The Jewish Cemetery in Opole (Graniczna Street) was established in 1822 outside the limits of the then city, within the area of the village of Nowa Wieś Królewska (situated 2.5 kilometers outside the former city limits). In 1812 the Opole kehilla took measures aimed at creating its own cemetery and obtained a proper permission to do so on July 3, 1816. In 1817 a 0.12 ha parcel was bought for 600 thalers from the farmer Josef Kurpiers. [1.1]. The official opening of the cemetery took place in 1822 but the first person, the teacher Gimpel Pozner, was buried there in the fall 1821.[1.2]. Prior to that, the Jews of Opole buried their deceased in a cemetery in Biała Prudnicka.
The original area of the cemetery (0.12 ha) was quickly crowded and that is why an additional 0.4375 ha of land was purchased in 1866. In 1870 in the eastern part of the necropolis a mortuary (Tahara) was built with an apartment annex for the cemetery caretaker added to it. A reconstruction of the stone fencing started in 1930 and there was only enough time to rebuild the north part where the concrete fencing was replaced with adorned sandstone walls.
In 1933 a parcel was bought to build a new Jewish cemetery in Opole. The parcel was situated within a newly opened municipal cemetery in Opole-Półwieś. However, in the face of the escalating anti-Semitic campaign and many Jews moving out and going to the West, the community sold part of the parcel in 1936 and the rest of it in 1939.[1.2].
In 1939 the cemetery at Graniczna Street became the property of the Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland (Reich’s Association of the Jews in Germany). The necropolis avoided greater World War Two damage.
In 1946 the cemetery was taken over by the Jewish Kehilla of Wrocław, which, in 1947, restored the mortuary and employed a caretaker. After the caretaker’s death in 1957 the cemetery began to fall into ruin. There is a probability that cases of vandalism and grave robbery took place. The last burial took place in 1960. In 1963 the cemetery was officially closed[1.4].
In 1969 the city authorities allowed the partition of the cemetery, boxing off the parcel of land with a mortuary, morgue and caretaker’s house. All those buildings were demolished. A house and workshop were constructed in their place.
In the years 1976-1977, the then city authorities made an attempt to save the decrepit cemetery. The southern and western parts of the stone fencing walls and a new entrance gate from the western side (Graniczna Street) were constructed at that time.[1.5].
In the area of 0.398 ha, about 150 matzevot have been preserved, the oldest of which dates from 1821 (Gimpel, son of Abraham Pozner, died on 2 Cheshvan 5581 – October 2, 1821). It proves that the cemetery was already in use in 1821. A characteristic feature of Jewish cemeteries in Silesia is the commonness of German grave inscriptions, which resulted from the assimilation of German Jews and their abandonment of Orthodox Judaism in favor of Reform Judaism. To find Hebrew inscriptions on the matzevot from the turn of the centuries was a rare thing. The last tombstone dates from May 13, 1940 and belongs to Paula Sara Tockus[1.5].
The cemetery is a peculiar pantheon of the Jews of Opole. Rested next to one another are Opole rabbis, wealthy merchants, physicians, pharmacists, attorneys and famous entrepreneurs. The Baroque grave of Max Frielander (died 1897) and his wife Lina, nee Sachs (died 1927) was unique among many other tombstones, but, unfortunately, it was devastated in June 2005. The most famous person buried in the cemetery was Rabbi Wiener.
[1.1] M. Borkowski, Spacerkiem po dawnym Opolu [in:] "Gazeta Wyborcza" (2001), no. 27.
[1.2] M. Borkowski, A. Kirmiel, T. Włodarczyk, Śladami Żydów: Dolny Śląsk, Opolszczyzna, Ziemia Lubuska, Warszawa 2008, p. 134.
[1.3] M. Borkowski, A. Kirmiel, T. Włodarczyk, Śladami Żydów: Dolny Śląsk, Opolszczyzna, Ziemia Lubuska, Warszawa 2008, p. 134.
[1.4] Data according to: http://www.kirkuty.xip.pl [as of 20 VI 2009].
[1.5] M. Borkowski, Spacerkiem po dawnym Opolu [in:] "Gazeta Wyborcza w Opolu" (2001), no. 27.
[1.6] M. Borkowski, Spacerkiem po dawnym Opolu [in:] "Gazeta Wyborcza w Opolu" (2001), no. 27.
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