Community leaders didn’t know whether authorities would approve the school’s opening at that point, as uncertainty over the fate of Jews was increasing more and more. But that didn’t prevent them from worrying about the students’ connection to their religious and national roots.
Nearly half of the learning hours in the Krakow ghetto at the time were dedicated to the following subjects: In first grade, pupils learned brachos, tefillos, and Torah stories, as well as songs.
Second graders studied Bereishis and talk of the Shabbos and Yomim Tovim. In third grade, halchah and Novi were added; and in fourth grade pupils studies the interpretations of Rashi, the book of Rus, and physical and historical geographies of Eretz Yisroel.
The fifth graders, both secular and religious, studied Vayikra, Mishnayos and Jewish history.
The sixth graders studied Bamidbar, Devorim and Melachim, and historical events from the fall of Yerushalayim to the Spanish inquisition.
The seventh graders studied Gmara, Pirkei Avos, and the laws of tefilin and Shabbos.
Alongside Jewish learning, the students studied the general disciplines of math, geography, nature, and Polish language. The three most popular classes were nature, Polish, and Jewish studies.
An additional document that was found, “Shem Olam,” featuring a letter sent to the Jewish Council in Lublin on 29.01.41, by the heads of Krakow’s Jewish community. In the letter, the heads of Krakow’s Jewish community express their concerns regarding the opening of the school year.
The leaders admit that due to differences of opinion among parents, they recommend opening at least three general study tracks, with the main difference between the tracks being the amount of hours set aside for Jewish studies, ranging from 10-18 hours a week.
Rabbi Abraham Krieger, head of “Shem Olam” institute, reacted to the finds saying, “The new documents expose the intense fears within the Polish Jewish community that the school year wouldn’t begin as planned, due to the ongoing existential threat during that dark period.”
“On the other hand, we see their desire to maintain a central Jewish studies curriculum in an apparent attempt to strengthen their Jewish heritage at a time when its very existence was at stake,” he concluded.
Krakow’s Jewish community, once a central and influential element of European Jewry, was completely obliterated during the Holocaust. The Nazi’s and their helpers killed 60,000 of the city’s Jews, who represented one fifth of the city’s citizens before the war.