KRAKOW – The Warsaw Municipality will hand over control of the old Brodno
cemetery to the Jewish community, so it can undertake a major restoration after
years of neglect.
Jewish businessman Szmul Zbytkower established the
cemetery in 1780. Burials continued until World War II, but in 1940, shortly
after the German invasion of Poland, the Nazis began devastating the cemetery.
Many gravestones remain smashed until the present day.
After the war, the
Polish government ordered the removal of graves from the 5.25-hectare (13-acre)
cemetery in order to build a park in its place. The work began, but in the
mid-1980s the Nissenbaum Family Foundation took responsibility for the cemetery
and began a restoration project in cooperation with the
Established in 1983 to preserve traces of Jewish culture in
Poland, the foundation between 1987 and 1989 built a fence and gate, paved the
pathways inside the cemetery and began to erect a monument, which has not yet
been finished. The foundation was not able, however, to fully secure the
cemetery, which hooligans have vandalized several times.
the assistant to the board of the foundation, told The Jerusalem Post that
despite the efforts, it has never officially been responsible for the cemetery.
A few years ago, the Jewish community started negotiations with the government
to gain possession of the cemetery.
Enthusiasm among leaders of the
Jewish community dropped markedly when it was realized that any restoration
would cost millions of zlotys, the Polish news portal Gazeta reports.
two sides reached an agreement in December 2012, and a major restoration program
Eight days later, the municipality signed another agreement
with the Jewish community, to hand over 5,700 square meters of land in Warsaw
that belonged to Jews before the German occupation.
Since the area is
inhabited, the two sides agreed that the community would receive compensation of
15 million zlotys (around NIS 17.6m.).
Part of this sum has already been
transferred and the rest will be transferred to the community by 2015. In the
agreement, the community has committed to devote at least 3m. zlotys of this sum
to the restoration of the Brodno cemetery.
“We hope that the cemetery
will be protected and revitalized,” said Bartosz Milczarczyk, spokesman for the
Joanna Korzeniws, a representative of the Jewish
community, told Gazeta: “We hope that the renovation work will start in the last
quarter of 2013. First we will renovate the wall around the cemetery. The rest
of the details, including the restoration program and its schedule, will be
decided during the project.”
The plans include the demarcation of the
original borders of the cemetery, paving walking trails, planting trees,
installing information boards and points and monitoring equipment, and fixing
broken gravestones, Gazeta reports.
The Jewish community has only gained
possession of the part of the cemetery that is within the walls. A few years
ago, human remains were found outside the cemetery walls, forcing a halt to
renovation works on nearby streets after Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich
refused to move the remains, citing Jewish law, or Halacha.