About the square which ceased to be the market square, about the town hall which was almost demolished and the plaque which was destroyed, but is still hanging
A replica of the bas-relief by Henryk Hochman, The Arrival of the Jews in Poland in the Middle Ages, on the former Kazimierz town hall. Photo: Kinga Kołodziejska, arch. MIK (2012), CC-BY 3.0 PL
On the eastern wall of the former Town Hall in Kazimierz shown in the photo by Jan Motyka, there is a plaque commemorating the arrival of Jews in Poland. Originally the plaque was placed on the northern wall of the building where it was ceremoniously hung in 1907. At that time the Wolnica Square no longer functioned as the market square of the town of Kazimierz, which in 1800 was annexed to Kraków. The building automatically stopped functioning as the town hall. Being useless, it was even intended for demolition. However, in 1829 it was converted into a school of industry and commerce. Simultaneously, in the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815–1846), the Wolnica Square– almost as large as the Kraków Main Market Square – was reduced because of the need to extend Krakowska Street.
In the 2nd half of the 19th century, the building of the former town hall was taken over by the Jewish Community, which established an elementary school for Jewish children there and in the period from 1875 to 1876, it developed the building to the condition preserved until the 1960s (when the run-down building was restored). In 1907 the Community commissioned a plaque commemorating the fact that shelter was given to Jewish refugees from Germany to Poland by King Casimir the Great. Who was given this task? Well, the commission was granted to Henryk Hochman – the artist we already know from another work described in this portal; the disciple of Konstanty Laszczka and August Rodin. Hochman was the creator of the marble bust of Julian Fałat and the sculpted figure of actress Maria Modzelewska, a highly respected participant of national and foreign art exhibitions, who during the war – as a Polish citizen of Jewish origin – was deported to the Bochnia ghetto and shot in nearby Baczków in 1943.
Few of his works survived. Also his bas-relief commemorating the attitude of King Casimir to the Jews was destroyed by the Germans who occupied Kraków in the period from 1939 to 1945. A similar fate was met by the second plaque sculpted by Hochman depicting Queen Jadwiga, which was placed in the interior of the Jewish Community seat located at the corner of Krakowska and Skawińska Streets (the Community returned to this building and occupies one storey, but the plaque has disappeared).
In 1996, on the occasion of a visit by the mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, to Kraków, the ceremonious restoration of the historical plaque, “The Arrival of the Jews in Poland in the Middle Ages“ on the building of the former Kazimierz Town Hall, was held. Is this the same plaque which was destroyed during the occupation? Is it the work by Henryk Hochman? Well, it turned out that either this plaque or another one – very similar to the plaque by Henryk Hochman – was found in the National Museum in Warsaw. The bas-relief placed on the eastern wall of the town hall in the Wolnica Square is its faithful copy. The signature under the photo: a replica of the bas-relief by Henryk Hochman, “The Arrival of the Jews in Poland in the Middle Ages“, on the former Kazimierz town hall.
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