Berek Joselewicz (1764-1809) was born was in Kretinga, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In September 1794 during the Kościuszko Uprising, he formed an all-Jewish light cavalry regiment. Most of the soldiers died in battle with Aleksander Suworow army while defending quarterdecks nearby the Jewish cemetery in Bródno sub-district. (In Praga’s synagogues masses for the fallen are held on every anniversary of the Slaughter in Praga.) After the defeat of the Kościuszko Uprising, Joselewicz had left for Italy where he joined the Polish Legions under Henryk Dąbrowski. He fought in various battles of the Napoleonic period. He was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Virtuti Militari medal and the Legion of Honour with a Golden Cross for his merits. He was killed in 1809 in the Battle of Kock where his grave is.
A small street, demarcated in the years 1911-12 between Lubelska and Bielska Street, is named after him. Only the prewar Józef Rosenthal factory of metal products is preserved on the street. Today it houses a carshop. Near Bielska Street there is a plaque commemorating the life of Berk Joselewicz.
July 17th, 1900, the Jewish press had written of the synagogue: The brick, multi-storey building houses a ward for men on the ground floor, on the first floor-a ward for women…Wide stairs lead to the ward for women….A spacious, light room was reserved for a religious school for poor Jewish children.
According to Bronisław Moszkowicz who lived here before the war: This synagogue did not stand out from the surrounding buildings. A part of the synagogue survived the war.
The street had been demarcated in 1870 and these houses, mostly owned by Jewish landlords, were inhabited by mainly railmen, cabmen and factory workers. It had survived the war almost unscathed, but in the next few years it went to ruin due to the lack of any renovation” – we read in “Atlas of former architecture of Warsaw Streets and Squares”.
The tenement at 21 Brzeska Street is worth seeing. On the façade there is a prewar sigh reading “TAILOR FOR MEN” and at the bottom, in small print: Painted by Rubinsztajn who lived at 17 Brzeska Street.
Szmul Zbytkower, the Landlord in the area of today’s Jagiellońska Street had built there a wooden synagogue for the Jews in Praga (1794). His son, Ber Sonnenberg, had built in 1807 Jewish House of Prayer and wrote in his will: Hereby I offer God the mentioned Beth Midrash (House of Learning) as well as the old synagogue located in the mentioned courtyard, and till this day I do not have a bigger share there than the rest of the city’s residents.”
Unfortunately both buildings had burnt during the November Uprising. In 1832 Praski Dozór Bożniczy Organization turned to the officials for permission to rebuild the synagogue as per the design of Józef Lessel. Completed in 1836, the characteristic round building was considered the main synagogue in Praga. The big praying hall was meant for men. The women gathered on the gallery. In the Eastern apsis there was the Aron Ha-kodesh.
During II World War the Germans used it as lice extermination point. The building survived the war, but was partly damaged. The Central Committee of Polish Jews wanted the synagogue to be entered into the register of monuments and was raising funds for reconstruction. Unfortunately, the municipality ordered the demolition in 1961.There is a playground now where the synagogue used to be.
In 1863, on the premises owned by Szmul Zbytkower and his descendants – the Bergson family, a brick synagogue as per the design of Józef Lessel was built, replacing the old wooden one which had burnt during the November Uprising. The second part of the plot is occupied by, as the plaque reads – “MICHAŁ BERGSON JEWISH EDUCTIONAL FACILITY, 1914 THE YEAR OF THE GREAT WAR”.
The building served as a shelter for 100 children, an orphanage for 150 and a school for 500 children (it was not operating during I World War). It housed a Jewish House of Prayer and apartments for teachers. The building was designed by Henryk Stifelman and Stanisław Weiss who referred to Polish architectural traditions and adorned the façade with late Renaissance motifs and garners as in Kazimierz Dolny.
During II World War, the Holy Ghost Hospital and then German institutions had their seat in the building. After the war it had been taken over by the Soviet army and afterwards it housed the Jewish Committee. At that time it was reconstructed as per the design of E. Sekrecka to house a seven-grade school, a dormitory, apartments, a theater with 350 seats and a canteen for 400 people. Next, it was taken over by the national administration, and “Baj” Puppet Theater was created. Currently, it is being modernized in the framework of the project “Revitalization of the historical area of Praga 2014-2022”. In the building next to “Baj” Theater, there are various spaces for animation activities for children.
On the courtyard of the six-storey tenement at 10 11 Listopada Street there are prewar factory buildings. A celluloid factory was located here during the war which was the hiding place for resistance groups of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Among them, Tosia Altman (1918-1943) who before the war had organized underground structures of Hashomer Hatzair. During the war, she moved around between the ghettos.
During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, she was hiding in a bunker at 18 Miła Street. When the bunker was surrounded by Germans, she was one of the few to survive that battle on May 8th. The Germans filled the room with gas, and all combatants, including Mordechai Anielewicz, commited suicide.
The unconscious Tosia Altman was carried out during the night and transported to a shed on Świętojerska Street. After a few days she was again led out through the sewers and placed in the attic of a factory at 10 11 Listopada Street. Unfortunately, a fire broke out and Tosia had to run for her life; she jumped out of the window. She was taken into custody by the Gestapo and died shortly afterwards of burns, receiving no medical treatment.
BRAGE rubber factory, established in 1918 by brothers Samuel and Sander Ginzberg, was located here before the war. The brothers also owned houses at 9 Stalowa Street and 20 11 Listopada Street. The factory employed 300 workers; gaskets, rubber toys, drawing rubber and rubber articles for hospitals were produced here.
Samuel Ginzberg died in Warsaw Ghetto at the age of 56. On the Jewish cemetery, on Okopowa Street next to the Main Avenue in cemetery quarter 65, there is a tombstone in Polish, reading: B.P. Samuel Ginzberg, an entrepreneur and a citizen of Warsaw died on September 23rd, 1941.
Where the rest of the family died – we don’t know. Currently, there are various cultural institutions on the premises of the old factory – clubs and Academia Theater.
Mikvah is a bath used for the purpose of ritual immersion in “natural” water, untouched by human hand, e.g. rainwater or underground streams. To be purified, you need to submerge your whole body in water. Mikvah is a “spiritual device”, thus, it does not serve hygiene purposes. In Jewish culture and tradition, mikvah is extremely important; building it in communities is a priority.
It is used by both men and women; Jewish women must use it to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth; Jewish men to achieve ritual purity. Orthodox Jews come to mikvah before every morning prayer, and all Jewish men must come before the Jom Kippur holiday. New crockery is also washed in the mikvah.
There had been 13 mikvahs in Warsaw in 1885, two of them in Praga. The building of the former mikvah on Kłopotowskiego Street is the only one in Warsaw. It had been created in the years 1911-1914 as per the design of Berliner engineer Nauma Hornstein. Inside you can find the traces of the old décor. A koshered butchery had operated here after the 1940s. Multi-cultural Jacek Kuroń High School operates here currently.
Unfortunately, there are no prewar photographs of Leon Żółtek carriage works at 3/5 Konopacka Street; he was dubbed the “King of Carters”. Today, at this address, there is a six-storey tenement and a square occupied by cars.
In „Voice of Praga” from 1934, it was written that Leon Żółtek was the President of the Syngouge Board at 31 Szeroka Street (today’s Kłopotowskiego Street). He died on January 22nd, 1939 at the age of 63. Jan Jagielski, a documentary film-maker from Jewish Historical Institute, looks back: On the Jewish cemetery I often used to run into Mrs.Leokadia Żółtek ,the daughter-in-law of Leon Żółtek, who used to tell that his funeral had lasted many hours. The funeral procession had gone to the synagogue on Szeroka Street and, after prayers, across Kierbedzia Bridge and streets of Muranów to the cemetery on Okopowa Street.
Leon Żółtek is buried by the Main Avenue in cemetery quarter 65. The majority of The Żółtek family died in Warsaw Ghetto.
There is little information about this wooden synagogue. What we do know is that it was built in 1927 and was the property of the Jewish Community. Its photograph from 1934 survived the then flood. As the prewar resident of Pelcowizna mentioned, the synagogue had burnt in 1939. A year later the Jews were displaced to Warsaw Ghetto.
The striking corner building at the intersection of Okrzei Street and Jagiellońska Street was built in 1906 as per the design of Henryk Stifelman and Stanisław Weiss, as the commercial tenement for Prince Witold Massalski who lived in Warsaw on Lwowska Street. Commonly, it is known as “Pod Sowami” because the sculptures of owls topped the building (Sowa – an Owl). The owls were not the only decorative elements, there were also reliefs found on the façade depicting bats and mythical dragons. It was entered into the register of monuments in 2005, currently it is undergoing complete renovation. A valuable discovery was made during first renovation works- a tin plaque from before I World War reading: 29 Moskiewska Street. The plaque was given to the Warsaw Praga Museum.
Abraham Kronenberg’s „At Abrama’s“ restaurant was located in the corner business premises of the tenement during the interwar period. The prewar nationalists, however, would destroy the sign over and over so the owner decided to change the name to “At Adolf’s”. Allegedly, it happened the same day that Adolf Hitler came to power.
After II World War, there was a pharmacy here for many years, currently popular restaurants occupy the ground-floor of the building.
The exact location of the old, wooden synagogue in Praga is unknown. The new one (also wooden) was erected at the intersection of Jagiellońska and Ratuszowa Streets in 1938. The first mass had been held here December, 4th 1938 in the presence of the head Rabin – Baruch Steinberg (he was killed in Katyń) and Rabin Dr. Mojżesz Schorr (he died during the war in a Soviet prison).In his preaching Rabin M.Schorr said: Today, we bless this building which will serve the belief in God, His Glory and Admiration. In this temple, from this altar Jewish prayers and thanksgiving chants in the memory of the Jewish soldiers will rise up to the Lord of the Heavens.
It is not known when the synagogue was destroyed. There is no trace left of it.
The building was erected in 1863 by Karol Juliusz Minter, the owner of the metal products casting house, as per the design of Józef Orłowski. At the end of the 19th century the tenement was leased to the Praga Male Junior High School. In the school year 1891/92, Henryk (Hirsz) Goldszmit (Janusz Korczak) had started to learn here and passed the A-levels exam in 1898. Leon Rygier looks back: We had both finished the eight-class high school in Praga, it was of course a Russian school.
After 1905 the junior high school relocated to its own building on Aleksandrowska Street. After I World War it was given the name after King Władysław IV, and the street was renamed to Zygmuntowska Street. In front of the school building there is a rock with a carved writing: Januszowi Korczakowi (1879-1942) Władysławiacy.1989.
After 1989 Minter’s tenement became the property of Praga Harbour Company which intended to demolish it. Wide protests to protect one of the oldest and most valuable tenements made the company reconsider and finally decide of its reconstruction and modernization. In the 2012 statement, the Company’s Board announced to make it a hotel-conference center: Taking into consideration the historical value of the building and its connection with Janusz Korczak, we have decided to name one of the lecture halls after him and create a classroom dedicated to collections documenting the life of Janusz Korczak.
The Association for Support of Jewish Students was established in 1924 (Auxilium Academicum Judaicum). Building the Jewish Dormitory was one of the initiatives. The initially chosen place to build it (nearby the already existing round synagogue at the intersection of Jagiellońska and Szeroka Streets (currently Kłopotowskiego Street) was protested against by Orthodox Communities. The explanation was that the building would hide the synagogue out of sight, and the students could engage in religious conflicts. The Orthodox paid in $600 and bought the square at the intersection of Brukowa Street (now Okrzei), Namiestnikowska Street (now Sierakowskiego) and Szeroka Street (now Kłopotowskiego).
Despite financial difficulties, the five-storey building was erected as per the design of Henryk Stifelman. As in other designs, the style of the building refers to Polish Renaissance. The building was financed by the Association for Support of Jewish Students and served Jewish students. Apart from residential premises, it held also the Albert Einstein lecture hall, a reading room and a ward for the sick. About 300 Jewish students used to live there, among them Menachem Begin – at that time a law student at the Warsaw University and later the Israeli Prime Minister and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
During the war, the Praga Hospital functioned there; later, when the Red Army arrived in the district of Praga, the NKVD headquarters were located here. At present, the dormitory belongs to the police, and serves as a hotel.
Szmul (properly Samuel) Jakubowicz Sonnenberg aka Zbytkower (1727-1801), a merchant, a banker, a military supplier with strong ties to the royal court, was one of the leading figures in the life of the 18th century Jewish Communities in Praga. He was born as the only son of Jakub Awigdor, called as well Zbytkower. He went down in history as a resourceful merchant, generous philanthropist, owner of farms, butcheries, tanneries, sawmills, brickyards and as a banker and protégée of King Stanisław August Poniatowski. His third wife, Judyta (Gitel) Jakubowicz Lewi, was born in Frankfurt (Oder) and managed a popular meeting place in Warsaw and was a frequent guest on the famous Thursday Dinners
In 1780 Zbytkower had been appointed by the Council of Four Lands to be the representative of all Polish Jews; he had gained permit from Royal Treasury to buy a city called Golędzinów and established there a Jewish cemetery (on today’s Wincentego Street in Bródno subdistrict). He had also built a synagogue in Praga (at the intersection of today’s Jagiellońska and Kłopotowskiego Streets). In 1794, during the Slaughter in Praga, he had hidden and saved many townsmen from death by the Russian army. He had also bought out many orphans from Cossacks, which was remembered/reflected in an inscription on his tombstone which did not survive the war.
After Szmul Zbytkower had died, his son, Ben Sonnenberg, took over his business and became the forefather of the famous Bergson House (Henri Bergson, the outstanding French philosopher, originated from this House).The Pragier Family are also the ancestors of the Bergsons. Szmulowizna in North Praga is the sub-district named after Szmul, its grounds had been once owned by Zbytkower.
In 1780, upon the request of Szmul Zbytkower, King Stanisław August Poniatowski had agreed to establish the Jewish Cemetery (kirkut) on the royal lands in Bródno (old city of Golędziów).The first funeral had taken place here in 1784; here, Szmul Zbytkower was buried in 1801 and Abraham Stern (the great grandfather of the poet Antoni Słonimski) in 1842. After 1870, when Praga’s Jews had been incorporated into Warsaw Borough, the cemetery was the burial place of poor Jewish people. In 1926 it had 300.000 graves on the area of 20 ha.
During Hitler’s occupation, the cemetery was significantly damaged. Unfortunately, the plundering of footstones did not finish after the war. Recently, parts of the tombstones from the Zoological Garden, parks in Grochów sub-district and from Bródno Cemetery returned to the cemetery.
In the 1950s, trees were planted on the old Jewish Cemetery with the intention to create a park, and the old footstones were collected and placed on a hill, but it did not prevent the devastation of the premises. In 1983 Zygmunt Nissenbaum, a resident of Praga and a prisoner at Treblinka, showed interest in the cemetery. His Foundation fenced it and built the impressive Main Gate (as per the design of D. Kowalski, T. Pastuszko, L. Waszkiewicz). Unfortunately, the cemetery was not declared a Memorial Site. In 2012 Jewish Borough in Warsaw took custody of the cemetery.
In the 1910 address register there is a Jewish House of Prayer at this number. It was disassembled in 1925. The unprotected mural is hardly visible today. Perhaps, it is the remaining element of a shack which was set here during the autumn harvest home.
The complex of three tenements at 50/52 Targowa Street, on the plot adjacent to Różycki Market, is one of the most important places in the district. In 2006 Warsaw Council decided to locate the Warsaw Praga Museum here. The project, subsidized by European Regional Development Fund in the frameworks of Infrastructure and Environment Operational Program 2007-2013, was completed in October 2014 when first visitors came to the Warsaw Praga Museum.
The complex consists of three tenements and an outbuilding which has preserved original Jewish halls of prayer with fragments of murals. The building on the left is a one-storey Berk Lejzerowicz Rothblit tenement with a picturesque, small wooden gellery in the courtyard built in the years 1818-1819. It is now the oldest preserved brick apartment house in Praga. The middle building, the two-storey Antoni Sokołowski tenement, was built in the years 1872-1873 and is the youngest one, however, mounted on older foundation. The building on the right from the years 1829-30 was also owned by Rothblit and until 1939 housed an elementary Jewish Cheder.
In 2003 all buildings were entered into the register of monuments.
In a humble outbuilding in the courtyard at 50/52 Targowa Street (at present Warsaw Praga Museum) there are preserved Jewish Houses of Prayer with unique murals.
The outbuilding had been presumably erected at the end of the 18th century as an outhouse designated for a garner, a bakery or a distillery. Around 1870 it became the Jewish House of Prayer (two rooms are preserved, probably they served as two separate prayer rooms but it is plausible that there was also the third one in the damaged part of the outbuilding). During II World War, the rooms were used as storages or workshops. In the years 1996-1999 Janusz Sujecki and Jarosław Zieliński discovered murals under the dry wall which were fully uncovered in 2005.
In the eastern House of Prayer the decoration is in the form of a framing under the ceiling with Zodiac signs (11 are preserved). This motif appeared often in synagogues as the symbol of twelve tribes of Israel.
In the western House of Prayer, besides the framing with six Zodiac signs preserved, murals, depicting Jews praying by the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and Rachela’s tomb in Bethlehem, were discovered. There a writing in Hebrew on one of them which implies that the murals were founded in 1934 by Izrael Jehud, Jehoszua, Josef and Zew – sons of Dawid Grinsztajn. They were merchants on the Różycki Market.
The murals were presumably painted in different time as they have different coloring and style.
In the 1840s Karol Fryderyk Minter, the owner of the artistic casting house, had bought a wooden house at 154 Wołowa Street. His son, Karol Minter, in the years 1865-1867 had built on the same plot a two-storey brick tenement. Mostly craftsmen and Jewish merchants had lived in it. In 1900 the house was sold to a Jewish merchant from Nowy Dwór, Menas Ryba (1843-1938). The new Landlord was a resourceful man and added outbuildings to his tenement, and he advised Julian Różycki, a pharmacist, to buy the nearby squares and start a market. Soon the market brought great profits, and Menas Ryba was its manager. Now, the legendary “Różyc” is fading and waiting for revitalization; new plans of land development are now being consulted with local community.
56 Targowa Street Creativity Centre will be established in this historical tenement. The plans include revitalization and expansion of the tenement. Both the front building and the outbuilding will be adapted for office-commercial purposes. There will be office space, conference halls and exhibition halls. According to the initial design, the investment will occupy the area around 2800 m² .
Due to the fact that prior to II World War the center of Jewish trade was here, Ząbkowska Street, was called “Praskie Nalewki” (Praga’s Spirits). According to the register, in 1926 there were four Jewish Houses of Prayer in Praga.
After the fire in 1868, Icchak Hersz Jahrman erected a brick building at number 11, and in the outbuilding on the ground floor, in flat no.27 he created a Jewish House of Prayer. During II World War and afterwards, the flat was turned into a carpenter’s shop. In the 1990s, despite many attempts, no murals of the old House of Prayer were found in the abandoned room.
Virtual Tour "Praga’s Judaica" forming part of the project "Cultural Kaleidoscope – preservation of cultural heritage Praga" was co-financed by the European Union from the European Regional Development Fund under the Regional Operational Programme of Mazovian Voivodship 2007-2013.
Welcome to the website of the District Counsil Praga-Północ of the Capital City Warsaw (www.praga-pn.waw.pl), where you can see the other virtual walks on Our District implemented within the project "Cultural Kaleidoscope", ie.: "Third Dimension of Praga", "Postindustrial Praga", "Tenements with a soul" and "Praga, district of three cultures".