|Present map of Wieliczka salt mine|
In Wieliczka many local Jews actively engaged in the
production of the salt mines since the turn of the 15th and 16th century. They received a lease from king Ludwig of Hungary to do so. When later Jews were banned from trade and production in Wieliczka in the 1500s, they went to nearby Klasno. Out of the possibility to work o trade with the salt the Jews developed the spirit trade, rather lucrative source of income at the time.
This caused conflicts between Jewish and Catholic innkeepers were all too frequent. In 1701, the city councilmen of Wieliczka were brought in front of a tribunal by the townspeople, who accused them of enabling the Jews to settle in the town against the regulation. King Stanislaw August issued a document barring Jews from settling in Wieliczka and trading in the taproom market in 1765. Breaking that law resulted in the confiscation of all possessions. The document also forbid the local gentry from bringing Jews to their estates in order to lease them inns.
This continued until 1770, when the local Jewish population was finally allowed to once again engage in the salt trade and innkeeping.
|Children during a Purim celebration in|
Pictured above are children during a Purim celebration in Wieliczka, Poland in 1942. Their gaunt faces and the haunted look in their eyes reflect the reality that they were living in. Many men fled the town with the approach of the Germans in 1939. More men were murdered when the Germans arrived. Wieliczka became the only town with an all female Judenrat. Women also performed the forced labor until the men returned. On August 26, 1942 a large scale Aktion occurred during which many Jews were murdered, while the majority were sent to the Belzec death camp.
Wieliczka was also an subcamp of the Kraków-Plaszów concentration camp and was created in the spring of 1944 and produced Heinkel aircraft. The camp was abandoned in September 1944.
A gathering of members of the Hashomer Ha'tzair movement in Wieliczka on May 18, 1939.
|Residents at the market in Wieliczka before WWII|