Tomasz Wiśniewski

 Jewish Cemeteries in Bialystok

(Extracts in English from the author's research in Polish)

 
Cemetery in Bialystok 1917 Courtesy of Tomasz Wisniewski

It appears that six cemeteries were used throughout the centuries by the Jewish community in Bialystok. The first one, from the second half of the 16th century, was probably located at the southern frontage of the Kościu­szko Market Square (at the mouth of present Sienkiewicza Street), but neither its existence nor its absence can be confirmed with sufficient evidence.

 The second, at the so called "Suraż suburb", came from the 18th century. The oldest tomb here was dated from 1764. This cemetery was situated on Kalinowskiego Street, more or less at the location of the present Park Centralny. It was divided into sections and had alleys marked out. It had functioned till about 1890.

 Next was the so called "cholera" cemetery situated at Bema Street (at about the present market site). It was es­tablished in 1840 with the aim to contain graves of contagious diseases victims (among them those who died in the epidemics of cholera in the 1830s and 1840s). Also bodies of less well-off were buried here. The cemetery was closed in 1892.

 Two years earlier, at the area of previous village Bagnówka (now Wschodnia Street) fourth cemetery was located, near orthodox and catholic cemeteries. Contrary to previously mentioned Jewish cemeteries, it still exists. The last burial took place in 1969. It is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Poland (its area measures about 12.5 h). Among its monuments there is the obelisk to the victims of pogroms of 14th, 15th and 16th June 1906.

 The most recent Jewish necropolis was the cemetery which, as the only one in the occupied Europe, was established at the area of the Ghetto (at Żabia Street) on August 1, 1941. The bodies of 3,500 victims were buried here, among them fighters of the Ghetto Uprising. The Burial Society (Chewra Ka­disza) functioned here until the Ghetto was destroyed in August 1943. The graves were simple, either for one person or common brothers' grave. In the years 1944 – 49, the cemetery was tidied up and enlarged (through buying out pri­vate plots of ground). The families of the dead and the murdered put up new tombs, frequently symbolic when the location of the body was unknown. The cemetery became the location of the obelisk to the fallen in the Uprising and Jewish partisans. At the beginning of the 70s, despite numerous protests, the city authorities decided to close down this unique cemetery. The remains of the victims were exhumed and put into a common gra­ve. The tombs, the monuments and the mausoleum disappeared. Today the only evidence of the cemetery is a commemorative plaque erec­ted in 1971.

Bialystok Memorial Web Page

Last Updated October 10th, 2004

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