Construction for a parking lot and electrical substation on the site of a Jewish cemetery in the town of Siemiatycze in eastern Poland unearthed skeletal human remains that were then dug up and discarded in a heap of dirt.
Work was suspended after the Rabbinical Commission on Cemeteries informed the police and local prosecutor’s office, and an investigation is under way. The Jewish community said that some of the remains have been collected and will be reburied.
News media quoted Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich, who visited the site on December 6, as saying the case was the worst desecration of a Jewish cemetery he has seen in the 17 years he has served as a rabbi in Poland. He told the Associated Press:
“This is a full-out scandal […] Sometimes people can do something by mistake and could not realize they are seeing bones, but skulls are hard to miss.”
The cemetery was founded in the 18th century and was almost totally destroyed during and after World War II. Only a few dozen gravestones survived. During the postwar communist regime a building of the Polish Automobile Association was constructed on part of the site.
Local authorities said the current construction is on the part of the site already built on and managed by the Automobile Association.
Part of the cemetery was returned to Jewish communal ownership after the fall of communism, but not that section.
Virtual Shtetl noted that there had been earlier plans to develop the site, and that plans in 2013-14 by a telecommunications firm to construct a transmitter there were abandoned when they learned that it would be on the site of the cemetery.
According to the AP and other media, Schudrich said he had warned local authorities that this was still part of the cemetery and had asked them to inform him if there was ever a request to build there.
“I went there three or four years ago and I told them that if you put a shovel in the ground, you are going to find bones,” Schudrich said.