Poland: Olympic athlete crowd-funds for memorial at Jewish cemetery

 

Artist’s rendition of planned monument at Kroscienko Jewish cemetery

 

Every so often we like to post about crowd-sourcing campaigns in aid of Jewish heritage.

In Poland, the Olympic athlete Dariusz Popiela — the 2017 Polish champion in the canoe/kayak slalom and the silver medalist at the European Championships, who also took part in the 2008 Olympics — has launched such a campaign to commemorate the Jews of Krościenko nad Dunajcem, in southern Poland near the town of Nowy Sącz, and build a memorial at the devastated Jewish cemetery.

He is seeking 20,000 zlotys — €4,800 — for the project; to date (Jan. 14) 46 percent has been raised since the campaign was launched in November 2017. (The original goal was 10,000 zlotys, but on Jan. 11 he raised it to 20,000 after the 10,000 goal was nearly achieved.)

Popiela, who is not Jewish, describes himself as “an enthusiast of the history of Polish Jews”  who was appalled by the condition of the abandoned cemetery when he found him there by chance not long ago.

Here’s the promotional video from the campaign site:

 

 

 

Popiela has joined with activists of the Nomina Rosae foundation and their project called the Shtetl of Tsanz to build a monument at the cemetery site to commemorate the destroyed Jewish community. The cemetery currently is a wasteland with only two surviving matzevot; most of the stones were removed by the Nazis and used to build “floors and foundations,” he writes.

Plans are to build a memorial listing all the names of Holocaust victims from the town, and also to repair the fence.

He writes, on the funding campaign web site:

The fact is that there are many people in Krościenko nad Dunajcem who are trying to change this state of things and have already taken some effort to save this only sign of the late citizens existence. We have joined together, and we believe that it can be done!!

He adds,

Your help is crucial because this is completely private and spontaneous action. Every penny, every cent will be spent to renovate this place. Each, even the smallest donation will be a valuable contribution to our project. Let’s show the world together that it can and must be done!

The Shtetl of Tzanz web page description states:

We plan to raise a granite monument on the Jewish cemetery in Krościenko (on Dunajec river) in southern Poland. The monument will have over 200 names of people murdered during the Holocaust carved in it. It will be possible thanks to a surviving list of names written down during the war by the Jewish community and Judenrat, which includes the names of people murdered until August 1942 as well as the names of people sent to the death camp in Bełżec and labor camps. A surviving list such as this is very rare. Putting the first and last names of the victims on the monument will allow us to draw them out of oblivion and bring back the identities that the murderers wanted to take away along with their lives.

The message of the monument will be strengthened by its uniqueness in Podhale region, where there is no commemoration such as this, even though the fate of the Jewish people of Podhale was particularly dramatic. The cemetery in Krościenko itself was stripped bare of the gravestones – only two matzevot exist today.

The Jewish population settled in Krościenko in the 18th century. In the 1920s it comprised more than 12 percent of local population. The outbreak of the Second World War brought about its dramatic annihilation.

 

Click to access the crowd-funding site

Read a JTA article about the campaign

 

 

 

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