The Branch was established in 1958. It collects historical objects of Jewish culture, mainly those connected with the history and culture of Kraków's Jews. It spreads knowledge about the life, culture and tradition of the Jewish community by various exhibitions, educational activities, and promotes and provides access to a specialized book collection.
This is the oldest synagogue to have survived in Poland. It was built in the15th century in the style of German and Bohemian Gothic synagogues. In 1570 it was reconstructed by the Italian architect Mateo Gucci, who gave it a Renaissance form, although he left the former, double-nave plan of the building and reconstructed its vaulting. In the 2nd half of 16th and the 1st half of the 17th century the synagogue complex consisted of a vestibule, two houses of prayers and a building of community management. All the buildings together formed the religious-administrative centre of the Jewish community in Kazimierz. Before World War I and after it ended, it was renovated many times, according to plans drawn by Zygmunt Hendel in 1904, 1913 and 1923. In 1941, during the period when the Germans were establishing ghetto in Kraków, the synagogue was taken over by German Fiduciary Office (Treuhandstelle), and used as a warehouse. Its furnishings were destroyed. At the end of 1944, the ceiling collapsed or perhaps it was destroyed intentionally. Between 1956 and 1959 the synagogue was reconstructed. Based on an agreement from 30 October 1959 between the Jewish Religious Community in Kraków and Kraków's HistoricalMuseum a museum was established in it: a Branch of Jewish History and Culture.