Sunday, 3 February 2013

A visit to the Jewish cemetery, Warsaw

A visit to Warsaw's Jewish cemetery (on ul. Okopowa) was necessary. The 111 bus drew up, heading for ul. Esperanto*. The last stop on the route is a short walk from the gate of the Jewish cemetery, which has existed here since the early 19th Century. The sun had come out, though the temperature was hovering around zero. I've not visited the Jewish cemetery for over ten years; today would be a good day to revisit, and to share impressions on my blog.

The cemetery's very presence is a miracle; given what happened outside its walls. The Warsaw Ghetto occupied the area of the city between here and Pl. Bankowy; after the Ghetto Uprising, its buildings were levelled with the ground. For some reasons, the Germans never got round to destroying the cemetery, using the tombstones as part of the defences of their Festung Warschau. It survived the war and decades of communist-era neglect. It still feels neglected, but today there is a greater appreciation of its significance in Warsaw's history.

Above: the cemetery wall in the background, beyond, a modern development on Okopowa.

Above: grave of the Juljan Wilczyński family (grób Juljanostwa Wilczyńskich). Juljan died before Poland regained its independence; his wife Salomea died between the wars; their two daughters, Julja and Stefanja, both 'died a martyr's death' in the Ghetto - August 1942. A story repeated frequently in the cemetery.

Below: an alley runs westwards from the main path. Note the density of self-sown trees. The wilderness of this cemetery is in marked contrast to the well-tended alleys of the main Powązki cemeteries (civilian and military) bordering with it to the north.

An unusual tombstone in that it is in Cyrillic. Solomon L'vovitch Minkowski died in 1907, when Warsaw was a part of the Russian Empire. There are many tombstones pre-dating Poland's independence, but hardly any are in Cyrillic - most are in Polish, Yiddish or Hebrew. An absence of crosses marks this cemetery as being different from most Polish ones.

Below: granite and marble belong to the ages, sandstone and cast iron don't.

The cemetery requires another visit, after the snows have melted, when the trees are in leaf. The cemetery tells a profoundly powerful story; of a thriving community destroyed by an external hatred and intolerance that must never again be permitted to resurface.  

Pokój Ich cieniom.

* Esperanto was invented by Ludwig Zamenhof, who is buried here.

This time last year:
Under Rondo Dmowskiego

This time last year:
My Most favourite bridge

This time two years ago:
Street lighting under the snow

This time three years ago:
Ul. Poloneza - archival video before the S2 was built

This time four years ago:
Aerial juxtaposition over Jeziorki

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