Coming home to Izhbitze

The final chapter of a Holocaust story still waits to be written.

By NAHUM SCHNITZER
April 4, 2013 14:29
THE RESTORED Ohel of the ` Tzaddik in Izhbitze, faced with broken tombstones.

Synagogue. (photo credit: courtesy)

 
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On a hillside near the Jewish cemetery in the remote Polish village of Izhbitze, a delegation of high-school boys on their school trip to Poland, gather around their guide, Rabbi Benny Kalmanson. Izhbitze, he tells them, was predominantly Jewish from 1750, when Jews were expelled from nearby Tarnogora, until the Holocaust wiped out nearly all of its Jewish population. Most Polish villages with large Jewish populations had two parts – one that was dominated by a church and a second by a large synagogue. Izhbitze never had a church.

Today, except for the cemetery and a house in the village that includes a succa, nothing remains of the town’s once vibrant Jewish past. Even here in the cemetery, most of the gravestones were uprooted and broken; many were used to construct a Gestapo prison in 1941. This prison was demolished in 2006, and the gravestones returned to the cemetery, where they are piled in a corner, their Hebrew inscriptions still legible. Eventually, when a new wall is built around the cemetery, these orphaned stones will be set into it.

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