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The Jewish Cemetery

Poland was once home to the largest community in Europe. More than 1,000 Jewish cemeteries, most of which are overgrown or in ruins, still remain. However, not all of them contain tombstones.

© Bodzentyn.net, 2009.

The Jewish cemetery in Bodzentyn was established in the later half of the ninetieth century and is located on a hillside called Góra Miejska. In earlier times the cemetery was partly fenced. A watchman kept watch and prevented vandals from entering the grounds.

A Nazi German military post was set up on the premises of the presbytery of Bodzentyn, operating in the years after the liquidation of the ghetto until 1944. During this period the Germans used some of the tombstones to pave around the church in Bodzentyn.

© Bodzentyn.net, 2009. Watch film.

The Jewish cemetery of Bodzentyn was restored in 2008-2009. This event was preceded by local projects aiming at clearing the grounds grounds of bushes and weeds on the initiative of the Roman Catholic priest Father Leszek Sikorski and the chairman of the cultural association Odnowica, Krystyna Nowakowska.

For Manes Szafir of Sweden, who was born in Bodzentyn and survived the Holocaust, being involved in the restoration was a dream come true. Several men and women related to the former Jewish Community of Bodzentyn, as well as churches, associations and others in Sweden, contributed to the funds that were raised to cover the costs. Supporting Manes Szafir the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism transferred the funds to the Dawid Rubinoiwcz Society that was founded in 2009 and headed by Jan Pałysiewicz at the time of the restoration.

Bogdan Białek, Editor-in-Chief of the publishing house Charaktery, and president of the Jan Karski Association got involved in the restoration. Throughout the project he consulted the works at the cemetery with Rabbi Michael Schudrich, so that it would be in accordance with Jewish law (you may not, for example, uproot the roots of the ground at a cemetery so that the bones of the diseased will be disturbed as will their souls in heaven, however, is allowed to clear bushes, trees and weeds from the surface). Also, Bogdan Białek organized the celebrations connected with rededication of the cemetery and made arrangements with the renowned ceramist artist Marek Cecula, so that he would design a beautiful gate, as a symbolic memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

"It is really not about buildings monuments everywhere. Our soil, our nation, many of our nation’s sons and daughters deserve to be immortalized in stone and metal. What matters is stopping the memories from dying, for this is the sole thing that we can still do", says Bogdan Białek.

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