בית העלמין היהודי של גרודזיסק

The Jewish Cemetery of Grodzisk Mazowiecki

 

Benjamin Yaari Oct 1997

Mission Report 

Mr. Serge Rosenblum from Paris France wrote through the Internet to Mrs. Ada Holtzman and asked questions concerning the community of Tomaszow- Mazowiecki. In this town lived his grandmother's family before the Holocaust. Mr. Rosenblum also inquired about the registration works which were made in the Jewish cemetery of Tomaszow in 1995. Through the intermediary of Mrs. Holtzman, I answered all his questions and sent him the book: "The Jewish cemetery of Tomaszow Mazowiecki" which we published in 1996.

Mr. Rosenblum wrote to us through the Internet about the problems he and his friend are facing while trying to progress in their projects to protect and restore the Jewish cemetery of Grodzisk Mazowiecki, where resided the family of his mother. One of their main problem was to register the Hebrew inscriptions on the tombstones, or what was left of them, in the premises of the old Jewish cemetery of Grodzisk.

We advised Mr. Rosenblum that in September, I shall be in Poland, doing documentation project in the cemetery of Krakow. Afterwards, I shall go with Mrs. Holtzman to Gombin, her parents' hometown, to make a survey there.

During our stay in Poland, we shall be able to go to Grodzisk and register the Hebrew inscriptions for commemoration. Mr. Rosenblum agreed with pleasure to our proposal.

I traveled to Poland on September 5th. 1997 and after a fortnight of work in Krakow cemetery, Mrs. Ada Holtzman arrived from Israel and joined me in Poland.

On the morning of 18.9.97 we both presented ourselves in the town hall and met the mayor of Grodzisk, Mr. Benedykcinski, after having fixed previously the appointment. The mayor received us warmly. After initial discussions, coffee and delivery of gift to his wife, bought by Mrs. Ada, I gave him my book of Tomaszow Jewish Cemetery and the mayor gave us both brochures of Grodzisk in Polish and English. We presented him the aim of our visit and he declared of his intentions to help us as much as he could. First, he invited to his room the city architect who is concerned with the works in the cemetery.

Then he called up Mr. Eduard Polaszek who is the president of the local "Land Lovers Association" and who is for many years responsible for the works done in the Jewish cemetery of the town. The two gentlemen accompanied us to the cemetery. They explained to us all they knew about the site. Mr. Polaszek showed us a map of the cemetery which was made in 1987 and a large brochure with graphic designs of the headstones which were found at that time. Both documents were created to keep and preserve the cemetery but one element, the most important one was missing from it: the inscriptions, which are all in Hebrew. So the deciphering and recording the data, as commemorated on the tombstones, with the wording, poems, verses and prayers all in Hebrew, was our purpose during the two days of work we devoted to Grodzisk Mazowiecki.

We tried together, me and Mr. Polaszek to identify the monuments in the site with the sketches in the brochure and in the map without much success. until finally, Mr. Polaszek himself was disappointed from the search and proposed to give the tombstones new identification numbers and to ignore the present existing registration.

We thus proceeded and wrote down all the names found, the information as father's name, year of death and all the inscriptions on the tombstones we could identify. We marked with waterproof pen three digits numbers, by special ink which would not be wiped out by the rain. We worked until dark and the car of the town police took us back to the train station.

As the work did not finish, we decided to return on next Monday morning. The mayor promised us that workers will be provided by the municipality.

The next Monday three workers with adequate tools and under our supervision they capsized the tombstones which were facing the earth and also dug and exposed some tombstones which were in the earth.

Jan Jagielski from Warsaw came in the morning and stayed with us for a couple of hours, also working in cleaning the tombstones, making photos and registration of the inscriptions. The work itself was very interesting and was made with a lot of enthusiasm. The three local Polish workers cooperated with us willfully for 4 continuos hours and so did Mr. Polaszek, to whom we are really grateful. As they were employed by the municipality we didn't need to pay them. Yet I gave to each one 20 zloty for cigarettes.

This Monday was the last day of our stay in Poland. As per the original plan, we were supposed to meet on the same day with local people and among them Mr. Jan Jagielski. As we had planned to continue working in Grodzisk I have contacted him by the telephone and met him on Sunday instead. I related to him the situation in Grodzisk and he came the next day to meet us for one hour but stayed for the whole day... We planned to work until 1200 at noon and as there remained many unregistered monuments, we worked until 14 p.m. and even than, Mrs. Ada did not agree to leave the cemetery. We insisted that a woman alone with no knowledge of the language cannot stay in that site, but she refused to leave the place, saying that nobody will come again there to do the documentation.

Ada remained to work alone and came back to Warsaw around 700 while at 0800 (2000) we had to be present in the airport to catch our flight back to Israel.

We created nice friendship with Mr. Polaszek and he agreed to give me the map and the brochure for photo copy, which was extremely nice gesture. I already gave the copy of the documents to Mr. Rosenblum upon his visit in Tel Aviv on October 29th.

Mr. Polaszek is willing to help and is interested to work to improve the situation in the cemetery. He said that what is urgent and important task for you is the fence restoration and its renewal, which was constructed several years before but with inferior materials and work. For this end he asks finance from abroad and from your organization.

He also needs resources for gardening and restoration of the tombstones and fragments of tombstones. We explained that this is not in our hands and we came only for recording the inscriptions on the tombstones. We told him that other people headed by Mr. Rosenblum are to be contacted.

It is clear to us that there is place and possibility to continue the work in the cemetery and to discover in the earth other tombstones to be restored and registered. The material registered by us and the photographs made by Mrs. Ada of all the tombs and tombstones and fragments of stones, can, after processing and organizing, serve as a basis for identification.

We did not succeed due to lack of time search for monuments outside the cemetery but there are chances to find there monuments, especially as the confined territory of the cemetery is only partially the old cemetery. Other parts of it are occupied today by industrial plants and factories.

It is important to make a sign board, explaining the history of the place.

We consider that it is possible to make across the gate of today, a monument to be made by the remnants of tombstones and fragments and concrete and in its center will be a board in 4 languages: Hebrew - Polish - English and Yiddish.

Blessed be those who will find the possibility to execute this great work which is expected there.

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