(JHE) — For the third time this year, we are publishing a round-up of some of the many Jewish cemetery clean-up initiatives, by volunteers and others, taking place in various European countries. Earlier this year, we documented such initiatives at the beginning of June and at the end of July.
Cemetery desecrations make headlines, but all too often the many initiatives such as these to clean-up, restore, and document Jewish cemeteries get overlooked or ignored.
Here below we list some of the initiatives that have taken place since our last round-up, others that are scheduled to take place, and some that are (or have been) ongoing.
This year, most clean-ups since June seem under way as planned, but others — mainly those relying on international volunteers — have either been cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This time we’ve added a new section, dedicated to “rescued matzevot,” that is, Jewish tombstones or fragments, uprooted from the cemeteries during and after WW2 to serve other uses, and recently brought back to Jewish cemeteries. This is becoming a much more common occurrence in Central-Eastern Europe – we know there are more cases than what we have listed here.
In some cases, these rescued stones are returned to Jewish cemeteries and used to build lapidariums, which serve as Shoah memorials. In other cases, the fragments are placed somewhere in the cemetery. In many cases, the cemetery’s neighbors are the ones who return the matzevot, sometimes discovered during a house renovation or demolition.
CEMETERY CLEAN-UPS AND DOCUMENTATION
Vienna, September 13, October 18, November 1 – Organized by the Association “Save The Jewish Cemetery of Währing,” the clean-ups take place at the Währing Jewish cemetery in Vienna.
Mogilev, September 3 – Third clean-up of the year at the local Jewish cemetery, attended by approximately 20 people. During the clean-up, the volunteers collected matzevot fragments in order to build a lapidarium.
Halberstadt, third and fourth week of August – For the third year in a row, the European Heritage Volunteers carried out a two-week clean-up camp at the Jewish cemetery in Halberstadt. This year the work was focused on the cleaning of the site and checking the accuracy of the cemetery’s most recent map. This year’s project was organized in cooperation with the Moses Mendelssohn Akademie, the Jewish congregation of Magdeburg, and the Institute of the History of the German Jews of Hamburg.
Tállya, September 17-20 – A voluntary action has been launched with the help of the local municipality to clean up the Jewish cemetery in Tállya, a village near Tokaj (northeastern Hungary). To participate and receive more information, you can send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erdőbénye, October 22-24 – A two-day clean-up initiative was announced by local activist Bence Illyés, organizer of the action in Tállya. This time the action will focus on the Jewish cemetery of the wine-making village of Erdőbénye, a few kilometers north of Tállya. To participate and receive more information, you can send an email to: email@example.com.
Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, September 9 and 23 – From 8.30 AM until sunset, the administration of the Beth Haim Portuguese cemetery welcomes volunteers to clean it up. The Cemetery will offer a kosher lunch to participants. To participate, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Groningen and Leek, postponed from the summer of 2020 to the summer of 2021 – This year’s clean-ups organized by the Christian-foundation “Penance & Reconciliation” in the Jewish cemeteries of Groningen and Leek were postponed to next summer. Originally, the clean-ups were expected to be held during the third week of July.
Tarnowskie Góry, August 20 – Third clean-up session of this summer at the local Jewish cemetery, organized by the Gliwicka 66 Association.
Sośnicowice, August 21 – Clean-up of the local Jewish cemetery. A few days earlier the volunteers also placed an information plaque and a bench near the cemetery’s entrance and installed a signpost on the street leading to the cemetery. The campaign was organized by local historian Sławomir Pastuszka.
Karczew-Anielin, August 30 – The event was sponsored by the Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Jews of Otwock FB page. It took place as part of the National Heritage Institute’s program, “Together for Heritage.”
Bialystok, September 6 – Organized by The Jewish Place in Bialystok organization, the clean-up took place from 10 AM to 3 PM at the Jewish cemetery on Wschodnia street.
Łęczna, September 16-17 – Volunteers cut the overgrown weeds in the 400-square-meter area around the former synagogue, which today stands abandoned and dilapidated. Volunteers also worked on the lapidarium, which stands in the same area, cleaning the tombstone fragments.
Skępe, September 6 – Documentation and clean-up of the local Jewish cemetery carried out by the GUSTAW Association and co-financed by the Ari Ari Foundation and the Jewish Historical Institute Association program in Poland. Click here for more details
Radomsko, September 6 – Some 30 volunteers helped clean up the Jewish cemetery in an action organized by the open-air Kesselman Museum in Radomsko on behalf of the Jewish community on Lodz and with the support of the Foundation for Cultural Heritage.
Watch a video describing the initiative:
Ryglice, from September 7 – The local NGO AntySchematy 2 Foundation started a new project that includes the cleaning and documentation of the local Jewish cemetery. Volunteers from the local high school and students from the local elementary school are taking part. They cleaned the cemetery and made a preliminary inventory of around 300 gravestones and also had workshops on the symbols and ornamentation, making charcoal rubbings of the stones. The students, with the Foundation and teachers, will now begin preparing an online publication of the inscriptions.
Pszczyna, September 11 – Second clean-up of the year at the local Jewish cemetery. The action took place from 12 PM to 7 PM. The event is part of the National Heritage Institute’s program, “Together for Heritage,” working with the Foundation for Cultural Heritage and the new Coalition of Guardians of Jewish Cemeteries.
Wysokie Mazowieckie, September 11 – Students from the local High School cleaned-up the local Jewish cemetery, under the supervision of their teacher Karol Glebocki.
Gliwice, September 12 – Organized by the Upper Silesian Jews House of Remembrance (a branch of the Museum of Gliwice), the clean-up was be carried out from 12 PM to 4 PM at the Jewish cemetery on Poniatowskiego Street
Łódź, September 13 – Latest clean-up session of the summer organized by the NGO Guardians of Remembrance. The event started at 11 AM.
Koźmin Wielkopolski, from August 21-30 – Documentation of the local Jewish cemetery, with 14 volunteers coming from all around Poland. The volunteers copied the inscriptions from the matzevot, measured and took photos of the tombstones, and wrote a brief description of the matzevot’s details (such as their decorative elements). Some 300 matzevot were documented. The initiative is part of the National Heritage Institute’s program, “Together for Heritage.” See more here, including videos.
Czarny Dunajec, Spring/Summer – The Centrum Foundation, created by former Olympic athlete Dariusz Popiela, continues working at the Jewish cemetery in Czarny Dunajec, in southern Poland. After the construction of a fence and the clean-up and restoration of the cemetery, now the work is focused on the construction of a lapidarium with rescued matzevot fragments, which will be used as a Shoah memorial.
Valea Lungă, August 10 – Clean-up of the city’s Jewish cemetery.
Alba Iulia, August 4-15 – Clean-up, restoration and conservation camp at the local Jewish cemetery, under the supervision of Daniel Dumitran, professor at the city’s university.
See a video report:
Ivano Frankvisk, August 18 – Clean-up of the local Jewish cemetery organized by local volunteers.
Kremenets, first week of September – Clean-up carried out by the municipality in one of the oldest and largest Jewish cemeteries in Ukraine. In 2017, the cemetery was fenced by the ESJF – European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, and a replica of the original gate was erected.
Czarny Dunajec, Poland – The Centrum Foundation worked all summer cleaning up and restoring the village’s cemetery. Some matzevot were returned to the cemetery by some residents during the summer. A lapidarium inside the cemetery to contain the fragments is currently under construction.
Dąbie, Poland –Plans are underway to build a lapidarium, called Memory Wall, on the site of the Jewish cemetery. The lapidarium will contain around 120 matzevot fragments found in recent years in the area.
Deutschkreutz, Austria – In early September during the demolition of a barn, some fragments of matzevot were found. Now Johannes Reiss, from the Austrian Jewish Museum in Eisenstadt, will analyze them, after which the fragments will be placed again at the Jewish cemetery in the village.
Grodno, Belarus – In May, during the enlargement of a parking garage close to the city center, workers found several matzevot. The area was the site of the first Jewish cemetery in Grodno, which was destroyed during World War II. The workers at the parking lot brought the matzevot to the local synagogue, where they will be analyzed.
Kupiškis, Lithuania — A fragment of the gravestone of Moshe, son of Eliyahu Hakohen, who died in 1919 was found on a street under reconstruction and was returned to the Kupiškis Jewish cemetery.
Mogilev, Belarus – During the ongoing Spring and Summer clean-ups, volunteers gathered matzevot fragments to be placed in a lapidarium in the future.
Poznań, Poland – Jewish tombstones emerged from the artificial Lake Rusalka in July, where they had been used to construct the artificial lake basin. The artificial lake was built during the Nazi occupation by Jewish prisoners and Polish forced laborers. The matzevot were placed at the lapidarium of the local Jewish cemetery on Glogowska street.
Rohatyn, Ukraine – In early August, a neighbor of the Jewish cemetery found some matzevot fragments that had been used decades ago to strengthen a path between her residence and the barn. She returned the fragments to the Jewish cemetery. This was the latest in several headstone recoveries in Rohatyn this year.
Sochaczew, Poland – At the end of August, employees of the local museum found the fragment of a matzeva under the gate of the Jewish cemetery. The employees were visiting the cemetery to check its condition, and according to local media, the matzeva had been left there by a neighbor.
Suchowola, Poland – In July, after collecting matzeva fragments over several years, the Three Cultures Center and the local School Complex built a lapidarium in the local Jewish cemetery with fragments that belonged to the rescued matzevot. Click here to see a video of the construction of the lapidarium Click here to see a photo gallery
Zaliztsi, Ukraine – In July, matzevot were recovered by local activists in Zaliztsi, Ternopil oblast, who then returned them to the village’s Jewish cemetery. In mid-September, these tombstones were placed in the cemetery and documented.
Żarki, Poland – In August, a small matzevah was brought back to the Jewish cemetery, where it will be placed in the lapidarium. Over the last few years, a total of five matzevot have been returned to the Jewish cemetery, including this one.