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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » March 5, 2008
Destination Warsaw
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Warsaw's Jewish Heritage Today
March 5, 2008   
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Warsaw had approximately 350,000 Jews before World War II. Visiting what remains of the capital's Jewish heritage makes for a rewarding experience.

Próżna Street still has a few old Jewish tenements, all that is left of a once thriving Jewish neighborhood (2). The Jewish Theater and downtown Warsaw's sole surviving synagogue are a short walk away on Grzybowski Square. The Nożyk synagogue (1), built between 1898 and 1902, was once one of more than 400.

Most of what little of the former Jewish ghetto was left standing at the end of the war has long since been demolished. The ghetto covered 403 hectares during the war and was cordoned off from the rest of the city by a high brick wall. The charred brick wall fragments at 60 Złota St. and 55 Sienna St. are all that remains today (3). The small hole is due to two of the bricks having been sent to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, where a replica of the Warsaw Ghetto wall is on display.

The main Jewish cemetery, on Okopowa St. in Warsaw's Wola district, opened for burial in 1806 and is still active. The final resting places of Ludwik Zamenhof, inventor of the artificial language Esperanto, and Józef Goldszmit, father of Poland's favorite children's author Janusz Korczak, can be found here among countless rabbis and tzaddikim.

There is another Jewish cemetery on Św. Wincentego Street in Praga, on the Vistula's "right" bank. This was founded in 1780, and has around 1,000 prewar gravestones.

The cemetery is not the only piece of Jewish heritage to be found in Praga. The ritual baths (Mikva) on Kłopotowskiego Street, in the center of what was once Praga's Jewish quarter, date back to the late 18th century.

For more information about Warsaw's Jewish heritage, visit www.warsawtour.pl
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