Przemyśl was an important centre of Jewish life for centuries leading up to WWII. At the outbreak of the war, the Jewish community numbered around 24,000, or one-third of the city's population. The initial situation for Przemyśl’s Jews during WWII was different from that in other Polish cities, owing to its easterly position. For the first two years of the war (when Germany and the Soviet Union were allies and had carved up Poland between them), the frontier (in this area, the San River) ran straight down the middle of Przemyśl. Most Jews found themselves in the Soviet occupation zone and were comparatively better off than their brethren in the Nazi-occupied areas (although some 7000 were deported to the Soviet Union). The situation deteriorated in 1941 after the Germans attacked the Soviet Union, occupied the entire town and began persecuting the Jews of Przemyśl and its surrounding areas in earnest. Most were eventually sent to their deaths at the German-run Bełżec extermination camp near Lublin in 1942.
The only significant remaining relics of the Jewish legacy are two synagogues (of four that existed before WWII), both dating from the end of the 19th century. The most important surviving synagogue is behind the building at ul Słowackiego 13, east of the Rynek. It functioned as a branch of the public library until 2015, but now stands vacant. The former Jewish cemetery can also be visited – it's at the southern end of ul Słowackiego.
Worth a Trip: Krasiczyn Castle
The late-Renaissance castle in the village of Krasiczyn (krah-shee-chin), about 11km southwest of Przemyśl, seems right out of a fairy tale. Despite its heft, it's more of a stately home than a stronghold – ostentation trumped defensive strength when Italian architect Galeazzo Appiani built it between 1592 and 1618 for the wealthy Krasicki family. With its whitewashed walls, turreted towers and spacious, arcaded courtyard, it remains wonderfully photogenic. You can join Polish-language tours to see the interior (English-language tours cost 150zł for groups of at least five, and must be booked a day in advance), or just stroll the lovely English-style park outside.
The design of the towers was a conscious reflection of the social order at the time. The towers were named (clockwise from the southeastern corner) after God, the pope, the king and the nobility. The God Tower (Baszta Boska), topped with a dome, houses a chapel. The King Tower (Baszta Królewska), with its conical roof and little turrets, would make a lovely home for Rapunzel of long-haired fame. On the courtyard side of the castle walls are Renaissance graffiti decorations of Biblical scenes and Polish nobility.
There's a hotel at the castle that offers several different types of rooms, ranging from relatively modest, good-value single and double rooms in the coach house to more opulent doubles and suites (250/500zł) in the castle itself. There’s even a luxurious five-bed Hunter’s Pavilion (600zł), which has its own kitchen and garden.
Within the castle grounds is a decent restaurant that serves mostly Polish dishes in traditional surrounds. It's not exactly ducal levels of luxury, but the mains – grilled meats, fish and salads – are very good and the hushed mood (after a couple of glasses of wine) can get downright romantic.
The castle is an easy trip from Przemyśl (4.30zł, 25 minutes) on one of the frequent buses.