Founded before the end of the first millennium, the city of Krakow (Cracow), located today in southern Poland, served as the seat of the Piast Dynasty and eventually as the capital of the Polish Kingdom until the early 17th century. After the third partition of Poland in 1795, Krakow became the seat of Galicia province in the Austrian Empire. In 1918, with the reestablishment of the Polish state, Krakow became and remains one of its most important cities.
The first recorded presence of Jews residing in Krakow dates from the early 13th century. 55,515 Krakow residents identified themselves as Jews in the Polish census of 1931; on the eve of the war some 56,000 Jews resided in Krakow, almost one-quarter of a total population of about 250,000.
By November 1939, the Jewish population of Krakow had grown to approximately 70,000. This increase reflected the concentration of Jews who fled or were driven from the countryside into the city and its suburbs, and the arrival of Jews deported east from the District Wartheland (a part of German-occupied Poland that was directly annexed to the so-called Greater German Reich).