Jewish gravestone fragments found in a demolished cowshed in Klępie Górne, close to Kielce..
(photo credit: BECKY BROTHMAN)
KIELCE, Poland – A joint Israeli- Polish team of volunteers collected Jewish gravestones from the foundation of a demolished cowshed on Sunday, after receiving a distress call.
In June, Monika Frelian and her husband were renovating their property in Klepie Gornie, a small village outside of Kielce, when they made a shocking discovery. As they demolished a cowshed, they realized that the foundation was made of gravestones, most likely taken from a nearby Jewish cemetery in Stopnica.
“At first I didn’t see anything on the stones because there was so much dirt covering them,” Monika said. “But when I turned them over, I got goosebumps.”
After seeing the Hebrew lettering on the stones, Monika knew she had to return the stones to their rightful resting place.
She remembered seeing a program on Polish TV the year before about a similar incident and called Jonny Daniels, founder and executive director of From the Depths, an organization that works to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and pre-WWII Jewish life in Europe.
Daniels heard the panic in the woman’s voice and assembled a team of seven volunteers to collect the stones as fast as possible.
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Walking past a yard filled with chickens, ducks and rabbits, the group found the pile of broken stones. The fragments contained remnants of Hebrew inscriptions and designs proving that they were indeed pieces of Jewish gravestones.
Monika’s parents bought the property in the 1970s, so she were unsure of how and when the stones were taken from the cemetery for use as building material.
After collecting the stones, the team of volunteers drove to various locations of former Jewish cemeteries in the area to see if there was a suitable place for them. An older local resident pointed out where one cemetery used to be, but a building had been constructed on the site after the end of the war.
The volunteer team then journeyed another 20 kilometers in order to bring the stones to a reestablished Jewish cemetery in Buzko Zdroj, where they knew the stones would receive proper care.
A team from the cemetery was informed and will conduct research on the stones to learn more about when, where and for whom they were made.
Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, around 18,000 Jews lived in Kielce. The Nazis occupied the city and established a large ghetto in 1941 following the invasion of Poland. After the liquidation of the ghetto in August 1942, most of the Jews were transported to the Treblinka death camp where they were murdered.
On July 4, 1946, after the end of WWII, a group of Holocaust survivors was brutally attacked in Kielce after an eight-year-old boy claimed he had been kidnapped by Jews. Forty-two Jews were murdered; most of the victims were beaten to death; some were shot. The incident is known as the Kielce Pogrom.
After the pogrom, most of the surviving Kielce Jews emigrated to Israel and other countries.
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