The 17th-18th century synagogue in Nowy Korczyn, Poland, long a poignant symbol of the destruction of Jewish communities and the neglect and abandonment of Jewish heritage sites in eastern and central Europe, has undergone partial restoration and preservation as a ruin — by the town. Mazel tov!
Thanks to Tomasz Cebulski, of Polin Travel Guide and Genealogy Services,for sharing this information!
The case is similar to that in Dzialoszyce, not far away, where the town preserved the remains of the ruined synagogue as ruins, which (once a plaque is affixed) will stand as a monument to the destoyed Jewish community. The two cases demonstrate that ruined synagogues need not be totally restored to be preserved in a meaningful way — and, with proper memorial plaques affixed (which we hope will be the case), send a powerful message.
Tomasz writes that the local town authorities in Nowy Korczyn decided to partly renovate and secure the synagogue structure last year. The building had long stood derelict, in dangerous condition, covered with graffiti; though the distinctive colonnaded front portal and the Ark remained partially intact. The roof, however, collapsed several years ago.
Construction and cleaning works, he writes, cost 110,000 PLN (approx $35,000) and were covered by the community of Nowy Korczyn, the Marshal of Swietokrzyskie Region and the regional conservator’s office:
The local community very gradually was investing money into the local unique medieval churches now the time came for the ruined synagogue building. The structure for years was very dangerous as the roofing was half collapsed threatening occasional visitors. The cleaning and construction works were started last September. All the vegetation was removed from inside and outside the structure. The wooden beams of roofing were removed and the top part of walls was secured with bricks and metal sheds. The new roof was built [to] the cover the women’s section securing in this way the unique pillar facade. The men’s section floor was leveled to be accessible, this part of the building is not covered by roof. All it needs now is a small info plaque with text explaining what the building was and is now. The local community did great work protecting the site. Congratulations.
Tomasz notes that:
Nowy Korczyn was one of the most important shtetls in the Kielce district. The earliest Jewish settlement dated back to the early sixteenth century. The town was an important trading center on merchandising route from Cracow to Lublin and Vilnus. In 1921, the town was home to nearly 2500 Jews, who made up nearly 70 percent of total population. During World War II in 1940 the German Nazis established ghetto in Nowy Korczyn for over 4000 Jews from the town and its vicinity. In autumn 1942 all of Korczyn Jews were deported to the death camp in Treblinka. The historical sources indicate that the synagogue was built in the second half of the seventeenth century. Bricks and stones used for this purpose were recovered from demolished Royal Castle in Nowy Korczyn . In the eighteenth century the building was very neglected and partly demolished due to wars and lack of funding. The community managed to renovate the structure. During World War II the Germans separated the men’s praying hall with wooden floor and converted the building into grain storage. In communist Poland the building was used as agricultural storage and community center soon abandoned and falling into ruin.