The Jews of Warsaw, 1527-1792

Hanna Węgrzynek

Jewish Historical Institute

This paper is devoted to a discussion of the presence of the Jews in Warsaw between 1527 and 1792. During this time Jews were theoretically not allowed to remain inside the city. The period was characterised by a constant struggle between Jews attempting to receive the right to legal residence in the city and the burghers not wanting to permit this. The mayors and council were very consistent in guarding the city’s privileges. Successive Polish kings confirmed the ban on Jewish residence in Warsaw.

In 1559 the nobility was granted the right to acquire real-estate property. This led to the founding of estates (called jurydyka) that were not covered by the rules and restrictions of municipal law. Jews could reside in the territory of these estates. At the turn of the seventeenth century successive jurydykas were formed. The gentry in search of new sources of profit allowed Jews to settle in their territories. This led to a rapid growth of the Jewish population in Warsaw. The census of 1764 counted 2519 people, and that of 1778 testified to the presence of 3512 Jews residing mostly in the jurydykas. They constituted about 6 per cent of the entire population of Warsaw, and came from more than 200 localities all over the Polish Commonwealth. All the time, Jews strove to obtain the right to settle freely in Warsaw. Their actions gained impetus in the second half of the 18th c., and, in particular, during the “Four-Year Diet” (1788-1792) sessions.

The complex situation of Warsaw Jews in the second part of the 18th century will be the main topic of the lecture.

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