The American Public Bathhouse in Krakow, Poland


This photograph depicts a mikvah (bathhouse) in Krakow, rebuilt in 1921‒22. The old Jewish ritual bath building, facing Szeroka Broad Street, left in ruins by war, was utilized in the reconstruction. The sign in Polish reads: “American Public Bath House.” World War I tore a calamitous path through the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, leaving in its wake widespread famine, disease, and economic hardship. In the immediate postwar years beleaguered Jewish communities faced continued challenges that threatened their existence. New socio-economic realities stripped European Jews of their former livelihoods, leaving them without the means to help themselves. Their communal infrastructure also lay in ruins. To address these conditions, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a humanitarian organization created at the start of World War I, helped the Polish Jewish community to rebuild communal institutions and to develop new health and welfare programs. This photograph is from the archives of the JDC, which contain documents, photographs, film, video, oral histories, and artifacts recording the work of the organization from World War I to the present.

Last updated: March 17, 2016