School timetable offers glimpse into Jewish life in Krakow Ghetto
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School timetable offers glimpse into Jewish life in Krakow Ghetto

1941 document shows emphasis placed on Jewish education, fears of community leaders over Nazi crackdown on schools

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A Jewish school timetable from the Krakow gehtto in 1941. (Shem Olam)
A Jewish school timetable from the Krakow gehtto in 1941. (Shem Olam)

A newly published timetable from a Holocaust-era Jewish school in the Krakow Ghetto sheds light how the Jews of Poland dealt with the draconian measures imposed by the Nazi occupiers.

The timetable was among some 7,000 items donated to Holocaust researchers over a year ago. It is dated 1941, barely two years before the ghetto’s liquidation by the Nazis.

The Israel-based Shem Olam Faith & the Holocaust Institute for Education & Research published the document to coincide with the start of the Israeli school year on Tuesday.

Abraham Krieger, the head of Shem Olam, said that the timetable was sent from the Jewish Council in Krakow Ghetto to its counterpart in Lublin Ghetto in response to a request about the school system.

Deportations of Jews from Krakow had already begun by 1940, and Jewish leaders were concerned that their schools would not be allowed to open after the summer break. Krieger told The Times of Israel that the ghettos would share information to learn how to deal with the increasingly difficult circumstances in which the Jews found themselves.

A Jewish school timetable from the Krakow gehtto in 1941. (Shem Olam)
A Jewish school timetable from the Krakow gehtto in 1941. (Shem Olam)

The timetable, the first of its kind discovered from the Krakow Ghetto, shows how many hours each of grades one through seven should dedicate to Jewish studies alongside their education in secular subjects such as mathematics, Polish language, art and geography.

First-graders learned blessings, prayers, songs and reading and writing, while second-graders were instructed in blessings and Jewish religious laws, but also heard stories from the books of Genesis and Exodus. Both grades also learned songs.

Third-graders focused on blessings, laws for observing Shabbat and festivals, rabbinic legends and songs.

By fourth grade the pupils were ready to study the texts of Genesis and the Book of Joshua, as well as more songs.

Fifth-graders moved on to Exodus, along with the books of Judges and Ruth, and learned rabbinical stories.

Sixth-graders studied Leviticus and Deuteronomy together with texts from the renowned 11th century commentator Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (known by the acronym Rashi). They also studied the books of Samuel.

Seventh-graders studied Numbers and Deuteronomy, the books of Kings and Esther, and additional texts of religious laws for Jewish life.

The pupils would receive a total of about 10 hours Jewish studies per week.

Between 1941 and 1943, the Nazis stepped up the deportation of Jews to death camps across Europe. By the end of 1943, nearly all of the 60,000 residents of the Krakow Ghetto and the 30,000 residents of the Lublin Ghetto had been sent to their deaths.

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