Source: Warsaw Will Return 1,000 Gravestones to Jewish Cemetery. The looted matzevot had been used to build a structure in a city parkBy Stephanie Butnick|August 15, 2014 2:21 PM|Comments: 6
Warsaw's Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery(Wikimedia)
The city of Warsaw has announced plans to recover 1,000 gravestones, or matzevot, that were taken from the city's Jewish cemetery and used to build a structure in a city park. The gravestones, JTA reports, are "currently part of a pergola and stairs at a park in Warsaw's Praga district." The city plans to return the matzevot to the Jewish cemetery.
The city's change of heart was the result of months of campaigning by an organization called From the Depths, whose Matzeva Project locates and restores misused Jewish gravestones across Poland.
The practice of removing Jewish gravestones from cemeteries and using them for other purposes was actually quite common in Poland since the 1940s. As Stefan Lorenzutti wrote in Tablet in 2013, "‘Quarried'" from cemeteries during World War II (by the Nazis), the decades that followed (by Poles), and even up until the present day, matzevot had been and continue to be used in any instance in which ordinary stone might normally, mundanely, and practically suffice." (A controversial new Polish film, Aftermath, tells the story of a modern-day Pole who becomes fixated on recovering the matzevot he finds throughout his village, whose project-and the truths he uncovers-creates an uproar in his sleepy Polish town.)
Photographer Łukasz Baksik spent three years documenting "looted and appropriated" gravestones across Poland; the photographs wound up becoming a book called Matzevot for Everyday Use. You can see a slideshow of some of the photos here, the images are nothing short of haunting.
As Lorenzutti wrote of the collection,
The matzevot Baksik photographed had been repurposed (a tricky verb in this context) as paving stones for courtyards and passageways, or else to patch crumbling walls and curbstones in need of reinforcement. They had been shaped into querns and grindstones; had been used to construct a cowshed, a pergola in a city park, a sandbox for children; had ended up as "recyclable" tablets for new Catholic gravestones-the Jewish gravestone was simply carved into again, like a palimpsest-and as a path for monks who, Baksik relates, "had become used to walking on a paved path, and not through the mud." Perhaps the pergola Baksik photographed is the one whose matzevot are now being returned to where they belong. [August 2014]
(in 1780) also used the cemetery at Sochaczew
Falenica is a part of Wawer,a forested Warsaw district in the far SE corner of the city. Located on the right bank of the Vistula, until 1951 it was a separate village. Before WWII, Falenica was a favorite location for summer cottages and houses. During World War II the Germans opened a Jewish ghetto. All inhabitants were transported to Treblinka in August 1942. Yizkor, [January 2013]
JRI-Poland and JGS NY project to reconstruct the burial records. Warsaw Cemetery Records and Photographs. "Warsaw Cemetery Manager, Mr. Bolek Szenicer, like his father Pinkus before him, has been working diligently to reconstruct the Warsaw Cemetery records destroyed by the Nazis. After 20 years of work, more than 50,000 gravestones have been fully or partially indexed but another 200,000 remain to be done. If you have visited the immense Warsaw cemetery and have seen the jumble of stones and overgrowth, you can begin to appreciate the scale of the project. At present there are more than 30,000 indices in the JRI-Poland database and more are added each month." May 2012]
The foundation of the Jewish Cemetery "Gesia" was established. Restoration of the preburial house and paving the courtyard by the gate was done. Source: US Commission [date?]
photos and history and a link to the cemetery plan. "...situated in Okopowa Street (former Gesia Street), founded in 1799..." [May 2002]
UPDATE: history [May 200?]
UPDATE: Return of matzevot to cemetery [Aug 2014]
Comprehensive story on Brodno cemetery matzevot in Warsaw [Oct 2014]
|Last Updated on Saturday, 25 October 2014 00:15|