A Travel Guide for Lublin District Jewish Descendants to Poland


What Jewish sites are available in the Lublin district?
What towns did you visit in the Lublin district?
Are records available at the town halls?
What museums do you recommend I visit?
What death camps should I visit?
How much will the trip cost?


What towns did you visit in the Lublin district?

A: We visited Lublin (city), Zamosc, Chelm, Krylow, Szczebreszyn, and Hrubieszow. We passed by Rejowiec, Piaski, Krasnystaw, and Izbica but did not have time to stop.

What Jewish sites are available in the Lublin district?

A: In Jozefow near Bilgoraj, there is a synagogue dating from the second half of the 19th century and a Jewish cemetery, both of which underwent renovation in 2015. At the synagogue, a small exhibition of photographs and Judaica was installed in the synagogue Ark.

In Kazimierz Dolny, the former synagogue features photos of Jewish life in the town from Benedykt Jerzy Dorysa. The Kazimierz Dolny Goldsmith Museum includes items of Judaica. Other branches of the town’s Nadwislanskie Museum also present material on local Jewish heritage, including photographs and fragments of gravestones. Both Jewish cemeteries in the town were completely destroyed in the Holocaust.

In Lublin, the building of the former Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin is standing. Founded by Rabbi Yehuda Meir Shapiro in 1930, it was restored by the Warsaw Jewish community and contains a synagogue inside of the Yeshiva building.

Also in Lublin are the Old and New Jewish cemeteries. The Old Cemetery, founded in the 1500s, contains the oldest Jewish grave in Poland, that of Jakob Kopelman haLevi, who died in 1541. The New Cemetery was founded in 1829. Although desecrated during the war, it was restored and is still used by the small local Jewish community.

In Zamosc, the renaissance synagogue in the heart of Zamosc's old town, was restored and reopened in 2011 as a cultural center.

Three of the major death camps in Nazi occupied Europe are in Poland. I strongly recommend visiting Majdanek Death Camp on the outskirts of the city of Lublin. There, you will see how a large-scale labor camp was turned into a death camp with gas chambers and killing fields. The barracks at Majdanek are all in tact, as are several of the guard towers.

The Sobibor Museum is located just outside of Sobibor in the town of Wlodawa. At both Sobibor and Belzec, the two death camps in the southern and eastern part of Poland, the camp was destroyed before the Russians liberated the area. Because of the extensive clean-up operation at these locales, little evidence remains of the crimes committed. Additionally, the locations are fairly remote, in the middle of the Polish forests.

In Wlodawa, near Sobibor, two synagogues still exist -- the Great Synagogue and the small synagogue. In nearby Chelm, we found the Jewish cemetery to be impressive and fairly well maintained.

According to the Jewish Guide for Poland, these are the places in the Lublin district worth visiting ...

Annopol - Jewish cemetery
Bychawa - synagogue and Jewish cemetery
Chelm - synagogue and Jewish cemetery
Hrubieszow - Jewish cemeteries, new "Shalom" restaurant, Staszic school
Izbica - Jewish cemetery
Kazmierz Dolny - synagogue and Jewish cemetery
Kock - Jewish cemetery
Krasnik - two synagogues and Jewish cemetery
Krasnystaw - synagogue and Jewish cemetery
Lubartow - Jewish cemetery
Parczew - two synagogues
Piaski - Jewish cemetery
Rejowiec - Jewish cemetery
Urzedow - synagogue and Jewish cemetery
Wlodawa - two synagogues and Jewish cemetery
Wojslawice - synagogue and two Jewish cemeteries
Zamosc - two synagogues and Jewish cemetery

Are records available at the town halls?

A: Yes! But you will need a Polish-speaking guide if you want to be successful in finding these records.

Should I travel to Warsaw or Krakow first, or just go directly to the Lublin area where my ancestors lived?

A: It depends what you're trying to achieve. For our trip, we were interested in how our ancestors lived -- not how they died. Therefore we wanted to see any remnants of Jewish life in their area. We mostly found cemeteries and a few synagogues with nothing else. However Poland does have some "Jewish-themed" restaurants that seem to bring appreciation for the lost Jewish culture of Poland.

Warsaw and Krakow are two different cities with entirely different feels to them. Krakow felt more German to me, and seemed to have a higher population of Jews than Warsaw. We saw several Israeli tourist groups in Krakow while we were there. There are Jewish synagogues in both places, but most of them are either not in use (not enough Jews) or are museums.

We certainly encourage you to visit your ancestors' towns of origin. If the costs of going to Warsaw and Krakow would not permit you to also visit your ancestors shtetlach, then you should pass on the big cities and go to your ancestral shtetlach.

What death camps should I visit?

A: Many people would answer Auschwitz here and be done with it. There is no reason you should visit Auschwitz and not visit other death camps like Treblinka or Majdanek. During my trip to Poland, we visited Majdanek and Plaszow. Nothing remains at Plaszow, however Majdanek was the first camp the Russians reached and is well-preserved. Other large death camps include Chelmno, Belzec, and Majdanek.

I do think it is worthwhile to visit at least one of the death camps. The museum at the Majdanek camp is powerful and gives a good summary of the goings on at the camp.

What museums do you recommend or not recommend?

... If you go to Warsaw, I recommend visiting ...

1) Ghetto Wall remains: Take a photo of yourself next to the ghetto wall remains. You will see just how large the ghetto was.

2) During our trip, we had a great experience at The Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. They have four genealogists on-site, but you will need to make an appointment in advance.

3) The Umshlagplatz (ul. Stawki), the site from which Jews were deported to Treblinka.

4) The Ghetto Fighters Memorial, to honor the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Sites I don't recommend:

... The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, located on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto, explores the 1,000 year Jewish history of Poland. But it doesn't focus enough on the Holocaust and the fact that few Jewish people are in Poland today. Our culture should be preserved through lives and actions, not through museums.

... The Nozyck Synagogue (6 Twarda), the only remaining synagogue in Warsaw from the time of Jewish life. Sadly, I didn't gain much from visiting the synagogue. While it is interesting to view the interior and I am happy to hear it is still in use, it was not a central point of Jewish life before the war like the destroyed Great Synagogue was. To me it came across more as a tourist site than anything else.

... If you go to Krakow, I recommend visiting ...

1) The largest medieval market square in Europe. The square is very impressive.

2) Walk the streets of Kazimierz, the once-thriving Jewish district. While there, we saw several Israeli tourist groups and a few people with yarmulkas on. This is probably the area with the most Jewish life in Poland today. Krakow still has about eight synagogues standing, albeit with very sparse attendance.

3) The Galicia Museum.

Sites I don't recommend:

... The Schindler Museum. We had a Polish nationalist tour guide there who really made the experience difficult to take in.

How much will the trip cost?

A: It's difficult to answer precisely, but probably over $5,000. The costs of going to your ancestral town of origin -- if it is somewhere other than a big city -- will be significant. It is necessary to have a guide to visit smaller towns in Poland because many people in these locations do not speak any English.


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