Thursday, April 09, 2020

The wall made out of old gravestones in Ostrowiec Photo: Courtesy of Meir Bolka

A Polish city used tombstones from its Jewish cemetery to build a short wall around the Christian cemetery, an Israeli blogger was recently shocked to find. Food blogger Meir Bolka was searching Ostrowiec for the graves of relatives who perished before the Holocaust.

Bolka went to the mayor and succeeded in convincing the city to dismantle the wall and repair the tombstones.

Ostrowiec was a well-known center of Jewish life in prewar Poland, with more than 15,000 Jewish residents–more than 70 percent of the population.

The Second World War was a turning point for the city’s Jewish residents. Like the vast majority of Poland’s Jews, they were herded into ghettoes, robbed of their belongings and exterminated in Birkenau and Treblinka. Nearly the entire population perished.

In the early 1960s, when Poland was ruled by a pro-Soviet communist regime, the country needed raw materials for construction. Because there was no Jewish population in the city, residents began dismantling tombstones from the Jewish cemetery and using them to build houses, sidewalks and more.

“I went to the municipality to figure out what happened and yesterday met with the mayor, city council members and other senior officials,” said Molka, “with the goal of finding a solution and return the tombstones to their rightful place or else find some other solution that doesn’t involve this desecration.”

He added that “the mayor expressed appreciation of Jewish heritage and of the fact that we haven’t forgotten the past after more than 60 years, and here comes someone from Israel to make this correction.”

Because the city’s socioeconomic situation is not particularly high, community leaders are worried about the cost of the project and have requested cooperation on the part of Jewish groups. All city officials agreed with Bolka that the situation reflected a historic injustice that must be rectified.

By Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews

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