A Jewish genealogist is attempting to restore the large Jewish cemetery in Košice, in eastern Slovakia, by rescuing and restoring fallen and broken headstones, one by one.
Peter Absolon, who runs the Kosice-based Slovakia Jewish Genealogy Services, states that his goal is “to repair and restore all the broken and neglected tombstones in the Židovský Cintorín Košice Jewish Cemetery, “ working with the cemetery’s caretakers and a local stonemason.
“Thanks to good relationship with the stonemason we keep the costs to the minimum so we can fix the stones for a very good price of around 70€ per stone (if not very damaged),” he told JHE.
Work is progressing, he said, thanks to a “very generous donation in honor of the Szepessi family murdered in the Shoah.”
To date, the project has restored more than 30 gravestones, some of which had fallen or been toppled and lay facedown or covered in vegetation; some of which were broken. The fallen stones have been raised and placed upright, some of them on new bases. He expects to be able to restore an additional 40-50.
Photos of each stone — some with “before and after” images — are posted on the group’s Facebook page.
Košice, the capital of eastern Slovakia, has two Jewish cemeteries.
The New Jewish Cemetery (where the restoration work in going on) was opened in 1889 as part of the big municipal cemetery on Rastislavova street. It is a vast expanse that is one of the biggest Jewish cemeteries in Slovakia and is still used by the local Jewish community. It includes both an Orthodox and a Neolog section and has a Holocaust memorial formed by the star of David that once topped the huge dome of the town’s Neolog synagogue, which is now used as a concert hall.
(The photos appear to indicate that most of the restoration is being carried out in the Orthodox section.)
The Orthodox section suffered a vandal attack that damaged around 55 stones in 2012, 10 years after an attack that damaged 135 stones. (The Jewish community has installed a camera security system).
There is also an Old Jewish Cemetery, on Tatranska street, that was formally closed in 1904 and has only a few gravestones that remain standing. It was established in about 1844 and functioned until the Jewish section of the new municipal cemetery was opened in 1889.