Memorable Shavuot in the Great Synagogue in Tłomackie

Written by: prof. Paweł Śpiewak
„At 9:30 at the synagogue in Tłomackie. I brought the Torah, and twice went around the synagogue with it. At the end of the holiday in the synagogue (Pentecost) a cantor collapsed (paralysis)”.

On 1st June, 1941 Adam Czerniaków wrote in his diary:

At 9:30 at the synagogue in Tłomackie. I brought the Torah, and twice went around the synagogue with it. At the end of the holiday in the synagogue (Pentecost) a cantor collapsed (paralysis).

This diary entry of the Judenrat’s chairman informs us about a very important event for the Jewish community remaining in the Warsaw Ghetto and for the history of the Great Synagogue. On 20th May 1941, the German authorities allowed the opening of three synagogues in Warsaw, including the Great in Tłomackie Street. However, since the beginning of the existence of the ghetto, the Germans had been systematically devastating the synagogue, so that after two years there were holes in the roof, the equipment was destroyed or taken away, and the Aron Kodesh was lying knocked down on the ground.

The Judenrat established a committee, whose aim was to raise money for the repairs. On 31st May, 1941, on Saturday before holiday of Shavuot, at the synagogue, took place the first service, and on 1st June at 9:30 a.m. there was a grand opening of the synagogue.

About this event wrote also “Gazeta Żydowska” (Friday, 30th May, 1941).

The first services at the synagogues in Warsaw

The opening of the synagogues caused a reflex of satisfaction among the multitude of the public. Mister Chairman of the Jewish Council, engineer Czerniaków, appointed Committees of the Synagogues. The Committee, recruited from honorary members: distinguished social and civil activists, will have the custody of each of the three active synagogues in the quarter. We are already able to give dates of the first services in the synagogues: the Great Synagogue in Tłomackie will held the first service on Saturday before the holiday of Shavuot, which means on 31st May. Moreover, the service “Markir” will be also held on Monday, 2nd June, at 10.15.

From the next fragment we learn more about the the further functioning of the synagogue.

Permanent places in the Synagogue in Tłomackie

The office of the Great Synagogue announces that those wishing to have a permanent place in the synagogue can make monthly payments for the receipts, which are issued by the Synagogue office (7 Tłomackie Street) every day at 10.00–15.00. As we learn at the same time, church services on weekdays will be held daily at 8.00 a.m.

(“Gazeta Żydowska”, Tuesday, 10th June, 1941)

However the joy of the re-operation of the synagogue did not last long. Already on 30th March, 1942, the Germans ordered to close the Great Synagogue in Tłomackie. For some time it was used as temporary accommodation for displaced Jews in Warsaw, and since the beginning of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto it had been used as a storehouse for looted furniture and Jewish property.


After the spectacular blowing up of the synagogue, as a sign of not only the pacification of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, but the entire Jewish community of the capital, there is not even a trace left of the Great Synagogue...




prof. Paweł Śpiewak   socjolog, dyrektor ŻIH w latach 2011-2020