In a famously evocative passage published in the early 1980s, the Polish poet Anna Kamienska described the power of abandoned Jewish cemeteries. They were, she wrote:
… a tribe of stones, a people of stones, an obstinate tribe which is ever marching and ever shouting and calling voicelessly. Against the background of native grasses, trees, nettles and blackberries, exotic Hebrew letters are still talking about those who lived here and passed away. About righteous men, just and charitable, about God-fearing and loving women who toiled for others.
Kamienska’s words describe the importance of Jewish cemeteries as commemorative markers for both individuals and entire communities, and they also speak volumes about the sad state of neglect found in most Jewish cemeteries in Poland — and also in many other countries.
There are estimated to be more than 11,000 Jewish cemeteries and mass graves in Europe. They range from tiny isolated plots to vast urban necropolises with scores of thousands of burials. Particularly in countries and regions where few or no Jews live, most are in neglected or abandoned condition.
Grave markers range from simple slabs to highly decorated stones to elaborate mausolea; epitaphs and inscriptions range from brief notations of name and dates to elaborate poetry: in Hebrew, Yiddish, and many local languages.
We hope that readers will use this Portal to ask and answer questions, exchange information, network, and deepen involvement and awareness regarding research, work, and study related to Jewish cemeteries and their preservation and maintenance.
Explore the links below to access a wide range of links, publications, and other material on Jewish cemeteries. And join the conversation via the comments and EJCAN — the European Jewish Cemetery Advisory Network.