Europe, Krakow, Poland

The New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.
(Last Updated On: November 3, 2018)

When I told people that I was headed to Krakow for the weekend, almost everyone asked me the exact same question, “Will you visit Auschwitz?” My answer was no as my time there was so limited (an excursion to the camp takes most of the day) that I decided to save it for a future trip. And I’ll be back for sure!

Because I didn’t visit Auschwitz didn’t mean that I couldn’t take in my share of the city’s important historical sites. The very first place I visited after arriving in Krakow was the New Jewish Cemetery in the city’s Jewish district of Kazimierz.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.Map Of The Jewish Heritage Route Just Outside The Cemetery Entrance

Founded into 1800 and sprawling across 4.5 hectares (11 acres), this massive cemetery contains over 10,000 tomb stones.

When the Nazi’s invaded Poland in WWII, the cemetery was all but destroyed. Stone from people’s former grave markers were either sold to local masons or used as construction materials in a nearby concentration camp, Krakow-Plaszow. Some of the stone from the cemetery was even used in the courtyard outside of Amon Goth’s home, the notoriously evil man who ran the Krakow-Plaszow camp and the one who oversaw the efforts to evict the Jews from Krakow. The Nazis were also said to have left the scattered remains of the former cemetery inhabitants disrespectfully out in the open.

After the war was over, a camp survivor (thought to be Jakub Stendig) worked on the restoration of many tombstones, having them reinstalled in the cemetery. A renovation effort began in 1957 and continued on for years. Only 10 years after the fall of Communism in 1999 did the cemetery finally see a complete transformation and it along with the mortuary were formerly classified as historical monuments.

The New Jewish Cemetery cemetery is now full of old and new graves as well as various memorials dedicated to those murdered during the Holocaust. Some of the memorials and the wall surrounding the cemetery are full of fragments of tombstones destroyed by the Nazis.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.Holocaust Memorial

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

A walk through the cemetery on a cold winter afternoon provided me with the opportunity to reflect on the enormity of what happened there. Almost completely empty of people, it cast a solemn mood over the beautiful yet tragic place.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

The sunset washed the cemetery with a warm golden light making the experience even more poignant.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow.

Just as I was about to leave, I met a man standing beside a large tombstone. He asked me to take his picture and explained that the tombstone beside him was the grave of his grandfather. Overcome with emotion, he said he’d searched for his burial site for years. It was really a touching moment! While I’m happy he was able to find his grandfather and end his long search, it was sad to see that a dark chapter of history still affects people even today.

If you want to visit the New Jewish Cemetery in Krakow, it can be found at ul. Miodowa 55, Krakow, Poland.

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  • Reply fotoeins | Henry February 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Cheryl, those are some beautiful photos. I’m glad the sun was out and low, which provided some dramatic light to your shots. As I’m also thinking about visiting Krakow this fall, your post was very timely. Thanks again for your post!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 6, 2012 at 11:34 am

      @Henry – thank you! It was a lovely(albeit cold) visit. I thought my fingers were going to freeze and fall off …

  • Reply Mauro February 6, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I suppose there is no way we can actually see the last picture you write about… is there?

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 6, 2012 at 11:36 am

      @Mauro – No, I took the photo with his camera. I wish I had asked him for a coffee to learn more of his story. It would have been fascinating (if a little sad)tp hear his family history.

      • Reply Mauro February 6, 2012 at 11:49 am

        I suppose that similar encounters can make a big difference while traveling around…

        • Reply Cheryl Howard February 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm

          @Mauro – Indeed, some of my best moments on the road have occurred randomly and most unexpectedly.

  • Reply Laurel February 6, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    The lighting in your photos is so haunting and your experience at the end with the man at the end is heartbreaking, but incredible.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      @Laurel – It was certainly a beautiful time to be in the cemetery. I hope that he found some peace in finding his grandfather’s resting place. He told me he’ll never forget me!

  • Reply Jade - February 7, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Your photos are really touching. The snow on the ground really adds atmosphere

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 8, 2012 at 10:26 am

      @Jade – thank you! It was a sad but lovely experience.

  • Reply Eurotrip Tips February 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Jewish cemeteries and memorials are certainly one of the most emotional things I have visited. This cemetery is no exception, and you captured the feeling very well!

  • Reply Andrea February 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Love your shots – the story of the man and his grandfather’s grave is so touching

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 8, 2012 at 10:30 am

      @Eurotrip Tips – Very emotional! Thanks so much.

      @Andrea – Thanks! 🙂

  • Reply Paige @ Green Global Travel February 9, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    This is beautiful! Even a grave yard can be a gorgeous site.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 10, 2012 at 9:32 am

      @Page – It certainly is and in fact should be beautiful especially given what happened there.

  • Reply Chris February 18, 2012 at 4:32 am

    It’s a pity you didn’t get a chance to visit Auschwitz, but I’d imagine this would have been quite moving as well.

    I’ve got something of a (morbid) fascination with cemeteries. There are so many stories and sadnesses hidden in even the smallest of them. I used to live across the road from a tiny cemetery and I’d often wander the grounds and wonder what stories lay behind those headstones.

    I can’t even imagine how many stories you’d have encountered in Krakow.

    Your photos are absolutely stunning by the way. I love the way you’ve captured the light.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 18, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      @Chris – I will visit Auschwitz for sure someday. I too have a fascination with them too, saw one yesterday here in Spain and plan to visit one in Barcelona on Monday. You’re right … there’s so many stories! And thanks for your comment about my photos. The experience in Krakow was really special. 🙂

  • Reply Layne February 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    It might have just been a typo, but I thought I should point out that the fall of Communism was in ’89, not ’99.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 21, 2012 at 9:32 am

      @Layne – It wasn’t a typo but was worded incorrectly. Will fix it shortly and thanks for letting me know! Appreciated.

      • Reply Layne February 24, 2012 at 7:41 pm

        @Cheryl, no problem! 🙂

        • Reply Cheryl Howard February 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm

          @Layne – if only I could afford to employ a full time editor. 🙂

  • Reply Weird And Offbeat Museums: The Pharmacy Museum in Krakow. | February 24, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    […] In Krakow, it was a little tougher to find such weird and offbeat attractions. While I managed to stumble upon some pretty epic street art and have a fun time at the Jewish flea market, I found the city still possesses a rather serious and somber tone. This is mostly due in part to it’s rather tragic history, which can clearly be seen and felt as you travel around especially at the New Jewish Cemetery. […]

  • Reply Journey To Middle Earth At The Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland. | April 2, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    […] made entirely of salt! There’s plenty of things to do in Krakow like visit the New Jewish Cemetery, The Pharmacy Museum or the Plac Nowy Jewish Market but there’s also other activities you can […]

  • Reply A City By Night: Krakow, Poland. | October 17, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    […] Krakow was devoid of tourists and seemed almost tragic and forlorn. There were empty abandoned buildings, a proliferation of graffiti, the presence of a heavy emotional weight after visiting the New Jewish cemetery. […]

  • Reply Cathy Sweeney January 17, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    There’s no way you can visit a place with so much meaning and history and not be moved. Excellent post and photos. Your moment with the man by his grandfather’s grave is very touching.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard January 18, 2013 at 11:54 am

      @Cathy – Thank you so much! This is definitely one of my top all time travel experiences – it was tragic yet beautiful.

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