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Yad Vashem This Month in Holocaust History
October 1940, Jews at prayer on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in Krakow, Poland

October 1940

Jews at prayer on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in Krakow, Poland

On the eve of World War II, 60,000 Jews lived in Krakow, approximately one quarter of the city’s entire population. With the German conquest of the city in September 1939, a wave of persecution against the Jews began. About one month later, the ruling authorities declared that Krakow would become the capital of the civilian administration in Poland (Generalgouvernment); subsequently, the persecution of Krakow’s Jews increased.

In December 1939 the Germans set loose upon the Jewish neighborhoods in Krakow and confiscated much Jewish property. In May 1940 the Jews were forbidden from appearing on major avenues and central squares in the city. During the same month the deportation of the city’s Jews to the surrounding towns and villages began. After two months the Germans arrested two of the heads of the Judenrat (Jewish council).

The Jews appearing in the image above were photographed during the prayer services of Yom Kippur 5701, on October 11-12, 1940, when the deportations of the Jews of Krakow to the surrounding towns was still taking place. By March 1941 more than two-thirds of Krakow’s Jews had been deported from the city. A ghetto was then established in the city, in which the Jews of both the city and surrounding towns were concentrated, living in extremely crowded and difficult conditions. From the ghetto the Jews were sent to the death camps, with the ghetto being liquidated two years later in March 1943.

Yad Vashem Photo Archives 1663/19