot ha-Defus ha-lvri be-Polanyah (19502), 109 15; B. Weinryb, in: mgwj, 77 (1933), 273ff.: H. Lieberman, in: Sefer ha Yovel… A. Marx (1943), 20–21. See also bibl. Poland. E. Ringelblum, Zydzi w Warszawie podczas sredniowiecza (1932); G. Zalewska, Ludnosc zydowska w Warszawie w okresie miedzywojennym (1996); Y. Gutman, A. Wein, S. Netzer, Toledot Yehudei Varsha, me-Reshitam ad Yameinu (1991), M. Fuks, Prasa zydowska w Warszawie 1823–1939, (1979). holocaust: For a full bibliography see Holocaust, General Survey-Sources and Literature, Sections 3, 4; G. Reitlinger, Final Solution (19682), 260–326, and passim, incl. bibl.; R. Hilberg, Destruction of European Jews (1961), index: Central Commission for War Crimes, German Crimes in Poland, 2 vols. (1946–47); American Federation for Polish Jews, Black Book of Polish Jewry (1943); American Jewish Black Book Committee, Black Book (1945); A. Czerniakow, Yoman Geto Varshah (1968); C.A. Kaplan, Scroll of Agony: Warsaw Ghetto Diary (1965); J. Tenenbaum, In Search of a Lost People (1949); idem, Underground, the Story of a People (1952); B. Mark, Der Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto (19593); idem, (ed.). The Report of Juergen Stroop (1958), includes introduction and notes; J. Kermish (ed.), Mered Getto Varshah be-Einei ha-Oyev (19682), Eng. introd. and notes; P. Friedman, Martyrs and Fighters (1954); Y. Gruenbaum (ed.), Varshah (1953), 601–815; J. Sloan (ed.), Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto. The Journal of Emmanuel Ringelblum (1958); B. Goldstein, Five Years in the Warsaw Ghetto (1961); idem, The Stars Bear Witness (1950); D. Wdowinsky, And We Are Not Saved (1963); A. Donat, The Holocaust Kingdom (1965); N. Blumental and J. Kermish (eds.), Ha-Meri ve-ha-Mered be-Getto Varshah (1965), Eng. introd.: M. Berland, 300 Sha'ot ba-Getto ha-Do'ekh (1959). add. bibliography: Y. Gutman, Mered ha-Neẓorim (1963), idem, Yehudei Varsha 1939–1943, Getto, Makhteret, Mered (1977); Kh.A. Kaplan, Megilath Yesurin, Yoman Getto Varsha (1966), Y. Cukierman (Antek), Sheva ha-Shanim ha-Hen, 1939–1946 (1990); T. Prekerowa, Konspiracyjna Rada Pomocy Zydom w warszawie 1942–1945 (1967).


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AFTER 1989

Located on the Vistula River in the flatland of Mazovia, Warsaw (Warszawa) became the capital of Poland (the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) in the seventeenth century, thanks to its central location between the historical capitals of Kraków and Vilnius (Wilno). The Commonwealth, once the largest state in Europe, disappeared from maps in the late eighteenth century, partitioned by Russia, Austria, and Prussia; thus Warsaw began the twentieth century merely as a provincial city of the Russian Empire. After the defeated uprising of 1863 the province was deprived even of the name of Poland and was instead called Privislanski Krai, "Vistula Land."

Mass migrations and demographic explosion in 1870–1914 increased the city's population from 260,000 to 885,000. It was the eighth largest city in Europe, the second largest city in the Russian Empire, the largest Polish city, and the second largest Jewish city. Ethnic Poles remained the absolute majority, but the growing Jewish community made up close to 40 percent of the population; the remaining population was mostly Russian or German. Besides a heavy garrison and political oppression, Russian rule brought integration with huge markets of the empire, which helped develop Warsaw's industries: metal, machine, clothing, and food processing, as well as rail transport.

In summer 1914, Varsovians were not as enthusiastic about going to war as were the crowds in Berlin or Paris. It meant fighting for an alien ruler, possibly against other Poles and Jews in the German and Austrian armies. The Germans took Warsaw in August 1915. They abolished religious discrimination, recognized Warsaw as the capital of an autonomous Polish kingdom with a regency council, restored the Polish language in administration and education, and encouraged Jewish political organization. These concessions could hardly balance the hardships and losses that the city suffered during the war. The Russians dismantled or destroyed many factories and all bridges; disruption of trade networks and intensive exploitation by the Germans further affected the economy. First Russian mobilization and eastward evacuation of factories and institutions, then mass labor recruitment to Germany, failing birthrates, and growing death rates reduced the population to below 760,000.

In fall 1918 the occupation regime collapsed. German soldiers offered no resistance when disarmed by patriotic youth. On 11 November, Józef Pilsudski (1867–1935) took power from the regency council and declared Poland's independence. A Polish national movement exploited the window of opportunity that had opened when Germany, Austria, and Russia lost the war and restored independent Poland; Warsaw was the capital again. This was almost lost when a Bolshevik offensive reached the city outskirts several months later. The newborn Polish army defeated the invader in the dramatic Battle of Warsaw of August 1920, which saved the city and possibly a major part of Europe from communist rule, for a time.


Warsaw became the seat of the Polish parliament (Sejm and Senate), the president, the Supreme Court, and the government and military authorities, as well as the scene of major political events. The most dramatic of these were the assassination of Poland's first president, Gabriel Narutowicz (1865–1922), in December 1922, and the Pilsudski coup d'état in May 1926. In local and national elections, Varsovians shifted their votes from nationalist parties (Polish National Democrats; Zionists), which dominated in early 1920s, or those of the left (Socialists; Communists), to the Pilsudski camp after 1926. The Socialists gained strength again in late 1930, while the Communists and Radical Nationalists (ONR) attracted up to 15 percent and 10 percent of votes respectively.

Warsaw became Poland's cultural center: the largest concentration of theaters, cinemas, newspapers, and galleries, including the new National Museum. Almost 40 percent of books in Polish were published in Warsaw, and a third of Polish academic teachers taught there. Expansion of public education reduced the city's illiteracy rate from 30 percent to 6 percent. Higher education remained elitist, albeit the number of students grew by 50 percent (to twenty-three thousand). International cultural competitions (the Chopin competition for pianists and the Wieniawski Violin Competition) symbolized Warsaw's emergence as a European cultural center.

The capital status served the city well, bringing new buildings for the government, cultural institutions, modern residential districts, wide avenues, and parks. Warsaw expanded its territory to 140 square kilometers and almost doubled its population to 1.3 million (plus 140,000 daily commuters from suburban localities). Water, electric, and gas networks more than doubled in size, the number of telephone lines increased fourfold, energy consumption multiplied. The combined length of tram lines tripled, and suburban railroads contributed to rapid growth of population in the greater Warsaw area (to 1.9 million). Motor traffic was light: 2,300 taxis outnumbered horse droshkies only in the late 1930s. Living conditions gradually improved, but half of workers' families lived in single-room dwellings, only a minority of them had a bath.

Three-quarters of the population growth resulted from migration. Old industries recovered relatively quickly from war, and new ones emerged, including chemical, car, aircraft, and armament industries. Warsaw was also a major trade center. Workers, mainly semiskilled or unskilled, made up 47 percent of the population in 1921 and 53 percent (340,000) in 1938, when those self-employed (craftsmen, shopkeepers, and so forth) numbered 126,000. A notable group (123,000) was intelligentsia and white-collar workers, who staffed education, media, culture, and the expansive state and city administrations. Some forty to seventy thousand people were unemployed; sixty thousand were domestic servants, almost exclusively female, which contributed to the city's female majority.

Migrations resulted in the relative decline of the Jewish community to 29 percent in 1939, but in absolute terms it grew. Warsaw had more synagogues and houses of prayer than any other city in the world, as well as numerous Jewish schools, hospitals, newspapers, and cultural institutions. While acculturation made progress among the youth, the community's first language remained Yiddish; only a minority declared Polish as their mother tongue. Jewish identities, religious and secular, remained strong and synergic with high political mobilization by several Zionist parties, the religious Agudas, the socialist Bund, and so forth. Warsaw's Jews concentrated in the northwestern districts, such as Muranów and Leszno; among the bourgeoisie, its lower strata in particular, 85 percent of petty traders, 55 percent of craftsmen, 60 percent of doctors, and 37 percent of lawyers were Jewish. Ethnic tensions, which had marked the city since the early twentieth century, rose along with the economic hardships and radicalization of politics in the 1930s. Polish nationalists, the far-right ONR in particular, put anti-Semitic slogans at the forefront, called for boycott of Jewish shops, and harassed Jewish students.


In World War II Warsaw suffered greater losses than any other city in human history. It resisted the heavy bombing and repeated attacks of the German army till 27 September, when lack of supplies and hope for relief forced surrender. During the siege, sixteen thousand civilians and soldiers perished and more than sixty thousand were wounded. The subsequent German occupation aimed at reducing Warsaw to a provincial city, not even the capital of their General Government (a rump of Poland annexed neither to Germany nor to the USSR). Its principles were racist hierarchy, ruthless terror, unlimited exploitation, and plunder; genocide followed. In Warsaw, the Germans (thirty thousand in 1943) had separate districts, restaurants, seats in trams, and so on, "for Germans only." Poles, as an "inferior race," were to serve them as slave labor, terrorized into obedience. The lowest category were the Jews, who were deprived of any rights. Food rationing expressed it well: in 1941 the daily food ration in Warsaw was 184 calories for a Jew, 699 for a Pole, and 2,613 for a German.

Beginning in November 1940 all Warsaw Jews were closed behind the ghetto walls. Half a million people, Jews of Warsaw and deportees from other localities, went through the Warsaw ghetto—the largest in Europe, with 460,000 inmates at the peak moment. Starvation and disease took more than one hundred thousand lives before the great deportation to the death camp of Treblinka in July–September 1942, when more than three hundred thousand perished. When the final liquidation of the ghetto with some sixty thousand remaining Jews began in April 1943, members of the Jewish Fighting Organization and Jewish Military Union met Germans with fire. Despite great asymmetry of forces, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising continued until 8 May. Germans burned the ghetto house by house. Some twenty-five thousand Jews attempted to survive on the "Aryan side," in hiding or under a false identity; a minority succeeded.

Occupied Warsaw was under direct Nazi rule. Germans issued decrees, and appointed and controlled city administration and the Jewish Council to administer the ghetto. Key institutions of the new order were the SS-Police departments, the Pawiak prison (of sixty-five thousand inmates, 1939–1944, thirty-two thousand were executed and twenty-three thousand deported to camps) and the Labor Office, which shipped to the Reich ninety thousand Polish slave workers. The starvation-level food allocation and exploitative wages resulted in an unprecedented expansion of the black market. The occupiers took over all Jewish and major Polish business; many German companies supplying the German army opened branches in Warsaw. Besides the official, systematic plunder of valuables and cultural treasures, many Germans robbed on their own; corruption flourished.

Beneath, there was an underground city of secret military and political organizations, people in hiding, and the black market. It was the capital of the Polish Underground State, a unique conspiratorial structure, including the Home Army (forty thousand sworn soldiers in Warsaw alone), the civilian administration of the delegate of the Polish government-in-exile, secret tribunals, political parties, and youth organizations. It was the center of illegal publishing, underground education, and forbidden cultural activity. All these were punishable by death, yet German terror, including street round-ups and public executions, proved counterproductive. By summer 1944 there were almost one thousand armed assaults on German targets, including the simultaneous destruction of railroads around the city in November 1942 and the assassination of Warsaw's SS and police commander in February 1944.

The underground city rose to open battle in the Warsaw Uprising on 1 August 1944. This sixty-three-day-long battle was lost; fifteen thousand Polish soldiers and at least 150,000 civilians perished. The Germans emptied Warsaw (the left bank) of the remaining half a million people and over the next three months systematically destroyed the city with fire and dynamite; to Germany they shipped twenty-seven thousand wagons of plundered property. When a Soviet offensive forced them out in January 1945, Warsaw was a sea of ruins.

Estimates of Warsaw human losses range from seven to eight hundred thousand: more than the combined losses of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, and Hamburg. Buildings and infrastructure were destroyed in 85 percent of the city, including 90 percent of industrial buildings and equipment; 90 percent of churches, museums, and theaters; 80 percent of hospitals; and 70 percent of residential buildings. Invaluable cultural treasures, libraries, and archives were lost. Early twenty-first-century estimates of the material losses exceed $40 billion.


Despite the destruction and horror, Warsaw was resurrected. Returning refugees, a vast influx of migrants from the countryside, and young cohorts of baby-boomers gradually repopulated the city: from less than half a million in 1946, to 800,000 in 1950 and 1.1 million in 1960, to the prewar level of 1.3 million in 1970 and 1.6 million since 1980. Greater Warsaw grew to 2.3 million.

Varsovians, old and new, did their best to raise their city from the ruins. The new, communist regime made rebuilding a priority, in order to shore up its weak patriotic credentials. In ten years the houses of the Old Town had been rebuilt in their fifteenth-to seventeenth-century styles, St. John's Cathedral rose from ruins in its gothic form, the National Theater regained its classicist facade, and so forth. The Royal Castle was entirely rebuilt in the 1970s. Monuments were restored (though not all) and new ones erected, including the monument of the Heroes of the Ghetto (1948), a huge memorial of Soviet soldiers (1950), and hundreds of stone tablets commemorating the German executions. Instead of a statue of Joseph Stalin (1879–1953), Warsaw was given the massive Palace of Culture and Science (1955). The city regained its position as the cultural center of Poland; by the 1960s it had twenty-four theaters, fifty cinemas, major art galleries, concert halls, and museums. Sixty percent of Polish writers and journalists worked in the city, as well as every second composer, every third painter, and every fourth actor. It was the seat of 60 percent of Poland's research institutes and sixteen university-level schools, including the two largest ones (Warsaw University and Polytechnic). The student population grew from twenty-seven thousand in 1950 to eighty thousand in 1980, while 80 percent of Warsaw's teenagers went to secondary schools.

This city was very different from old Warsaw. It had lost its diversity and had a highly homogeneous, Polish, predominantly Roman Catholic population. War decimated old elites, and the new regime made the upper bourgeoisie, private entrepreneurs, domestic servants, and the unemployed disappear, while it greatly enlarged its favorite groups: industrial workers and bureaucrats. "Old" Varsovians became a minority among immigrants, many of whom needed time to learn urban ways of life. Class and ownership structures changed in a revolutionary way: all private real estate within city limits became public; all but the smallest enterprises were nationalized. Ninety-five percent of the city labor force were employees of the state-owned enterprises, state-controlled cooperatives, and public institutions. The city remained mostly female: in the early postwar years there were 140 women per 100 men (!), later the proportion stabilized at 115:100.

Warsaw's layout changed too. Many streets were altered, widened, and extended, especially the major east-west and north-south thruways. The city expanded to 495 square kilometers and absorbed several suburbs and satellite towns, which increased the population but decreased its density to just a third of the prewar level. New housing districts emerged, first in the areas of complete war destruction (such as Muranów), then in more distant suburbs such as Ursynów-Natolin and Bródno (each built to house one hundred thousand inhabitants), Stegny, Bemowo, and Goclaw. These districts made up of gray concrete apartment blocks are the greatest monument of the communist period.

Large industrial zones grew at the outskirts. Machine and automobile manufacturing, electrical engineering, electronics, tool making, metallurgy (including the Warsaw steelworks), printing, and clothing, food, and pharmaceutical industries dominated the city's economy. A third of the city's labor force (245,000 in 1980) worked in industry, which provided 8 percent of national industrial output. Production and employment grew fast especially in the 1950s and early 1970s; the 1980s were a decade of crisis and drift. Policy makers were proud of industrial growth and ignored environmental damage; the city did not have a sewage treatment plant.

Warsaw has long been Poland's biggest hub of rail, road, and air routes, but it did not have a subway until 1995. Buses (six hundred kilometers of lines in 1980s) became the basis of urban transport. Motor traffic grew slowly; there were 60,000 passenger cars in 1970 and 280,000 in 1980. Through most of the communist period "scarcity" was the key word for daily life; the measure for shortages of food and consumer goods was the length of queues in front of shops. Living standards improved: in 1980 the city had one person per room (15 square meters per person), 90 percent of dwellings had water and gas. However, services were poor, telecommunications included: in the late 1970s two households in three did not have a telephone.

Public life changed profoundly. The communists gutted the Sejm and other elective bodies, turning them into empty facades. They multiplied ministries (to thirty-four in 1952) and government agencies, and transformed trade unions, youth organizations, and so forth, into mass, centralized, and bureaucratic structures, all under strict control of the Party and its Politburo. Warsaw became the scene of monotonous political rituals, mass rallies, and parades. The Warsaw Pact was signed there in 1955. New landmarks in the city's political landscape were the Party headquarters, the Ministry of Public Security (Ministry of Internal Affairs since 1955), and the Soviet Embassy. Political crises destabilized the scene a few times, in particular in October 1956—when Wladyslaw Gomulka (1905–1982) managed to calm unrest and placate Soviet leaders, whose tanks were approaching Warsaw—and in March 1968, when the authorities crushed a student rebellion and unleashed the "anti-Zionist" campaign. During other major Polish crises (December 1970, August 1980) the city was relatively calm. This was not unrelated to living standards that were better than elsewhere in the country and to the concentration of Party members, who made up 14 percent of the city adult population.

The visit of Pope John Paul II in 1979, with great crowds vividly reacting to his sermons, showed a different Warsaw. Since the mid-1970s groups of democratic opposition had emerged among Warsaw's intelligentsia. Following the general labor strikes of summer 1980, which brought the Solidarity movement into the world's view, such independent initiatives mushroomed. Despite the declaration of martial law in December 1981 and mass arrests and other persecutions through the 1980s (including the murder of Father Jerzy Popieluszko [1947–1984]), the movement survived in the underground. Warsaw became, as it had been in World War II, the center of an impressive underground publishing movement. In spring 1989, in round table talks, Party and opposition leaders negotiated a compromise on (semi-)democratic elections, which were then won by the opposition. Through the domino effect, this led to the end of the communist regimes in Europe.

AFTER 1989

Beginning in 1989, Warsaw underwent a rapid transformation from command to market economy. After the shock therapy of the early 1990s, Warsaw's economy took off. Liberalization, privatization, and opening to foreign products and investment changed the city's economic profile, social structure, and outlook. Many big state-owned enterprises declined, while thousands of small businesses emerged as well as wealthy financial institutions; services and commerce displaced industry; and the Warsaw Stock Exchange reopened (in the former Communist Party headquarters). Warsaw has led Poland in reintegrating with the world economy, which has been undergoing globalization and rapid technological changes.

With the highest wages and lowest unemployment in Poland, the city has attracted many migrants from less fortunate regions of Poland and other countries (mainly post-Soviet republics), while natural growth declined. New social groups emerged; income disparities multiplied. The number of cars doubled, causing traffic problems, which the first subway line and two new bridges only partially solved. A construction boom transformed the skyline with new office towers and hotels; pubs, clubs, and shopping centers became favorite places of leisure. New patterns of consumption emerged as well as new social problems, such as homelessness and long-term unemployment.

Political reforms gave the city a real local government. Democratization introduced new emotions and style into city politics, with changing coalitions of liberals, (postcommunist) social democrats, Christian democrats, nationalists, and various populists. Citizens watched the public scene via new media: newspapers, radio stations, and Web sites. Long overdue monuments appeared, such as those to the Home Army and to Pilsudski, while the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky (1877–1926), founder of the Soviet political police, was removed; many streets changed their communist-era names. Noisy protests of miners, farmers, or nurses in front of government buildings became familiar sights, while contributing to traffic problems. The visits of foreign leaders became increasingly frequent. After Poland's accession to the European Union in May 2004, Varsovians elected their first deputies to the European Parliament.

See alsoHolocaust; Poland; Solidarity; Warsaw Ghetto; Warsaw Uprising; World War II.


Davies, Norman. Rising '44: "The Battle for Warsaw." London, 2004.

Drozdowski, Marian M., and Andrzej Zahorski. Historia Warszawy. Warsaw, 2004.

Gozdecka-Sanford, Adriana. Historical Dictionary of Warsaw. London, 1997.

Kaczorowski, Bartlomiej, ed. Encyklopedia Warszawy. Warsaw, 1994, 1996.

Dariusz Stola


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WARSAW (Polish, Warszawa). A small late medieval settlement on the left bank of the middle Vistula, Warsaw became the capital of the Principality of Mazovia during the reign of Janusz I the Elder (ruled 13741429). "Old Warsaw" was founded c. 1300 on the escarpment overlooking the Vistula, just north of an existing castle. By 1408 a "New Warsaw," lying due north of Old Warsaw, had established its own autonomous municipality, with a separate magistracy and market square. Old Warsaw was the more populous and affluent, with the bricked houses of the patriciate and wealthier tradesmen. Artisans, shopkeepers, and small farmers occupied the mostly wooden structures of New Warsaw.

The last Mazovian prince, Janusz III, died in 1526, and from that time Mazovia and Warsaw came under the Polish crown. No longer the small capital of an independent principality, Warsaw nonetheless continued to grow modestly, thanks partly to its expanding ties with Cracow and the kingdom. In 1527 and 1529, Sigismund I (ruled 15061548) granted charters to eleven Warsaw guilds, removing them from the jurisdiction of the Cracow brethren. By 1564, Old Warsaw encompassed 486 stone houses, New Warsaw 204 still mostly wooden houses. Jews were expelled from Warsaw in 1483, and a privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis, granted its burghers in 1527, forbade Jewish settlement in the town itself, relegating them to the suburbs for most of the early modern period.

Warsaw grew quickly in significance toward the end of the sixteenth century. From 1569 it was the site for meetings of the General Parliament, and from 1573 for the Election Parliaments that chose the kings of Poland and the grand dukes of Lithuania. A fire in the Wawel Castle in Cracow in 1596 moved Sigismund III Vasa (ruled 15871632) to begin expanding the Warsaw castle and to make it into the residence of Polish kings and their courts beginning in 1611. (Cracow would remain the capital and coronation city.) With the transfer of the royal court to Warsaw, the city began to draw magnates and gentry, who established residences in privately owned suburban "jurisdictions," which formed a chain of autonomous towns around Old and New Warsaw and offered competition to Warsaw's patriciate and guild artisans. The right-bank Praga suburb, the site of breweries, warehouses, and granaries, received its municipal privilege in 1648.

The wars of the mid-seventeenth century interrupted Warsaw's rapid growth from modest sixteenth-century numbers (its population had reached 20,000 by 1655). Swedish and Transylvanian armies finally left the city on 23 June 1657, and the rebuilding of Old and New Warsaw was largely completed by 1670. Under John III Sobieski (ruled 16741696) the center of gravity moved to the west, beyond the old walls, and settlement expanded into the magnates' suburban jurisdictions to the north and south along the river. The city again rebuilt after the Northern War (17001721). Warsaw became the center of Polish commerce and enlightenment under the last Polish king, Stanisław II Augustus Poniatowski (ruled 17641795). A "Black Procession" of burgher leaders to the Royal Castle on 2 December 1789 paved the way for belated urban reform in the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. The autonomy of the "jurisdictions" was finally abolished, and Old and New Warsaw, plus the suburbs, now formed one urban legal unit. Warsaw's growth (to 110,000 in 1792) was delayed with the sacking of Praga by Russian armies on 5 November 1794 and the third partition of Poland (1795), which initially gave part of Mazovia, including Warsaw, to Prussia. In 1799, the city's inhabitants numbered 64,000.

See also Jews and Judaism ; Northern Wars ; Poland, Partitions of ; Poland-Lithuania, Commonwealth of, 15691795 ; Poland to 1569 .


Berdecka, Anna, and Irena Turnau. ycie codzienne w Warszawie okresu Oświecenia. Warsaw, 1969.

Drozdowski, Marian M., and Andrzej Zahorski. Historia Warszawy. Warsaw, 1997.

David Frick


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Warsaw first rose to prominence in the sixteenth century, when Poland and Lithuania joined to form a united republic. Because the city is located conveniently between the two capitals of Cracow (Kraków) and Vilnius, and along the Vistula River leading to the major port city of Gdańsk, it was used for meetings of the Sejm (parliament) from 1569, and as a royal residence from 1596. During the next two centuries Warsaw was repeatedly damaged by warfare and political turmoil, and the city's economy was severely crippled. When Poland was conquered and partitioned in 1795, Warsaw was relegated to the status of a provincial town within the Kingdom of Prussia. The population of the city fell in a few short years from a pre-partition size of 150,000 to a mere 60,000 inhabitants.

Napoleon fashioned a puppet state called the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807, thus returning a bit of the city's former importance. Although the duchy fell with its founder, Warsaw remained a capital after 1815 when the Congress of Vienna sponsored the creation of the "Kingdom of Poland" as a semiautonomous state linked to the Russian Empire by a common hereditary ruler. The tsars steadily eroded the self-rule of the kingdom, but Warsaw retained its role as an administrative center. Above all, though, it was the focal point of the Polish national movement: Warsaw was the primary site for political agitation and public demonstrations, and it was the launching point for major uprisings in 1830 and 1863. Because of Warsaw's symbolic importance, national independence is traditionally dated from the moment the city came under Polish authority on 11 November 1918.

After Warsaw was linked to the major regional capitals by raillines(Vienna from 1848, St. Petersburg from 1862), it developed rapidly into a major industrial and commercial center. Already in 1880 Warsaw had nearly 400,000 people, and by 1910 it had 750,000, making it the third-largest city in the Russian Empire and one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe. It continued to expand after the restoration of Polish independence, exceeding one million people by 1925. Warsaw's urban infrastructure and architecture grew apace with this population growth: a modern sewage system was installed in 1872, gas lines were laid in 1856, the first tram line (horse-drawn) began service in 1866, a telephone system was in place from 1881, and electric power was available from 1903.

Most of Warsaw's inhabitants in the nineteenth century were Polish-speaking Roman Catholics, but Jews made up more than one-third of the population. Assimilation was limited, but certainly more common in Warsaw than in the countryside (the city's main synagogue featured sermons in Polish from the 1850s onward). An influx of rural Jews at the end of the century increased the dominance of the Yiddish-speaking population. There were also about forty thousand Russian soldiers stationed in and around Warsaw at the start of the twentieth century.

Even during the era of the partitions, Warsaw continued to be a focal point for Polish cultural, intellectual, and artistic life. The city's vibrant theatrical scene featured the National Theater Company, which was founded in 1765 and housed from 1833 in a magnificent opera house known as the Wielki Teatr (Great Theater). Warsaw's first major public art museum was created in 1862 and renamed the National Museum in 1916. The University of Warsaw was founded in 1816, but it had a troubled history: between 1831 and 1862 it was closed because the tsarist authorities feared student unrest, and between 1869 and 1915 Russian was the exclusive language of instruction. Nonetheless, the university produced many of the greatest intellectual and cultural figures of the era, including most of the so-callled Warsaw positivists (a late-nineteenth-entury political and literary movement defined by a liberal worldview and a naturalistic style). Though unable to serve as a center of political authority in the nineteenth century, Warsaw remained the symbolic capital of the country for many cultural and intellectual purposes.

See alsoAustria-Hungary; Cities and Towns; Lithuania; Nationalism; Poland; Prague; Russia.


Corrsin, Stephen D. Warsaw before the First World War: Poles and Jews in the Third City of the Russian Empire, 1880–1914. Boulder, Colo., 1989.

Drozdowski, Marian M., and Andrzej Zahorski. Historia Warszawy. 4th ed. Warsaw, 1997.

Kieniewicz, Stefan. Warszawa w latach, 1795–1914. Warsaw, 1976.

Brian Porter


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Warsaw Capital and largest city of Poland, on the River Vistula. Its first settlement dates from the 11th century. In 1596 it became Poland's capital and developed into the country's main trading centre. Controlled by Russia from 1813 to 1915, German troops occupied it during World War 1. In 1918, Polish troops liberated the city. The 1939 German invasion and occupation of Warsaw marked the beginning of World War 2. In 1940, the Germans isolated the Jewish ghetto, which contained 500,000 people, and following a brutal suppression of a Jewish uprising in February 1943, they killed more than 40,000 survivors. In January 1945, when the Red Army liberated Warsaw, they found only 200 surviving Jews. After World War 2, the old town was painstakingly reconstructed. Warsaw is a major transport and industrial centre. Industries: steel, cars, cement, machinery. Pop. (1999) 1,618,468.