A volunteer from a Holocaust commemoration organization stumbled across a fragment of a Jewish tombstone in Warsaw's Vistula River this week, leading to the discovery of dozens of fragments of this kind.
The volunteer works for the Matzeva (tombstones) Project of the From The Depths NGO, which aims to preserve cemeteries and tombstones.
"In the past we've heard rumors that these tombstones were taken, stolen, from Bródno Jewish cemetery," says Jonny Daniels, head of From the Depths, noting that pre-war there were 400,000 Jewish tombstones there of which only 3,000 remain.
The rest, he says, were taken and used for all kinds of purposes, including building parks and even Warsaw's zoo.
Over the next few weeks the organization will send volunteers from Poland to scour the base of the Vistula River, which is currently at the lowest point it has been at in 50 years, making this operation possible. "We'll see what more there is for us to discover," Daniels says hopefully, describing the discovery as "an incredibly important find, that enables us to take these tombstones back and document them." With this new information, Polish Jewish descendants may be able to locate the gravestones of their relatives.
A Soviet plane was also discovered in the river. The plane crashed in 1945 during a battle between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, as the Nazis were retreating from captured territory.JTA contributed to this story