30 May 2008

Poland: Siedlezcka cemetery restored

The Jerusalem Post carried a story about the recent ceremony marking the restoration of Siedliezcka's Jewish cemetery, founded in 1850.

The cemetery served numerous southeastern Poland communities in the Carpathian Mountain foothills, including Kanczuga, Gac, Bialoboki, Markowa, Manasterz, Zagorze, Chmielnik, Jawornik Polski and Zabratówka.

The last burial was in 1940 and only 500 graves remain. Kanczuga's recorded Jewish history dates to 1638; by 1939, there were more than 1,000 Jews, 80% of the population. In 1942, more than 1,000 Jews from the town were rounded up by the Germans, marched to the cemetery, murdered and their bodies tossed into a mass grave.

Among the attendees were Jerusalem Post columnist Michael Freund, who also chairs Shavei Israel, and the town's mayor, Jacek Solek, who agreed that the town would pay for the paving of a new road to the cemetery.

Freund's family is from Kanczuga.

The restoration was financed partly by Freund and his family (through Warsaw's Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and the Siedleczka-Kanczuga Landsmanschaft headed by Howard Nightingale). The project included cleaning the cemetery, restoring grave-sites and rebuilding the surrounding stone wall. The wall was essential as farmers had been attempting to expand their fields into the cemetery.

Freund said he funded the work as he could no longer watch the neglect.

"It was sad for me to see that a number of the gravestones collapsed or were broken and that the cemetery was overgrown by trees and bushes, and essentially looked like a forest. It was also evident that many gravestones were taken from the cemetery over the years to pave local streets, or were looted by local persons," he said.

Read more here.

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