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Tombstones return to the cemeteries

They were making the foundations of a house, they were parts of sidewalks. In the spring of 2017, over a hundred matzevot were returned to the cemeteries.

At the end of May, 38 tombstones were brought to the Jewish cemetery in Ciechanowiec. Those were matzevot, which were secured in the Reverent Krzysztof Kluk Museum of Agriculture years ago. When the cemetery was walled in 2008, it contained less than twenty monuments. Later, the inhabitants of Ciechanowiec started to transport the matzevot found on their properties to the cemetery. Now – according to information provided by Ciechanowiec City's website – there are 72 gravestones within the boundaries of the necropolis.


One of the tombstones retrieved in Otwock, photo by Tadeusz Samul    

Recently, Tadeusz Samul, a resident of Otwock, dug out at his estate three stone plates with Hebrew inscriptions. This fact was mentioned in our article: “Unknown Jewish monument in Świder?” He informed about the find the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. It turned out that these are the gravestones of Awraham Josef Zylbersztajn from Sobolewo, who died in 1917; Miriam Messing, who died in 1926, and Iska Fajga, who died in 1938, the daughter of Rabbi Chaim Icchak Płocki of Turk and the granddaughter of the well-known rabbi Meir Dan Płocki from Ostrów Mazowiecki. The information about the gravestones was passed on to Zbigniew Nosowski of the Social Committee of Remembrance of the Otwock and Karczew Jews, who, in early June, together with the employees of the Otwock Land Museum organized their transport to the local cemetery.

At the turn of May and June, the members of the Jewish community in Wroclaw were put on alert, when an investor began construction of a hotel on the site of the devastated cemetery at Gwarna Street. In the years of the Polish People's Republic, blocks of flats were erected in this area, erasing any terrestrial traces. Out of more than three thousand matzevot in the cemetery, only a few remained – one was fixed to the wall of the St. Maurice church, other two were dropped at the Jewish cemetery at Lotnicza Street. When a few weeks ago the building works started at Gwarna Street and the foundations were dug, the bones appeared. Archaeologists entered the excavation site, and found remains of more than 150 people. The bone arrangement suggested that those were the graves of people exhumed at the beginning of the 20th century from the opposite corner of the cemetery due to construction of Bahnhofstrasse (now Dworcowa Street). At the graves were fragments of matzevot. Human remains and gravestones were taken to the Jewish cemetery at Lotnicza Street.


Fragments of matzevot found during construction work at the former cemetery at Gwarna Street in Wroclaw, photo by Ryszard Bielawski    

Several dozen fragments of matzevot were found during the construction of the bypass of Góra Kalwaria. Its route runs through the place where there was a POW camp for Red Army soldiers during the Second World War. On the orders of the Germans, the prisoners were forced to yank tombstones from a Jewish cemetery located about one kilometre away and use them to harden the camp square. After 1945, some of the matzevot were recovered and brought back to the cemetery by members of the Jewish Committee in Góra Kalwaria, but most of them remained lost. After over 70 years, more gravestones were dug by roadmen. These matzevot are already in the cemetery as well.

Fifteen matzevot were found recently in the foundations of a demolished house in Łuków. Thanks to the involvement of local social workers, Andrzej Zdrojewski and Andrzej Sośnierz, the tombstones were laid at the lapidarium of the Jewish cemetery at Warszawska Street. The people who found them would like to have them restored and to reunite the broken fragments.


Iron matzeva found by Ewa Krychniak in the carpenter's workshop in Sokółka, photo by Mirosław Szut    

Cast-iron matzeva of Masza Lei, the daughter of Yakov, was found in Sokółka, in June. "The matzeva was in a carpenter's workshop in Sokółka, where it served as a working table. I have managed to protect it from scrapping" – says Ewa Krychniak, a teacher and librarian, author of the book entitled: Jewish Education and Culture of the Białystok Region in the Interwar Period and its Destruction During the Second World War. Because the Jewish cemetery in Sokółka is not fenced, there was a great risk that the cast iron matzeva would fall prey to scrap collectors. Ewa Krychniak decided to relocate the gravestone to the Museum of Sokółka Region in Sokółka.

Last Thursday, residents of Radzymin informed the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews about matzevot excavated during the construction of a supermarket at 13, 3 Maja Street, at the site of former dairy. The Voivodship Office for the Protection of Monuments in Warsaw (Wojewódzki Urząd Ochrony Zabytków w Warszawie) became interested in this discovery, and on the same day sent to Radzymin its representative. The case is in progress.

Krzysztof Bielawski


  • 72 macewy na Cmentarzu Żydowskim w Ciechanowcu (72 matzevot on the Jewish cemetery in Ciechanowiec) [online] [access: July 3, 2017].
  • Nosowski Z., Macewy z mojego podwórka (Matzevot from my backyard) [online] [access: July 3, 2017].