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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Chanukah In Poland

         Last week, we celebrated Chanukah, commemorating the repossession of the Beit HaMikdash from the hands of the mighty Greek Army. After defeating their enemy, the Jews purified, sanctified and rededicated the Beit HaMikdash that the Greeks had defiled.          


          


         Many comparisons can be found in Poland today. Even now, more than 60 years after the Shoah, there is much reclaiming, restructuring and rededication to carry out. 

 

         Almost every week, new Jewish sites are revealed, another Jew joins the community, or a memorial service is held for some tragic event of the not-so-distant past.

 

         On November 27, while cleaning out a World War II Era reservoir, workers found the bottom, lined with heavy flat stones, some with designs and Hebrew writing on them. They quickly realized that they were Jewish tombstones from the local cemetery.

 

         As with any Holocaust-related news in Poland it drew immediate media attention and the story was reported in many local newspapers. The Polish weekly Tygodnik Kepinski reported that there were about 200 stones in all, probably taken from the cemetery at Kepno.

 

         Kepno no longer has a Jewish community but the old synagogue building still stands as both a memorial and museum to the Jews that had once lived in the town, which had been 60 percent Jewish, before the Shoah. The local authorities have, as of last week, agreed to retrieve the tombstones and set them up in the synagogue building.

 

         Today, the town of Kepno belongs to the Wroclaw grouping of communities and, as a result, Rabbi Yitzchak Rappaport of Wroclaw was the first to be contacted by the local press for comment. He said he hoped to see the stones for himself soon.

 

 



Synagogue building in Kepno


(From Zachowane Synagogi I Domy Modlitwy W Polsce Katalog,  Jan Jagelski and Eleonora Bergman.)


 

 

         He added that removing the stones should not present any Jewish legal problems, as the site is not connected with a cemetery and “Thank God we are not talking about bones.”

 

         The stones were discovered Nov. 27, while workers excavated an area for renovation in the historic market square of Kepno, according to the Polish weekly Tygodnik Kepinski.  Hidden for decades, the stones apparently were removed from the town’s Jewish cemetery and used by the Nazis to line the bottom of the small reservoir.   There was no immediate word on the condition of the stones.

 

         Authorities in Kepno, located on the border of Silesia and Lodz Province, have agreed to remove the stones and place them in the town’s historic synagogue. Kepno has no active Jewish community, but was reportedly 60 percent Jewish before World War II.

 

         The site of the old cemetery in Kepno is covered by a gas station today.

 

         When I contacted Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Michael Schudrich, he said. “I heard about this last night (the second light of Chanuka). The first problem is to locate the bones that were necessarily uncovered during construction of the gas station.

 

         “Next, how much of the cemetery is overbuilt by the gas station? Third, we will sign an agreement with the gas station that no new building will take place. Fourth, the matzevot should be returned to the Jewish cemetery and not the synagogue.”

 

         It is possible that as a Jewish cemetery, the gas station will be returned to the Jewish community of Poland, and dignity will be restored to the Jewish remains interred within. 

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Arnold Fine 2008

I REMEMBER WHEN I first started working at the Jewish Press 18 years ago, Arnie who was in charge of the newsroom, took me under his wing…

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

In September 1939 the Germans started establishing ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland. Ghettos played an important role in the Jewish extermination policy. They were filled with Polish and Western European Jewish deportees. The ghettos differed in times of existence, size, internal organization, and living conditions. The Germans called them ” death boxes” (Todeskiste). The city of Lodz belonged to the Wartheland District and the Germans changed its name into Litzmannstadt.

In September 1939 the Germans started establishing ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland. Ghettos played an important role in the Jewish extermination policy. They were filled with Polish and Western European Jewish deportees. The ghettos differed in times of existence, size, internal organization, and living conditions. The Germans called them ” death boxes” (Todeskiste). The city of Lodz belonged to the Wartheland District and the Germans changed its name into Litzmannstadt.

Growing up in the U.S. during the second half of the 20th century, I, along with most people, know very little about the First World War. The little that I did know was about the trench warfare in France and Belgium. The Eastern Front was barely, if ever, mentioned and usually stated that it ended with the Russian Revolution and overthrowing the Czar.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/chanukah-in-poland-2/2007/12/12/

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