|MIEDZYRZEC PODLASKI: Lubelskie|
Shtetl site for Miedzyrzec. The first official recognition of Międzyrzec Podlaski as a city was in 1477. Since the 16th century, a large Jewish population was the norm. In 1795, the city was occupied by Austria, belonged to the Duchy of Warsaw from 1809 to 1815, and then was part of Congress Poland. In 1867, the Polish railway station was created. In 1939, approximately 12,000 people or 75% of the population, were Jewish. Located on the main trade route between Brest and Warsaw with a convenient connection to Lublin and Chelm, the location attracted Jewish settlement. Jewish population: 1674- 21% and 1827 - 65%. Asynagogue, houses of prayer, cheder, their own hospital, and later three weekly newspapers published in Yiddish were part of the Jewish community. Local Jews produced paint brushes and hair brushes in factories that hired thousands of workers. Local tanneries were known internationally. A pan factory, a wire factory, a bulb factory, and about nine hundred stores existed. Doctors and lawyers were numerous. Right before the Second World War, Jews constituted 90% of the town's residents and 75% in the surroundings, which numbered about >16,000 [?]. 180 houses out of the 201 located in the town belonged to Jews. Following the Nazi invasion of Poland, Międzyrzec Podlaski ghetto was created and liquidated on July 17, 1943.The Jews of Miedzyrzec died in Majdanek, Treblinka, and other extermination camps after being deported in seven consecutive aktions. Some were killed in the streets, in temporary hideouts, or at the cemeteries, where in May 1943 200 Jews who tried to escape transport to a camp were shot. The last aktion was on July 18th-19, 1943, even when the town was technically Judenrein. The last 179 Jews of Miedzyrzec were killed in the Piaski suburbs. Their remains, exhumed three years later, were buried in a collective grave. Matzevot include the graves of two young men at the cemetery: 23 year-old Srul Zylbersztein (1946) and 25 year-old Szymon Finklesztein (1947), who they died a tragic death, but unexplained, after the war. 2,000 young people left the town in October 1939 with the Russian army. Some who escaped before that. Very few survived in the town itself. Two survived in a hideout bythe Rynek, today's John Paul II Square with no help. They hidin a house next to the former Sobelman's Hotel in which the Nazis stayed. Thanks to help of Poles, another 8 Jews survived in the town and another six in the surroundings. In July 1944, 24 Jews were in the town with more survivors arriving afterward. About 170 Jews survived. Fewer than 1% of the Jewish population of the city survived. The Metzritch Relief Committee in New York was formed. [June 2009]
New Cemetery: A straight road leads to the Jewish cemetery; at Warszawska Street, turn left onto Brzeska Street A few hundred meters further are two cemeteries: Catholic on the left and Jewish on the right. Miedzyrzec Jews had rich cultural life. This cemetery was established in 1810, although some sources claim earlier dates because the oldest matzevah is from 1706. Destroyed during WWII, when some matzevot were used by the Germans for roads. Today, the cemetery is surrounded by a brick and plastered wall funded in 1946 by Sara and Abraham Finkelstein. From the side of Brzeska Street, the cemetery is unnoticable next to a small private house. A small metal gate entrance to the cemetery may be open or one must knock on a window of the house. The last formal caretaker died. About 80 granite, sandstone, and cast iron matzevot survived in the 6.86 acres. Many are overgrown by grass and moss. Large fragments stick out of the earth. The inscription on some remain in perfect condition while others are illegible. Although mostly in Hebrew, inscriptions in Polish can also be found. A common grave of three rabbis killed in 1942: Pejsach Raczko, Ber Roskin, and Dawid Flinkier. Symbols of open books, crowns, broken trees, and hands on the graves of the Kohanim appear repeatedly. A matzevah from the 19th century is deep in the overgrown bird cherry bushes in the centerl of the cemetery. Gravestones were made at the local ironworks of the Shejmel brothers. Despite some rust, they survived well and are readable. About 200 matzevahs are built into a wall. Some of the stones only lean against the wall. Unprotected gravestones may disappear. The other side of the cemetery's fence is broken. An inventory of the matzevot has not been done. The current state of preservation is due to the Mezritch Relief Committee, a private foundation of Sara and Abram Finkelstein, who originally came from Miedzyrzec, and to the local government that actively participated in its renovation.The unveiling of the statue called Tfila, made by the sculptor Yael Artzi, took place on May 17, 2009: see website for photos. photos. photos. [June 2009]
Old Cemetery: The cemetery on Brzeska Street, created probably in 1512, is not far from the new one and was totally destroyed during WWII. A meadow is there today. A forum described the destruction of the cemetery: "The Jewish cemetery happened to be located at a place where sand was used for cement production. We were 10 years-old time at the time and we used to go to the sand hill to jump off the slope. The excavators were digging into the cemetery and we were able to see the cross-sections of the graves. Some remains were without a coffin, but there were plenty of graves with coffins. Sometimes curiosity made us dig there, but we were never able to find anything. The leftover remains were taken to a garbage dump." [June 2009]
US Commission No. POCE000394
(Alternate name: Mezericz d'Lita or Meseritz d'Lita in Yiddish) Miedzyrzec Podlaski is located in Biala Podlaska at 51º59 22º47, 88 km N of Lublina. Cemetery location: Brzeska 60. Present town population is 5,000-25,000 with fewer than 10 Jews.
The earliest known Jewish community was mid-17th century. The Jewish population before WWII was 1,200. The early 18th-century synagogue no longer exists. 1885 Jewish hospital had 20 beds. Ghetto was liquidated 2 May 1943. The landmarked Jewish cemetery was established before 19th century. Mass grave of 3 Tzadakkim buried 18 April 1942. Date of last known Orthodox Jewish burial 1985 (Zaldman) and Mosze Kaufman 15 March 1970. The isolated urban flat land has no sign or marker. Reached by crossing private property, access is open with permission. A broken masonry wall with partial wire netting and locking gate surround. Present size of the cemetery is 2.78 hectares. 20-100 stones, not in original locations, date from 1708-20th century. The granite, sandstone, and iron (made in the local foundry of the Szejmel Bros.) rough stones or boulders, flat shaped stones, flat shaped stones with carved relief decoration, or iron monuments have Hebrew, Yiddish, and Polish inscriptions. Some tombstones have iron decorations or lettering. The cemetery contains special memorial monuments to Holocaust victims created by Abram and Sara Finkelstein of N.Y. in 1946. There are marked mass graves; people murdered 12 July 1943 were exhumed Oct. 1946. The municipality owns property used for a Jewish cemetery only. Adjacent areas are residential and are the same size as before 1939. Organized Jewish group tours and individuals, and private visitors frequently visit. It was vandalized during WWII and occasionally now. Local authorities repaired a wall in 1988. Local authorities pay the caretaker. There is a caretaker house. Security is a serious threat due to the damaged wall. Vegetation and vandalism are moderate threats.
Michal Witwicki, Dembowskiego 12/53, 02-784 Warszawa completed survey Aug 1991. Documentation: private archives of Jan Japielski. Eleonora Bergman and Michal Witwicki visited the site 3 Aug 1991. Interviewed were local residents.
BOOK: Gruber, Ruth Ellen. Jewish Heritage Travel A Guide to East-Central Europe. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992. p. 7
|Last Updated on Monday, 15 June 2009 22:29|