The city was one of the most important Jewish commercial centres as well as a centre of the Jewish lending interests[1.1]. The most famous merchants included Jakob Tłósty, the biggest[1.2] merchant of the contemporary Poland (16th century). He made a name for himself doing business with Turkey where he provided products in cooperation with the Royal Court supplier, another Poznań Jew, Chaim Samuelowicz. Yet another famous tradesman, Gaspar da Gama, participated in expeditions to India. At that time, merchants from Poznań could be encountered at fairs in Hamburg, Frankfurt am Mein, Leipzig, Florence, Venice and Gdansk. They bought and sold such goods as furs, leather, oxen, horses or wax. In the records of the Poznań Community from the first half of the 17th century, we can find information on trade with the Scots. At that time, there was a group of intermediaries (baryshniks) who acted as middlemen in financial transactions in Poznań. They dealt, among others, with a trade of mamrans (a kind of checks or debentures). In the second half of the 17th century, Jews from Poznań, Kalisz and Leszno accounted for 79% of Polish Jews participating in fairs in Leipzig. In the 18th century, until the First Partition of Poland, conditions of doing business degraded due to the action undertaken against Jewish merchants. In 1779, Jews were forbidden to purchase new estates and houses, and to trade in wood as well as to conduct door-to-door trade. Regardless of restrictions, their position was still strong. In 1793, out of 380 active merchants 307 were Jews[1.3], which amounted to 81% of the entire group. Those were the years in which Jews of Poznań initiated cottage industry in clothing. In 1797, as many as 1342 Jews out of 1930 Jewish craftsmen worked in the clothing industry.

The second part of the 19th century was the time of a dynamic growth of commercial and banking activities in Poznań. This process was accompanied by the outflow of people from craftsmanship to trade and freelance occupations. Adolf Salomonsohn (1831-1919), a pioneer of the underwriting technique became famous in the area of banking. Bernard Jaffe (in the 1880s) and Michael Herz (between 1894 and 1914) were Chairmen of the Poznań Chamber of Commerce[1.4]

At the end of the 19th century, department stores began to be founded in Poznań. The first of them was opened on 18 April 1896. It was owned by a Berlin company Gustav Eisenstaedt and Co., and Jewish merchants were its shareholders. It was located in a house at 1 Nowa Street (now, Paderewskiego Street). The trading area functioned on the ground floor.

Soon a department store of J. Levi and Co., was opened at the junction of Fryderykowska (today, 23 Lutego) and Zamkowa Streets. Other stores belonged to Tausk & Vogelsdorf Company at 20 Kramarska Street, and the owner of the department store at 1 Zamkowa Street was J. Koheim. In November 1887, the Wrocław company Gebrüder Barasch leased a house at 63 Stary Rynek (Old Market Square) from Philip Loevy. On 15 March 1898, following the modernisation works, the first Jewish department store exclusively devoted to commercial activities was opened. It employed 125 female shop assistants. To provide them with holiday venues, the Barasch Brothers built a holiday resort in Herischdorf near Jelenia Góra[1.5].

On 6 October 1900, the famous Poznań firm Michaels & Kantorowicz  opened a department store at 6 Wilhelmowski Square (at present, Wolności Square). It was an impressive, four-storey, newly erected building designed by Teodor Jaretzky. Products were sold on the ground and first floors (around 1200 sq. m. of a trading space). The facility was equipped with lifts, and shopping was done in 14 departments served by 50 female shop assistants.

In the first years of the 20th century, successive department stores were established, most often at the Old Market Square. The most important of them were: Hermann Loevy’s store at 87/88 Old Market Square and Rudolf Petersdorff’s clothing store, opened on 30 September 1901, at the junction of 100 Old Market Square and Żydowska Street. Within seven consecutive years, Petersdorff bought 3 adjoining tenant houses and thus expanded its clothing store (11 shop windows). The employment of 225 tailors is the best evidence of its size. In 1908, the general number of employees of the store amounted to 400 people[1.6].

Amongst the most important Jewish factories from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, was Moritz Milch’s Fertilizers Manufacture located on Berlin Road (today Dąbrowskiego Street). 23 years later, the factory was taken over by the Joint-Stock Company. Nazary Kantorowicz was appointed its manager[1.7]. The founding capital of the company amounted to 2,800,000 marks.

Another well-known Poznań firm was the world-famous Hartwig Kantorowicz Vodka and Liqueur Manufacture. It was established in 1823. Initially, it was located at 10 Old Market Square, then at 4 Woroniecka Street and finally, at 6 Masztalerska Street. Kantorowicz bought a house there and built a two-storey factory building in the yard. The company was developing so dynamically (export to China, Japan, Argentina, etc.) that it was moved to new buildings at 6 Południowa Street (today Grochowe Łąki)[1.8].

The first and the largest spirit distillery was owned by Jewish entrepreneurs Tobias and Arnold Friedman. Soon, the Steam Factory of Refined Spirit was opened on 26 November 1867, and was located in the yard of the estate on Szeroka Street (today Wielka Street). 53-metre high tower with a chimney distinguished it from the surrounding buildings. The spirit produced here was ratified 26 times and distilled 11 times[1.9]. Another factory producing spirit was founded on 6 June 1869. It was the Steam Spirit Factory at 2 Małe Garbary Street[1.10]. Six years later the factory became a property of the Poznań Spirit Joint-Stock Company. One of its directors was Isidor Stern. The factory was located between St. Adalbert Church and Tama Garbarska railway station.

Adolf Bromberg’s Manufacture of Shoe Uppers was founded in 1882 and was the only factory of this kind in the Poznań Province. Initially, it was located at Wodna Street. Its final location was the front tenant house at 8 Małe Garbary Street. A big Shoe Factory founded in 1899 by Hermstadt (shoe manufacturer) and the Rosenberg Brothers at Szyperska Street also conducted activities in this industry. It had functioned up to 1910.

In 1889, Isidor Mannheim founded the Manufacture of Wood Processing and Window Shades at 25 Wielkie Garbary Street. A popular Poznań firm S. Kronthal & Söhne owned two enterprises: the Furniture and Parquet Factory and a steam joiner’s shop (at 64 St. Martin Street) and the Furniture and Chairs Factory in Rawicz (the latter one employed 250 inmates of the local detention centre)[1.11].

Dynamic development of Jewish firms was reflected in the amount of taxes paid to the city’s treasury. The 1908 data indicate that Jews, then accounting for only 4.21% of the entire Poznań population, had shares in “the general tax situation in the city” of 24.02 %[1.12].

After 1918, many Jewish department stores and commercial enterprises were re-purchased and taken over by Polish  merchants, industrialists and banks. The anti-Jewish boycott actions were taking place. Despite the difficulties, Poznań Jews continued to run smaller wholesale companies, stores and home kitchens. The entrepreneurs included Joseph Jolowicz, Jacob Zadek, Otto Berlowitz, M. Zadek jr., and many others. The Hirschlik Café at 23 Pocztowa Street (today 23 Lutego Street) was open and it was very popular among the Poznań Jews. The building and the confectionary were destroyed during the liberation of Poznań in 1945. In the interwar period, the majority of stores were located at the Old Market Square and the adjoining streets.    



  1. Dohnalowa T., "Kupcy żydowscy w Poznaniu w okresie zaboru pruskiego", [in] Żydzi w wielkopolsce na przestrzeni dziejów, eds. J.Topolski i K.Modelski, Poznań 1995.
  2. Jaworski K., „Swój do swego”. Studium o kształtowaniu się zmysłu gospodarności Wielkopolan 1871-1914, Poznań1998, p. 166-167.
  3. Karolczak W., Domy towarowe w dawnym Poznaniu (do 1939 roku), information bulletin of the exhibition at the Museum of the History of the City of Poznań, Poznań 1995.
  4. Karolczak W., "Słynne żydowskie domy towarowe i fabryki", [in] Poznańscy Żydzi, „Kronika Miasta Poznania” (hereinafter KMP) 2009., No. 1, pp. 48-50.
  5. Łuczak Cz., Przemysł Wielkopolski w latach 1871-1914, Poznań 1960.
  6. Łuczak Cz., Życie gospodarczo-społeczne w Poznaniu 1815-1914, Poznań 1965.
  7. Skuratowicz J., Domy towarowe w Poznaniu na przełomie XIX i XX  wieku, KMP 1991, Nos 1-2.
  8. Skuratowicz J., "W kręgu Kantorowiczów, Jaretzkich i Samterów" [in] KMP 1996 No 4.
  9. Schiper I., Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich, Warszawa 1937.
  10. Sombart W., Żydzi i życie gospodarcze, Warszawa 1913.


Translated by LIDEX

  • [1.1] Schiper I., Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich, Warszawa 1937, p. 22.
  • [1.2] Schiper I., Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich, Warszawa 1937, p. 31.
  • [1.3] Schiper I., Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich, Warszawa 1937, p. 307.
  • [1.4] Schiper I., Dzieje handlu żydowskiego na ziemiach polskich, Warszawa 1937, pp. 549-550.
  • [1.5] Karolczak W., Słynne żydowskie domy towarowe i fabryki, [in] „Kronika Miasta Poznania” 2009 (hereinafter KMP), No 1, pp. 48-50.
  • [1.6] Jaworski K., „Swój do swego”. Studium o kształtowaniu się zmysłu gospodarności Wielkopolan 1871-1914, Poznań 1998, p. 166-167.
  • [1.7] Karolczak W., Słynne żydowskie domy towarowe i fabryki, [in] KMP 2009, No 1, p. 55.
  • [1.8] Łuczak Cz., Przemysł Wielkopolski w latach 1871-1914, Poznań 1960, p. 35.
  • [1.9] Łuczak Cz., Przemysł Wielkopolski w latach 1871-1914, Poznań 1960, pp. 35-36.
  • [1.10] Karolczak W., Słynne żydowskie domy towarowe i fabryki, [w] KMP 2009, No 1, p. 64.
  • [1.11] Karolczak W., Słynne żydowskie domy towarowe i fabryk, [w] KMP 2009, No 1, p. 66.
  • [1.12] Sombart W., Żydzi i życie gospodarcze, Warszawa 1913, pp.182-183.