I’ve visited Europe twice. I’ve visited cities in France, including Paris, and several in Italy. My husband and I renewed our wedding vows in Florence to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary. We also toured St. Peter’s Basilica and saw the Sistine Chapel. Glorious.
As a Jew, I want to visit European Holocaust sites. I owe it to my Jewish ancestors. I was born twenty years after the Holocaust and all my knowledge comes from textbooks, documentaries, museums, and films. I know it happened, I see the evidence, yet it remains surreal. I once saw Nazi memorabilia at a flea market. Imagine selling such items for profit. Those objects upset me more than any thing else. They blazed with evil, even after seventy years. I hurried away. I just had to escape. Fortunately, I could.
Jaroslaw is located near the San River, which gently winds around the Bieszczady Mountains. Photos of the town are beautiful. Lots of lovely Renaissance, neo-Renaissance, and Baroque style buildings in pink, orange, and beige. To an American like me, well… I like my American history. I was born and raised and live in Philadelphia, where our nation was born. I am overwhelmed by its 200 years of history. But, Europe has over 2,000 years of history. Architecture like that to me is mind-blowing, as is the art, poetry, books…everything.
Jaroslaw and Jews
Jews began settling in Jaroslaw in the 15th century. Their lives there were turbulent and they were oftentimes ordered to leave, but by the 1930s, there were about 10,000 Jews. They were prosperous and owned most of the trade outposts.
The Holocaust and Jaroslaw
So, what happened to Poland, Jaroslaw, and its Jews during WWII and the Holocaust?
Adolf Hitler invaded Poland first. The Nazis captured Jaroslaw the next day. Many Jews were arrested and thousands were exiled to Soviet-occupied land.
The largest population of Jews in the world once lived in Poland. The Nazi’s slaughtered 3 million – half the entire number killed (6 million). And, only about 350,00 survived.
After WWII ended, only a few Jaroslaw Jews survived. What I read was hard to decipher because of translation, I assume. I believe what I read to mean fifteen in total – twenty-one at most.
So, What Happened to Them?
The few survivors encountered even more anti-Semitism and violence. Many Poles hated the Jews and either killed them or forced them to leave. What I read indicated that gangs murdered at least six Jaroslaw survivors.
Those who murdered Jews feared that they would want their stolen property back or would want to avenge those who turned them in.
So, What happened to Jaroslaw after WWII?
Poland, like a lot of European countries, suffered through decades of Soviet Communist rule until Lech Walesa became its first democratically elected leader. Today, it is doing well.
Yes, but what about Jaroslaw?
I read that it was reconstructed
So, Are there Synagogues in Jaroslaw?
In one account, the Nazi’s burned Jaroslaw’s synagogue. Another account claims its two 19th-century synagogues survived the war. I think the two survived because one was donated to the High School of Arts and the other was turned into a college.
Are There Even Any Synagogues in Poland?
There were once over six thousand synagogues all over Poland. The Nazi’s burned all the wooden ones, so that left about 300. Most, though, are being used as other things, such as a hair salon. While a few were restored, the only two in which religious services are being routinely held are in Warsaw and Krakow. I Googled them and counted eleven.
“Never again” is the expression Jews use to remind ourselves to never allow anyone to persecute us again. But, sadly, there may not even be enough left in Poland to use it.