Galician Jewish cemetery restored

Michael Freund says he decided to fund the work because he could no longer stand by and watch its neglect.

jewish cemetery 224 (photo credit: Michael Freund/Shavei Israel)
jewish cemetery 224
(photo credit: Michael Freund/Shavei Israel)
A moving ceremony took place in Siedlezcka on Monday marking the restoration of the Galician town's Jewish cemetery, which was established in 1850. Among the attendees were Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel and a Jerusalem Post columnist, and the mayor of Kanczuga, Jacek Solek, who agreed to pave a new road to the cemetery at the town's expense. The restoration work, which was financed in part by Freund and his family (through Warsaw's Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and the Siedleczka-Kanczuga Landsmanschaft headed by Howard Nightingale) included: cleaning the cemetery, restoring the grave-sites and rebuilding the stone wall surrounding the burial ground. The wall was urgently needed as farmers recently began trying to expand their fields into the cemetery. For many years the cemetery served several Jewish communities in southeast Poland, near the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains, including: Kanczuga (where Freund's family came from), Gac, Bialoboki, Markowa, Manasterz, Zagorze, Chmielnik, Jawornik Polski and Zabratówka. Only around 500 graves remain, with the last known burial having taken place in 1940. The first recorded Jewish presence in Kanczuga dates to 1638, and by 1939, there were over 1,000 Jews there, more than 80 percent of the town's population. In 1942 the Germans rounded up more than 1,000 Jews from Kanczuga, marched them to the cemetery, murdered them and tossed their bodies into a mass grave. In his address at Monday's ceremony, Freund said he could no longer stand by and watch the neglect of the cemetery and so decided to fund its restoration. "It was sad for me to see that a number of the gravestones collapsed or were broken and that the cemetery was overgrown by trees and bushes, and essentially looked like a forest. It was also evident that many gravestones were taken from the cemetery over the years to pave local streets, or were looted by local persons," he said. "Today when I look over the result of the restoration work, I am very hopeful that the cemetery is now safe from plunder and that it will continue to serve as a monument to the thousands of Jews who lived in this area before the Germans arrived and destroyed everything."