Note: This is an updated and revised version of a post made earlier, including further information and background about the mikvah, from Virtual Shtetl.
A well-preserved mikvah in the small town of Chmielnik in south-central Poland remains largely intact in the cellar of the former bath house, but what to do with it remains a question a year after Virtual Shtetl contacted town authorities about its future.
The local edition of Gazeta Wyborcza publicized the mikvah in an article Tuesday that noted that it was in its original condition and could become “a great attraction for tourists.”
On the Gazeta web site, the article featured a photo gallery of the mikvah — the pictures clearly show the large tiled basin with curved walls, still filled with water. The stairs leading down to the mikvah, the checkerboard tiled floor, the vaulted ceiling and other fixtures are also shown.
Thanks to local activists, Chmielnik has acted to protect and promote its Jewish heritage in recent years, restoring the 17th century synagogue that now houses a Jewish museum and placing memorials at the Jewish cemeteries. It also hosts an annual Jewish culture festival.
Virtual Shtetl reported a year ago that Marian Zwolski, who had recently bought the mikvah building, was hoping to find an investor to restore it, as he recognized its historical significance. It also reported that V.S. had send a message to the newly elected Mayor of Chmielnik “with an inquiry whether the city is considering the development of the ritual bath.” Funds seemed to be lacking for any such endeavor, however.
Zwolski reiterated his hope in statements made in the Gazeta Wyborcza article.
“We have an idea of what to do with it, but it requires more knowledge and financial resources,” he said. “There are still things that we need to figure out.”
After World War II, according to Virtual Shtetl, the building — a one-storey structure at the corner of Żeromski and Kiliński streets — was used as a soft drinks plant and more recently housed a restaurant.
Zwolski told Gazeta Wyborcza he found the mikvah concealed under heaps of rubble when he was exploring the building after he obtained it.
“When I bought this property I wanted to learn more about it,” he told Gazeta. “I knew about the Mikvah from my father, who was born here in Chmielnik in the early twentieth century. We started to dig. When we got past the rubble, we discovered the source of water.”
He said that in addition to the large main pool, there were also small pools. (One is shown in the Gazeta pictures).
The building is located on the other side of the main market square from the town’s synagogue — a large masonry structure with barrel vaulting, that was originally built in the 1630s.
Turned into a warehouse by the Nazis, the synagogue stood semi-ruined for decades after World War II, but in recent years — thanks to efforts by local activists — it was restored and opened as the site of a state-of-the-art Jewish museum.There are also memorials in the Jewish cemeteries.