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Conference Of Poles Caring For Jewish Heritage

The first national conference of non-Jewish Poles, who care for Jewish heritage sites in Poland, has just taken place.


The conference took place this week, on September 15-16, in the small town of Zdunska Wola, near Lodz in Central Poland. Supported by state and local authorities, the conference is the brainchild of local activist Kamila Klauzinska, one of scores of non-Jewish Polish volunteers who have been honored by the Israeli Embassy, over the past decade, for their work in preserving Jewish heritage in Poland. Klauszinska is a graduate student in Jewish studies at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University.


Organized in association with the Yachad Historical Society, a group dedicated to the preservation of Zdunska Wola’s Jewish history and heritage sites, the conference was dedicated to the memory of Ireneusz Slipek, who until his death in 2006 spent 20 years caring for and cleaning up the Jewish cemetery in his hometown of Warta.


Zdunska has recently been in the news as the hometown of the family of Michael Freund, Chairman of “Shavei Israel,” an organization based in Israel, that aims at searching for lost Jewish communities around the world and bringing them back to Judaism and Israel. Last May, he financed the restoration of the local Jewish cemetery and requested that the town place a memorial plaque on the building that once was the town’s main synagogue.

 

 


The synagogue building in Kanczuga, where a memorial plaque was recently placed.

 


Freund approached the Mayor of Kanczuga, Mr. Jacek Solek, at the end of the ceremony rededicating the cemetery, and asked that a memorial sign be placed on the synagogue building in Kanczuga. The mayor immediately agreed, telling Freund, “The city must be reminded of its past and the fact that Jews once lived in Kanczuga and were an integral part of its life.” “In addition,” Solek said, “it is important for people to know that it was once a synagogue and a house of prayer.” The next day, Solek convened the City Council, which passed a formal decision to put up the memorial plaque. The plaque was affixed on the front of the building late last week.


       The Jewish community Kanczuga dates to 1638. According to the 1921 census, the Jewish population numbered 967, but by the start of World War II, it had grown to over 1,000, and Jews made up more than 80 percent of the town’s population. In 1942 the Nazis rounded up Kanczuga’s Jews and marched them to the cemetery, where they murdered them and buried them in a mass grave. Among the prominent Israelis who originated in Kanczuga were former Knesset Member and Mapam Party founder Meir Yaari and Binyamin Siegel – a former senior officer in the Israel Police.

 

 


The mayor of Kanczuga, Mr. Jacek Solek.

 


     As I report news about Poles helping to preserve Jewish heritage sites I also have to report that the monument standing at the Jewish cemetery in Brzeziny (Lodzkie Province) has again fallen prey to vandals. Anti-Semitic graffiti was painted on the memorial tablet.


     The Jewish cemetery in Brzeziny, located at Reymonta St., was established, probably in the 16th century, and was in use until the Nazi devastation during the Holocaust. During communist regime in Poland, a sand mine was built on the cemetery grounds.     


      Witnesses report that sand mixed with human bones was used to make prefabricated material used to construct large condominiums. Many tombstones were stolen and used for construction works, among others, to reinforce the fishponds. In 1992, on the initiative of the descendants of the Jews from Brzeziny, the cemetery grounds were fenced. 

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