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2013-07-19

A Unique Discovery

Three cast-iron matzevot have been unearthed near a Pauline monastery in Leśniów. The tombstones probably come from Żarki and survived the war only by a lucky coincidence. The fact that Jewish tombstones of this kind are extremely rare in Poland makes this finding even more extraordinary.

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The headstones were accidentally found during construction works. The scattered matzevos were dug inside the ground. It is possible that they were left on the ground and, over time, they became overgrown with soil and grass. The refurbished buildings include a one-floor villa and  opposite to it, a farm building. Before the outbreak of the war, the villa housed an outpatient clinic, which was  later transformed to a hospital by Germans. After the war, the building continued to serve as a healthcare institution. After the end of the communist regime, the building became a monstery.

The first person to have been notified about the discovery was Wojciech Mszyca, who looks after the cemetery in Żarki. Mszyca saw to it that the headstones were secured in the Żary cultural centre, the former synagogue. The size of the headstones is about 120 x 80 cm. Although rusty, the inscriptions are still legible. Their rectangular shape is fairly untypical. Their upper parts indicate that they may have been topped with a semicircle inscribed with Jewish symbols, as is the case with headstones from Krzepice. Wojciech Mszyca has noticed four holes on the bottom. It is therefore possible that the headstones were unscrewed from a grave.

The discovered matzevos are extremely significant for the Jewish community, especially the families of the deceased. This is why the inscriptions need to be immediately deciphered. This will be done by Wiesław Paszkowski from the Centre for Documentation of the History of Częstochowa.

It remains  to be seen where the matzevos will be placed. The Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich has agreed to affixing the headstones on the wall of the new Jewish cemetery in Żarki. They may well be taken  to the museum in the cultural centre in Żarki.

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza – Częstochowa, Tadeusz Piersiak W klasztorze Paulinów odnaleziono żydowskie nagrobki (16.07.2013)

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