Jewish cemetery (Pakosz Dolny Street)

Heritage Sites – Cemeteries
Polska / świętokrzyskie

In the second half of the nineteenth century, due to the rapid development of Jewish settlement in Kielce, the local Jewish community faced a necessity of orginising a new burial place. Previously, few Jews of Kielce burried their dead in the cemetery in nearby Chęciny. Because of this in 1868 land in the farm Pakosz was purchased at the junction of the current Pakosz Dolny and Kusocińskiego Streets. At that time it was a parcel of land located outside built-up areas. Meir Baraban in his published in 1929 essay „Zabytki historyczne Żydów w Polsce” (“Historical Monuments of Jews in Poland”) wrote that the Jews of Kielce “bought the square for the cemetery very far from the town and there they burry their dead even today”. The first documented burial took place two years later. The brotherhood of Chewra Kadisza took care of organization and management of the cemetery. In Kielce also functioned a society called Chesed Shel Emet, which covered the cost of funerals of the poor and lonely. With time, a mortuary was built, which was called in Hebrew beyt tahara, the accommodation for the caretaker and gravedigger was furnished, the fence was built and the access road was hardened. Initially a small area of the cemetery was enlarged in the twenties of the 20th century.

The cemetery is the burial place of many people who played a significant role in the life of Kielce. In 1915 buried there was Chaim Szmuel Horowitz, known as the tzadik of Chęciny, the great-grandson of the famous Seer of Lublin, and two years later they also buried there Motele Twerski ie Mordechaj Kuzmirer originating from the Chernobyl Hasidic dynasty. The graves of both tzaddikim became a place of pilgrimage of many religious Jews.

In 1931 a book entitled "Dom żywych" ("The house of the living") was published. It contained the inventory of tombstones from the Jewish cemetery in Kielce, which was written by Mosze Menechem Mendel and it also contained the information on the buried within prominent personages.

During the Second World War on the terrirory of the necropolis Nazis performed numerous executions on the Jewish population. Bodies of the murdered Jews and of those who died in the ghetto in Kielce were buried there as well. During the Second World War on the terrirory of the necropolis Nazis performed numerous executions on the Jewish population. Bodies of the murdered Jews and of those who died in the ghetto in Kielce were buried there as well. We will quote here an excerpt from the memories of Adam Helfand, published in the book of Eugeniusz Fąfara entitled "Gehenna ludności żydowskiej" (Gehenna of the Jewish population"). Adam Helfand, who was forced by the Germans to collect from the streets the corpses of Jews shot during the dissolution of the ghetto, saw on the cemetery "feverish work on digging huge pits, to which were thrown the victims of the operation. (...) Before the dead were burried, we had to strip them naked. The clothing was burned, and in the ashes the Nazis were looking for gold. Some of our mates were forced by terror and death threats to strike out the golden teeth from the bodies". After the liberation, the remains of the Jews exhumed in various spots of the city between 1945 and 1946 were buried in the cemetery.

On the 8th July 1946 the cemetery was the place of the funeral of the victims of the Kielce pogrom in 1937. Coffins with the bodies were laid in a mass grave. The funeral ceremony was attended by several thousand people, including representatives of national and foreign Jewish organizations, political parties, army, militia and workplaces. The state authorities were represented by minister Stanisław Radkiewicz. A few archival photos taken at the funeral can be viewed on the website www.gexweb.com .

After the pogrom, Jews were gradually leaving the city. Already devastated during the war, abandoned cemetery fell into obscurity and disrepair year on year. In 1956, the Socio-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland, in a letter to the Presidium of the National Council of the City of Kielce alarmed: "The cemetery is in deplorable condition, the wall is systematically dismantled, many of the graves were broken and scattered, the tombs are profaned, and the monument to the victims of the pogrom is desecrated with various graffities. The same year, officials of the National Council of Kielce in a confidential letter to the Office for Religious Affairs reported that "the formerly Jewish cemetery in Kielce was illegally occupied by the Work Cooperative "22 lipca" ("July 22"), which arranged a depot of coal, coke, slag, sand and clay on the cemetery. The management of the Cooperatives transformed the mortuary (...) into a pattern shop". In 1965 the cemetery was officialy closed by the authorities. In an ohel, in which Kuzmirer and his nephew Moshe Yehuda Leib were buried, a carpenter's workshop was arranged. Krzysztof Kąkolewski clearly describled the devastation of the cemetery in his text entitled "Martwy cmentarz" ("The dead graveyard"), published by "Tygodnik Solidarność" (No. 51 dated for December 16th 1994). "In the seventies, grew a second, terrible matter: The command of the authorities - the communists of Kielce have invoked the orders from Warsaw - to desecrate Jewish cemetery by the deportation of all the remaining matzevot (...) in the times of the Martial Law (...) the local military unit in a communal effort, on Sundays used to transport the matzevot in trucks in a unknown direction. Money for that went from the state defense budget. Tombstones were probably used as a material for the construction of foundations, steps, walks in the villas of the Red Barons.

The change this state came in the eighties when - thanks to the efforts of Fundacja Rodziny Nissenbaumów (Nissenbaum Family Foundation) and Kielce Landsmannschaft of Diaspora Jews - cemetery was fenced and restored. From the parts of the remaining matzevot a lapidary was erected. The dedication ceremony of the renewed cemetery was scheduled on August 23 1987, the forty-fifth anniversary of the dissolution of the ghetto in Kielce. It was attended by several hundred people, including representatives of the Catholic Church with Bishop Henryk Muszyśki. Later on in 2007 thanks to the efforts of Rabbi Leib Surkis, the ohel of Kuzmirer was regained. Funerary chapel building was renovated and fenced, the tombs were set within, and at the entrance a signboard was mounted.

Even today on the territory of the necropolis remained several hundred matzevot and their parts used in the construction of the monument and arranged in rows. A huge attention is drawn by a monument commemorating the children from a labor camp running nearby Jasna and Stolarska Streets, who were executed in May 1943. On the monument were written names of the victim and a sign: "Here lie the sacred ashes of our 45 dearest, innocent children, murdered cruely by the German criminals on the day of 23th May 1943. The youngest was 15 months old, and the oldest was 15 years old". Mass grave of victims of the Kielce pogrom was marked with a simple matzeva, on which the Star of David was embossed and a sign in Hebrew and Polish: "Here lie the remains of 42 victims of incidents in Kielce on 4 July 1946, let them never be forgotten!". In the area of the necropolis one can find numerous structural components of the destroyed tombs.

In order to gain access to the key to the cemetey gate call 783 084 183 or 783 084 072.

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In autumn 2009 - from the initiative of Stowarzyszenie im. Jana Karskiego w Kielcach (the Jan Karski Association in Kielce) and Stowarzyszenie Kielczan w Izraelu (the citizens of Kielce in Israel Association) - was created a Social Committee for the Grave Restoration of the Victims of the Kielce pogrom, composed of: Michael Schudrich – the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Wojciech Lubawski - the mayor of Kielce, Yaacov Kotlicki - the chairman of Stowarzyszenie Kielczan w Izraelu, Bogdan Białek - chairman of Stowarzyszenie im. Jana Karskiego w Kielcach, prof. Marek Cecuła - artist, ceramist, sculptor, and Aleksander Burnstein - businessman. The aim of the committee is to reconstruct of the grave with the ashes of the victims of the pogrom in 1946, which is located on the cemetery in Kielce.This tomb was destroyed due to the elapsed time. The designer of the new tombstone monument and the spatial plan is Marek Cecuła. Bogdan Białek is the coordinator of the Committee and Aleksander Burnstein is the tresurer. Restoration work and cleaning will be partly carried out by inmates in the Detention Centre in Kielce as part of the "Tikkun - naprawa" campaign. Relevant agreement was signed between the direction of Detention and Stowarzyszenie im. Jana Karskiego w Kielcach. Construction of the monument will be funded by municipal authorities and with the donations of private people - the citizens of Kielce. Completion of work is expected in June 2010.

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