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Polish Jews - Jewish Poland

The history of the Jews in Poland dates back over a millennium. Poland was home to the largest and most significant Jewish community in Europe and served as the center for Jewish culture, ranging from a long period of religious tolerance and prosperity among the country's Jewish population, to its nearly complete genocidal destruction by Nazi Germany in the 20th century during the German occupation of Poland and the Holocaust.

From the founding of the Kingdom of Poland (10251569) through the early years of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth created in 1569, Poland was one of the most tolerant countries in Europe. Known as paradisus Iudaeorum (Latin for Jewish paradise) it became unique shelter for persecuted and expelled European Jewish communities and a home to one of the world's largest and most vibrant Jewish communities. By the mid-16th century 80% of the world's Jews lived in Poland. With the weakening of the Commonwealth and growing religious strife (due to the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation), Polands traditional tolerance began to wane from the 17th century onward. After the partitions of Poland in 1795 and the destruction of Poland as a sovereign state, Polish Jews were subject to the laws of the partitioning powers, primarily the increasingly anti-Semitic Russian Empire, but also Austro-Hungary and Kingdom of Prussia (later known as the German Empire).

Still, as Poland regained independence in the aftermath of World War I, it was the center of the European Jewish world with one of world's largest Jewish communities of over 3 million.

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