ulica Szeroka in Kazimierz

Szeroka Street in Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter of Krakow

To find the Kazimierz district in Krakow, just look for Wawel hill, which is a 748 foot high Jurassic hill that is a prominent feature of the city, south of the Old Town. Head in a southeastern direction from Wawel hill to find Kazimierz. The best route is along ul. Stradomska, a major street that is on the east side of Wawel Hill. After you cross ul. Jozefa Dietla, ul. Stradomska becomes ul. Krakowska and you are now in Kazimierz. Turn east on ul. Jozefa and this street will lead you to ul. Szeroka, the main street of Kazimierz.

The Jewish quarter is in the eastern section of Kazimierz and centers around Szeroka Street which runs north and south and has parking available in the middle of the street. From there, it is best to tour Kazimierz on foot, as there is not much parking space. However, a modern shopping center, called Galeria Kazimierz, has been built recently in Podgorska street and lots of free parking space is available there. The Galeria is around two to three minutes of walking time from both Kazimierz and Podgorze.

The photo above shows the western side of ulica Szeroka, or Szeroka Street, which is the main street in Kazimierz. In the movie, Schindler's List, Stephen Spielberg used this street to film scenes of the Jews in the Podgorze Ghetto in Krakow.

East side of Szeroka Street where Helena Rubenstein was born

The photograph above shows the eastern side of ul. Szeroka. In the middle of the picture, you can see the red house that was the birthplace of Helena Rubenstein. Her name may not be familiar to the younger generation but in the 1950s, her line of cosmetics was one of the most popular in America; her sweet-smelling Heaven Sent perfume was a favorite of many college co-eds and is still available, although hard to find.

The last two photos below show a closeup of the Rubenstein house, and a close-up of another house down the street to the right, which is the house that Helena Rubenstein liked to claim was her birthplace because she liked this house better, according to my tour guide.

The actual house where Helena Rubenstein was born

House which Helena Rubenstein claimed as her birthplace

The little green car in the photo above is a FIAT 126p; the p is for Polish to stress the fact that these cars were manufactured in Poland, since they were also made in Italy. The FIAT 126 was designed in the 1970's by the Italian FIAT Motor Company. The Polish Communist government, led by comrade Edward Gierek, bought the license and the manufacturing of these little cars began in Poland. The cars were supposed to be affordable and widely available. From
the mid-1970's until the communist downfall in 1989, these cars were one of only four models of cars built in Poland; the others were FIAT 125p, Syrena and Polonez. The FIAT 126p was called a "Little One."

Before the Nazis invaded Poland on September 1, 1939 and captured the city of Krakow on September 6, 1939, the Jewish population of Krakow numbered 68,482 and the district of Kazimierz was a vibrant center of Jewish life. When I first visited in 1998, the Kazimierz district looked like a run down neighborhood that, if located in Detroit or Chicago, would be called a slum. At the end of World War II, around 6,000 Jewish survivors of the Nazi death camps moved into Krakow, including 2,000 former residents. In 1946 and again in 1968, there was a wave of anti-Semitism throughout Poland, which caused most of the Jews to leave for Israel or the USA. By the 1980's, the only Jews left in Krakow were mostly elderly people living in the dilapidated buildings in Kazimierz.

Kazimierz was originally established in 1335 by King Kazimierz the Great, as a separate walled town near the city of Krakow, just south of Wawel hill, the ancient seat of Poland's royal court. Krakow had become the capital of Poland in 1038, and in 1335, it was still the capital, before the seat of the government was moved to Warsaw in 1596. Krakow became the capital of the General Government, the name that the Germans gave to their zone of occupation in Poland in 1939. The Soviet Union occupied the eastern sector of Poland, across the Bug river, after they invaded Poland on September 17, 1939.

In the 14th century, many Polish cities, including Krakow, were predominantly German. The Poles who are the friendliest bunch of people that you will ever meet, had invited the Germans to Poland way back in the 13th century, long before they invited the Jews a century later. Kazimierz was to be a Polish town separated from German-dominated Krakow by an arm of the Vistula river which has now disappeared. The Stradom district of Krakow now separates Kazimierz from Wawel hill, but at one time Stradom was incorporated into Kazimierz as it expanded northward right up to the foot of the hill.

2005 Photos of ulica Szeroka in Kazimierz

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This page was last updated on March 1, 2009