The Jews of Kraków and its Surrounding Towns

Kraków Buildings:
Aleksandrowicz Residences, 1802-1939
by George J. Alexander

In 1802, when Jozef of the family of David, soon to be known as Alexander and later Aleksandrowicz, and Dobrysz, daughter of Jakub (Yankel) Gumpel, soon to be known as Gumplowicz, were married, the record of their marriage stated that they lived in Buildings 203 and 205, respectively, in the Jewish Town in Kazimierz, a part of Kraków.

According to the census of 1804, quoted by Jan Malecki in the third volume of his and Bieniarzowna's monumental opus on Kraków history, the Jewish Town had only 207 buildings. The entire town of Kraków, including Kazimierz, had 1,772 buildings. Thus, the Jewish Ghetto contained 11.7% of the total housing stock. It is of interest that the population of Kraków in 1804 was 25,750, of which 4,300 were Jewish. The Jews constituted 16.7% of the total population but occupied only 11.7% of the housing. Not surprisingly, this indicates that the Jews, hemmed in, as they were, in a ghetto, were more crowded than everybody else. While in Kraków, as a whole, there were 14.5 (25,750/1,772) people per house, in the Jewish section the ratio was 20.8 (4,300/207). [Note: excluding Jewish Town, the ratio was 13.7 (21,450/1,565)]

In various records the occupation of Jozef Aleksandrowicz was given as merchant. For example, he is listed as such in the detailed 1827 listing of the marriage of his daughter Temerl. The details of that marriage are written in elaborate calligraphy and occupy a full page in the bound volume that constitutes the list of all Jewish marriages in Kraków in that year. Jozef is listed as having died previously, and as having been, indeed, a merchant. However, in the next family document discovered in the Kraków Archives, the 1831 record of the second marriage of his widowed, young (22-year-old) daughter, Rywka, the bride's deceased father is said to have been an owner of a building in Kazimierz. In all the documents, for sixty or seventy years after 1802, the address of all the Aleksandrowicz families is invariably given as building 203. It is logical to assume that this was the building that Jozef owned. Not only did he live there from the day he married until his death, sometime after 1821 and before 1827, but his widow Dobrysz lived there until her death, sometime after 1847. The families of both their sons, Menashe and Izrael Eliasz, lived in building 203 in 1850 and beyond. Only the census of 1881 shows a different address.

Building Number 203 is a large three-story structure. The building is still standing, is in good repair, and is inhabited by many families. I have reasons to believe that its present address is Jozefa Street 22. When I visited the building in October 1997 I was told by its current inhabitants that it is the oldest-standing apartment building in Kazimierz. The building is now open on one side, the neighboring structure having been demolished. From that open side one can see that each floor has an open wooden outside corridor and the building is rather attractive, although undoubtedly very old. The size of building 203 can be seen from its listing in the careful Polish census undertaken in 1790-1792, titled: "Spis ludnosci w Miescie Zydowskim Kazimierzu, przy Krakowie, w Woiewodztwie i Powiecie Krakowskim lezacym, przez Rabina Synagogi y Duchownych czyniony" (Population census in the Jewish Town Kazimierz by Kraków, located in the District and Province of Kraków, performed by the Rabbi and Clergy of the Synagogue) (Table I):


Listing of Inhabitants of Building 203 in Kazimierz by Kraków

 No. domu       Nazwiska            Meszczyzny       Lata   Bialoglowy   Lata
     203        Maier Dranes             1            53
                    Zona Keila                                   1         50
                Hierszel Pieczetarz      1            30
                    Zona Sorla                                   1         20
                Fewel Kalmans            1            24
                    Zona Hinda                                   1         24
                Mojzesz Ziec Szmerla     1            30
                    Zona Rochla                                  1         40
                Chaym Ayzykowicz         1            40
                    Zona Fayga                                   1         36
                Abram Herszkowicz        1            45
             	    Zona Rochla                                  1         40
                    Corka Tauba                                  1         22
                Jebel Rzeznikowicz       1            40
                    Zona Itla                                    1         36
                    Syn Hierszel                                 1         20
                Mojzesz Krawiec          1            71
                    Zona Rochla                                  1         30

(Copied from the 1790-2 Census located in the Kraków Branch of the Polish National Archives,
in original Polish) [see Table II below for an English translation]

Obviously, the listing omits children. It is likely that it also omits some adult inhabitants who did not want to be registered, for example, individuals who came from neighboring small towns and villages, but did not have the valuable and coveted permit to reside in Kraków. Such individuals lived as unregistered boarders, sheltered by registered friends, relatives, or business associates. From the census, we can infer that in 1790-2 at least eight families, a total of 18 adults, lived in building 203. Several things can be deduced from this list. If Jozef, who became Jozef Aleksandrowicz, had lived in Building 203 in 1790-2, he would not have been listed, because he was only eight years old at the time of the census. However, if, as I assume, his father's name was Herschel and his grandfather David, than the family did not live in this building, and probably did not own it then. It would appear that the family acquired this house after 1792 but before 1802. As can be seen from the Tables, nobody in this house had a surname in 1790-1792. Individuals were identified by their own profession: such as "seal maker" or "tailor", their father's profession: "son of the butcher", their father's name: "Kalman's", "son of Hershel", "son of Isaac", or even by relationship to a better known person, such as: "son-in-law of Shmerl". I also found it interesting that the 71-year-old tailor had a 30-year-old wife, and that women were listed as white-haired. This may sound peculiar, but it is the exact translation of the Polish term used in the census.


Inhabitants of Building 203 in Kazimierz/Kraków in 1790-2. (English translation).

Building No.            Name                 Male     Years   White-haired   Years
               Mayer Dranes                    1        53
                       Wife Keila                                  1           50
               Hershel the seal-maker          1        30  
                       Wife Sorl                                   1           20
               Feivel  of the Kalmans          1        24
                       Wife Hinde                                  1           24    
               Moses son-in-law of Schmerl     1        30
                       Wife Rachel                                 1           40
               Chaim son of Isaac              1        40          
                       Wife Feige                                  1           36
               Abram son of Hershel            1        45 
                       Wife Rachel                                 1           40
                       Daughter Taube                              1           22
               Jebel son of the butcher        1        40      
                       Wife Itl                                    1           36
                       Son Hershel                                 1           20 
               Moses the tailor                1        71
                       Wife Rachel                                 1           30

Jozef Aleksandrowicz had two sons, Menashe and Izrael Eliasz, both of whom married and had large families that carried the Aleksandrowicz name. Throughout most of the nineteenth century Dobrysz, Jozef's widow, and both sons and their families, lived in building 203. The first indication that the family moved, perhaps after the death of the matriarch Dobrysh, is the first record of a different address that occurred in the birth certificate of Malka Reisel Aleksandrowicz, born on January 23, 1874, daughter of Menashe's son, Jozef Aleksandrowicz, and his wife Rachel née Drezner, who in 1874 lived in a desirable building, Number 169, on today's Kupa Street, next to the Isaac Synagogue. The census of 1881, Volume 100-174, of District VIII of Kraków, shows that building Number 168 housed the Isaac Synagogue (Boznica Izaka) and had no inhabitants. The building listed next, Number 169, on Kupa Street, had only three apartments. In apartment Number 1 lived Menashe Aleksandrowicz. Menashe was born in 1818, so in 1881 he was 63 years old. According to the census, he lived alone, his wife, Lea née Katzner, having died earlier. In the census, his religion was given as Israelite, his language as German, and his profession as a seller of victuals. He was said to be a permanent inhabitant of Kraków, i.e., he had the official right to reside in Kraków, and he was able to read and write.

On a separate page of the 1881 census, was listed Menashe's son, Jozef, living in apartment Number 2. This Jozef, born in 1845, was named after his grandfather, Menashe's father. He, too, was described as a permanent resident of Kraków, and able to read and write. His religion was given as Mosaic, but, interestingly, his language was listed as Polish. He was said to be engaged in commerce, along with his father. Living with him in apartment Number 2 was his wife Rachel, daughter of Szaia Jozua Drezner, born in 1847, and his children, Jakub, born 6 June 1866; David, born 24 June 1867; Hana, born 1869; Malka, born 1873; Szyja (later known as Jozua), born 1877; and Rywka, born 1879. Attached to the page was a separate sheet of paper, issued and glued in on May 1, 1881; it was a birth certificate of "Jakub Aleksandrowicz, son of Jozef and Rachel", certifying that he was born in Kraków on June 6, 1866. The document was signed by one "Wenner, deputy clerk maintaining israelite metrical records in Kraków". This Jakub Aleksandrowicz was a grandson of Menashe and eventually became my grandfather.

In apartment Number 3 of building 169 lived the family of Izrael Eliasz Aleksandrowicz, brother of Menashe, youngest son of the first Jozef Aleksandrowicz and uncle of the second Jozef. Izrael Eliasz was born in 1821. He was listed as a commercial agent. With him lived his wife Ester and children Reisel, born 1860; Nachman, born 24 November 1864; and Elke, born 1867. Attached to this page, on a separate sheet, was a document issued 30 December 1880, stating that "Aleksandrowicz Nachman, son of Izrael Eliasz and Ester", was born in Kraków on November 24, 1864. This document was also signed by the deputy clerk Wenner. While I was in Kraków in 1997 I visited the Kraków Miodowa Street cemetery and there I saw a new, post-war, tombstone commemorating Nachman Aleksandrowicz.

Records show that Jakub Aleksandrowicz, grandson of Menashe, gradually moved further and further away from the crowded Jewish area in Kazimierz, yet not too far away from the bulk of Jewish population. That meant that he was moving to the area of Stradom, which straddles between the old Jewish Town in Kazimierz and the city center of Kraków (Srodmiescie). The Stradom area approaches the royal palace and castle hill of Wawel. In 1874 Jakub lived on Dietla Street, a street that was created by filling the bed of the old Vistula River, the river that used to separate Kraków from Kazimierz (The river bed moved further south and now separates Kraków, including Kazimierz, from the district of Podgorze). In 1890 Jakub and family lived on Koletek Street, only one block away from the castle hill. Sometime around 1906 Jakub Aleksandrowicz purchased from a family named Metzger two large apartment houses directly opposite the Royal Castle on Wawel Hill and overlooking the Vistula River, on Bernardynska Street, corner of Smocza Street. This is the premier location in Kraków, it just can not be improved upon. Bernardynska Street, the southern access to the castle, is named after the imposing Bernardine Cloister located at its corner with Stradom Street. Smocza Street is named after a dragon (Polish: smok), that, according to legend, lived in a cave under the Wawel Hill. After my grandfather Jakub's death in 1935, the two houses, cream-colored, with elaborate fronts, many balconies, and original stain-glass windows in the staircases, were inherited by his sons and daughters, i.e., my father and his siblings. Three of my uncles died in the Holocaust, one died in Soviet Central Asia, one uncle and my father, Maksymilian Aleksandrowicz, known later as Max Alexander, died in New York. I consider myself the rightful inheritor of the houses, even though they were taken over after the 1939-1945 War by the Polish Communist authorities as "abandoned property"; I have not been able to recover them.

The houses are still in very good repair, the location is absolutely fabulous, as close as possible to the Royal Complex, ramparts, Renaissance Palace, and Baroque Cathedral that is the See of the Archbishop of Kraków. In the 1930's, Prince Adam Stephan Cardinal Sapieha was the archbishop. His successor was Carol Cardinal Woytyla, who eventually became Pope John Paul II. The two houses together have twenty-six apartments. In 1939 my father, mother, sister, and I lived on the second floor of the corner house, Bernardynska 11. Our apartment had a balcony facing the Castle and the Vistula River. From my bedroom window I could see the round castle keep, the so-called Sandomierska Tower. My uncle Jozek and his family lived next to us. On the ground floor lived my aunt Sonka, with her husband and son and my grandmother on my mother's side. On the top floor, in an apartment with a spectacular view of the castle and the Vistula River, lived my aunt Lola. In the next building, Bernardynska 10, lived my uncle Olek with his family and my step–grandmother, Toni. The houses are now fully occupied, but I do not know the present inhabitants or administrators. Our old apartment is occupied by a real estate company, with a big and unsightly advertising sign on the balcony.

Other branches of the family had comparable histories. Menashe Aleksandrowicz had three sons. My father was a grandson of the eldest son, Jozef. The next son, Filip and his wife, Dorothea, née Fraenkel, moved to the area of Podgorze, a part of Kraków lying on the other side of the Vistula. There they became major owners of real estate, including a flagship house, still in family hands — the building overlooking the river, at Przy Moscie 1 (by Bridge 1). The bridge is gone, a new bridge is located further down the river, but the house stands and is in good condition and fully occupied. The widow and children of the third son of Menashe Aleksandrowicz, Wolf, moved to the northern part of Kraków. Wolf's son, David, lived with his family in an elegant house that he owned at 4 Biskupia Street in the Krowodrza/Kleparz area of Kraków.

The listing of houses owned or occupied by my ancestors, the Aleksandrowicz family, described above, can serve as typical for a reasonably well-off Jewish family in Kraków over a period starting around 1800.

Selected bibliography:

Primary sources

Secondary sources


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