My Heart Breaks by Those Broken Stones...
I Ask Pardon...
I ask for pardon and forgiveness if, God forbid, the memory or honor of the deceased or their families was blemished during the field work or the recording of the headstones, or during the work of transcribing the inscriptions from the remnants of tombstones. All was done in an attempt to preserve the memory of the Jewish community of Zdunska Wola and its last tangible trace, the Jewish cemetery.
On Tue, 13 Apr 1999 10:12:17 +200 Daniel Wagner wrote:
(In a Message whose subject was: "Help needed for the cemetery of Zdunska Wola"
This is a call for help regarding the following project. Ada Holtzman has generously volunteered to photography the approx. 400 remaining tombstones in the cemetery of Zdunska Wola, near Lodz. Time is pressing, Ada is leaving on April 25 for about a week in Poland! All she needs are funds to defray her expenses only (but NOT her flight to Poland), including films+printing, 2 nights in a modest hotel, etc., and some contribution for the later publication of a small booklet, with photographs and inscriptions - same as she did in the past for Grodzisk Mazowiecki.
What is needed is about $600 or so, thus not too much. The tombstones are in bad shape and the photographing has to be done now, urgently.
If you can help please let Ada know immediately (remember: she leaves to Poland in less than 2 weeks).
Her Email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you very much!
Dear Zdonska Wola's survivors and descendants,
I am pleased to inform you that I managed finally to leave for Poland and I have been to Zdunska Wola last Wednesday and Thursday, 7-8 July 99.
Following this trip, I erected a new Web Page where I shall include slowly slowly all the findings from this project, which is in its very beginning, and the information should be treated as such!
I posted also some other useful information and resources about your old hometown.
Preceded the trip, I contacted the manager of the local Museum, Mr. Jerzy Chrzanowski, and here is my fax sent to him on June 3rd summarizing the guidelines of this project:
Mr. Jerzy Chrzanowski
7 ul. Zlotnickiego
98220 Zdunska Wola
Fax: 00-48-54-8233332 Tel Aviv 3.6.1999
Attn Mr. Chrzanowski!
Re: Recording the Inscriptions from the Tombstones of the Jewish Cemetery of Zdunska Wola.
Dear Mr. Chrazanowski,
I got your address from Mr. Benjmain Yaari who had the honor of meeting you two years ago, when he checked the Zdunska Wola Jewish cemetery.
I heard a lot about you and how important you consider the role of the Jewish people in the history of Poland.
I dedicate my free time in the past two years to various personal genealogical research and commemoration project aimed to preserve the memory of my family and my ancestors' hometowns, murdered and destroyed completely during Holocaust. (Gombin, Plock, Wyszogrod and more).
I later started to do some works for other communities, for the only sake of remembrance. (I have do not benefit whatsoever, and I do it all voluntarily, in my free time). I have already completed one such project done in Grodzisk Mazowiecki. I transcribed, with the help of Benjamin Yaari and a local Pole, all the Hebrew inscriptions from the tombstones remained in what was once the Jewish Cemetery of Grodzisk (1/7 from thew original site - a large factory was rebuilt on the remaining 6/7 of the cemetery). We later published a booklet and gave the information to two young people, Serge Rozenblum from Paris, France, and Gary Palgon from Atlanta U.S.A. They founded a non-profit organization, aimed to preserve the Jewish Grodzisk heritage. They have recently published a book with these inscriptions in America, titled: "The Jewish Cemetery of Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Poland", Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number: 99-072452.
I wish to do a similar project in Zdunska Wola. Prof. Daniel Wagner organized a group of descendants from this town, in the Internet. Some offered to help financially and contribute to the project of recording the tombstones, as commemoration, realizing the immense genealogical value of such a project.
The project will be aimed to record all the existing tombstones, photograph them, publish a booklet with the data and may be also a CD-ROM.
I intended to visit Poland and start the mission last April, but for reasons behind my control, I couldn't fly in the last minute. I re-schedule my visit, possibly for the first week of July 99.
A young Polish student, Michal Rzeznik from Tomaszow Maz. Volunteered to help me in this sacred task. (He didn't in the end, A.H. 9.7.99)
I shall need your help and kindly ask for your assistance in the following matters:
1. Key to the site.
2. Two workers to help uplift the matzevot from the earth and cleaning them. Also cleaning the vegetation in the site, enabling me to decipher the inscriptions and copy them. Please check with the mayor of town if I can have help from the Zdunska Wola municipality. They surly know nowadays how important is to keep the memory of the Jews of their town, so brutally liquidated by the Nazis in death camp Chelmno. The cemetery is the last remain of Jewish existence in this town and should be honored.
3. Hotel accommodation for 2-3 nights - the cost/ location / name and telephone and fax numbers.
4. While I stay in Zdunska Wola, I would also kindly ask your help in getting access to vital records of the Jews of Zdunska Wola and xerox all what is of value to my colleagues .(I myself is from Gombin, Plock and Wyszogrod and no ties to Zdunska Wola at all). Until June 14th you may communicate with me through Prof. Daniel Wagner, who initiated the project and has strong family ties to the small town of Zdunska Wola. (FamilyPotaznik, Herszkowicz, Kaczka).
He also erected a web site for this town with information about the cemetery at:
His fax number is:
00 - 972 - 8 - 934 4137
You can also communicate with me, to my fax at work:
00 - 972 - 3 - 5227361 but add "attn Ada Holtzman".
I have Internet email:
I thank your cooperation with high appreciation,
10/5 Korazim St.
69185 Newe Sharet - Tel Aviv
Now I shall tell you what was done, and ask please to excuse me for writing a rather long message.
I worked in the ZW cemetery for a whole day and a half. This was what I could devote to the project at this time. It is just the beginning. I wish first of all to inform you that the cemetery is in a terrible situation. I, who usually find my way with words, actually have no words to describe this disaster to you. I prefer to show you this in some pictures, which I just developed. See the web page dedicated to the Cemetery Project at:
I open my report with this, as I volunteered ONLY to record and transcribe the inscriptions from the tombstones. BUT the cemetery needs
URGENT MAINTENANCE: Cutting the grass, clearing the bushes, cutting the trees which grow wild, uplifting the hundreds and hundreds (!!!) of tombstones, fell to the ground many years ago, and hidden now under a layer of earth, herbs, bushes...
This is my recommendation to you. It is not Wellwood Cemetery, Long Island, NY... nor any cemetery you've ever visited any time of your life. The transcription of the remaining tombstones, the conditions and possibilities are in proportion to this fact! Please bear this in mind! Your ancestors are buried there, and their remains should be respected! The cemetery is the last remnant of a vivid, vital and traditional Jewish Community as Itzhak Arad wrote in his article in the Zdunska Wola Yizkor book: "a grand proletarian-Chassidic Jewish Community". You are the descendants and should do something about it.
There is the Landsmanshaften of Zdunska Wola in Israel. I cannot get the address and contact now, as Yaari, whom they commissioned 2 years ago to check the Zdunska Wola cemetery, is very sick at the moment. I shall get this information very soon for you.
They were in contact with the local Museum Manager, the wonderful Mr.Chrzanowski, who can help with connection to the Municipality.
They have been in contact with Jan Jagelski from the Jewish Institute of Poland in Warsaw, responsible from the Polish Authorities of all renovation and preservation projects of Jewish sites in Poland.
I met him before going to Zdunska Wola. He showed me a map of the cemetery and list of names of survivors and ex Jewish residents of Zdunska Wola, provided by the Israeli Landsmanschaften.
He stated that BEFORE transcribing the matzevot, there has to be a thorough and basic maintenance project, same as I suggested above.
The Zdunska Wola Landsmanschaften also contacted Benjamin Yaari in Israel, (my dear friend who is very sick at the moment and gave me his blessing to the venture I started) asking for quotation to such a venture. Yaari was in Zdunska Wola in 1997 and gave the organization an estimation of a few thousands of $$$. In this moment, when reaching the issue of costs, the Zdunska Wola stopped negotiating. I believe they have no financial resources, being already very old and few in number.
I recommend to you to get organized and together with the Israeli Landsmanschaften and the Municipality of Zdunska Wola makes an urgent common project of preserving and maintaining the Jewish cemetery of Zdunska Wola.
This I cannot do for you. My own ancestors, for hundreds of years, are buried in Gombin. We just completed a similar venture,
see: http://weber.ucsd.edu/~lzamosc/gcemet.html and
But unlike Zdunska Wola, it has nearly no matzevot, removed by the Nazis and local Poles, served as curb stones of some streets and thousands (!) of them sunk in cement, to build a bridge in the middle of town...
So luckily, this is not the situation in your cemetery. Not only this, you have also another advantage which not many Jewish cemeteries enjoy. The Polish Authorities DID NOT CONFISCATED and part of the cemetery and the original size of the plot is kept! This is unlike Czestochowa cemetery, where large part was taken by the "Huta", or Grodzisk Mazowicki, where I made my previous transcription project. There in Grodzisk, 1/7 of the cemetery remained. 6/7 was taken by a local plant and a factory stands now on our fathers and mothers' graves.
In Kleczew, there is a football stadium now, stands on the Jewish cemetery. Not even a single plaque to tell the public on what they are playing daily...
Another advantage you should take full use of, is a most extremely favorable Museum manager, Mr. Jerzy Chrzanowski and his devoted assistant, Piotr Skorek. I am sure that other people should be contacted (the Mayor of town, the regional conservator etc.) But this unique man can assist with all what is necessary.
He has a most interesting local museum, full of colors, local history, old articles and pictures contributed by the residents of the town themselves. Poetry, literature and muses fill the place with a lot of love.
But what interests us, is mainly "the saddest room of them all" as says Mr. Chrzanowski, the "Jewish Memorial Room". I confess that the moment I entered it, my eyes were filled with tears... A most moving room where he keeps old "sidur" books and on one of them I found a name: Chil WAJNBAUM! There are various items of the Jewish residents, found in their houses after deportation, like glasses, shoes, a spoon... The Yizkor book of Zdunska Wola stands there, with pictures of former memorial dedication ceremonies organized by the Israeli Landsmanschaften. There is also a German soldier helmet, just dug from the earth, when they made an exhumation of Nazi soldiers buried in their premises and transferred the remains to Silesia as far as possible from Zdunska Wola...
There is a wire across the room, symbolizing the concentration camps and most touching oil paintings, describing the Jews of Zdunska Wola, their lives and their tragic end, painted by a Polish painter name Cezary Zbrojewski from Sieradz.
The most interesting of all the exhibits: Old Residence Books of Zdunhska Wola, including endless genealogical information about both Poles and Jews. Mr. Chrzanowski says his aim is to demonstrate that the Poles and Jews lived together, side by side. That is why he keeps those books in the Jewish Room, and not in neither of the others.
Anyway, they are there, and may be could be researched or xeroxed by you. Again, I cannot do this for you. My own roots are somewhere else...
Just to demonstrate to you the kind of information there is in these books - one house (a whole book) - see pictures posted at: http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Rue/4017/zdunska/zdroom.htm
There is very valuable genealogical information like: names, maiden names, date of birth, occupation, from where they came to Zdunska Wola and when, profession, religion etc. All data is in Polish, from the early years of the 20th century.
I transcribed the following information of the OLEJ and GRYNSZPAN family.
What I did was what was agreed about. But it is only a beginning... Me, or other volunteers, have to continue and go there for at least 3-10 days of intensive work... Preferrably AFTER (as Jan Jagelski very rightfully suggested) the renovation project will take place, if ever...
I managed to transcribe anyway about 180 matzevot. Most of them had to be worked on before, to bring the matzeva to a minimal state of "readability"...
One day I worked in the rain - a fact which effected the quality of the pictures. I did my very best to achieve something already in this visit, but the frustration from the general situation of the cemetery doesn't let me feel a bit of satisfaction already now...
I managed to transcribe about 150-180 matzevot, marking them with reference number and photographing them. Due to the rain many numbers could not be written down. I am now in the phase of processing the data, preparing an index, typing the inscriptions, converting the Hebrew calendar to the Common calendar, developing and posting the pictures, See already one matzeva "completed" as I may sat, in my web site:
Matzeva number 124: Abraham Lypszycz z"l. The tombstone was found hidden under a tree, very hard to decipher, as you see from the picture.
I took a picture of each matzeva and transcribed even when there appeared no name on fragment of tombstones, even if it was broken and main details are missing. I believe that also the broken stone can tell us a story, symbolising the story of a Jewish culture, Jewish Community, lost and destroyed in our times.
I attach now the first message I sent to Daniel Wagner, when just returned from my trip, first fresh impression...
On Fri, 9 Jul 99 08:59:38 PDT email@example.com wrote:
I was in Poland, (flew in the cockpit... El Al failed to deliver my suitcase 4 days...) And as promised, was in Zdunska Wola. I had other many personal matters to take care for in Poland, so I could devote only a day and a half to ZW, as yesterday I had to return to Warsaw to catch my flight back last night.
... There I met the nicest Mr. Chrzanowski, visited the museum, cried in his incredible "Jewish Room" and met Peter, his assistant, Philosophy graduate, who spoke English and French, was the translator, helped me in his own hands do something in the cemetery... He worked with me until 21:00 on my arrival there, Wednesday morning, and yesterday until 13:30, in the rain, when I had to leave, very sad, ZW Jewish lost cemetery.
I slept there in a convent (!!!) and got very friendly with Anna, the nun who spoke Italian with me. I asked her to pray that there will be no rain, so I can at least START with the project. Fortunately, Wednesday was very grey and cloudy but the sky were holding up the rain from falling, and did let me start the endless work of transcribing the inscriptions from crumbling, destroyed and broken matzevot in this cemetery. But Anna the nuna :-) didn't pray hard enough, as yesterday, it was pouring rain and me, 2 Polish workers whom the ZW Municipality so graciously let me have for free (I tipped them only with some $$$, to have their favourable attitude also in the future) and the dedicated Peter were working in the rain, determined to START... and this is how this visit of mine should be treated!
I worked there one day and a half, only and it seems that the work there is to do is more than a month and a half...
It is in a terrible situation. I was shocked. Never saw such a big cemetery , so neglected and destroyed. It was very difficult. You and Zdunska Wola lovers, may be, with the Zdunska Wola local organization in Israel, must do something about this.
I just slept very few hours, and will come back to you and the others who showed interest in the project, to send their modest contributions as promised. I photographed 6 films - so may be about 180 matzevot were recorded, but I believe there are 10 times more to be erected, cleaned, recorded...
Only in 4 hours of work, done in pouring rain, the workers uplifted about 40 matzevot, most of them readable, as were in the earth, God's knows for how long...
About 60-70% (I shall know more after processing the data) are matzevot WITHOUT a surname, as was the traditional Orthodox Jewish way to bury the dead!
We were walking on graves. Large seemingly empty space, covered with wild vegetation, bushes, trees, herbs, flowers... Like a deserted field, only that you walk your way, knowing you walk on ancestors' graves... I felt so devastated and helpless.
I didn't find your grandfather's grave, but please understand that under the conditions, this was nearly impossible. Once I develop the pictures, I shall post them and you will understand all.
I shall report more after having little rest,
Shabat Shalom for now,
My basic attitude to genealogy is that behind each name there is the whole world... so are those holy stones...
The oldest one I found is from 1875 and the last one are from 1940. But I stress it again and again: what I managed to decipher is but very small part of the cemetery! Nobody can tell how many of the tombstones are there, visible and hidden to the eyes!
Most of them are very beautiful, with fantastic ornaments on top, pictures of the Torah books, of the Psalms book, of lions and hands on mens tombstones, of a prayers book (sidur), broken candles, menorah, vase of flowers on the women tombstones, picked up roses on young maidens' graves ...
And the elegies... endless verses of mourning and wisdom, engraved with beauty of Jewish tradition, quite incredible and moving.
There are also the famous rabbis stones, with mentioning of grand "yehus" (lineage) - one of which is the tombstone of Mordechai Zeew KARO, died 27.2.1926, a direct descendant of the great Josef Karo, the author of the Shulcham Aruch. (so it states on the matzeva).
You can imagine for yourself, what is behind the following broken matzeva, found under a tree, very peculiar in shape in comparison to all the others, the matzeva of :
"Abraham Cwi SZAK
From the town of Dzialoszyce
Identified according the name found in his "sidur" (prayer book)".
To the left of this matzeva there is a broken one, without a name, year: 1940...
See matzeva nr 529 - posted at my web page:
There is the whole world behind each tombstone, deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, telling the story of the simple people and the famous, the Hassidim and the Zionists, the honest and innocent Jews, the Torah followers, the poor and the rich, the old and the young, the men and the women, your own ancestors, buried in that earth there, in Zdunska Wola...
I have recorded the surnames I found, but the process of copying/ recording/typing/checking/proofreading/confronting with the picture etc. will require a lot of my time, which I don't have in the nearest future, being very involved with other projects right now. Mainly I am engaged in preparations for the Gombin Cemetry dedication ceremony and the dedication ceremony in Chelmno of the Gombin Memorial Monument, taking place in Poland on August 15-16 this year.
You are all invited! See:
Also note well, that I estimate about 60%-80% more than half of the matzevot do not have a surname, as was the tradition very well observed in Zdunska Wola. Yet, from the little I know from JGFF and past correspondence with some of you, I can tell you, as you will see for yourself, that the tombstones belong to many of your own families!
Also many of the names in the Yizkor Book appear on the matzevot deciphered! I found some Rabbis' Matzevot, with details of their lineage.
The surnames found are posted at:
but this is a preliminary list, without all those who have no surname engraved!
I need your modest support as expressed by Daniel Wagner in the past. It is not to replace a more general preservation project, as described in the beginning of this message.
Please send me your contribution to my address:
10/5 Korazim St.
69185 Newe Sharet - Tel Aviv
I kept records of all my expenses (transportation, hotels, tips to workers, films, developing the films, food, airport taxes and free flight tickets minimal charges, visa etc.) and continue to do so for whatever expenses I shall have in the future regarding this project (mainly printing a modest brochure with whatever was deciphered in this trip), and possibly more trips to come, as time and resources will allow me or others to make in the future.
Whatever surplus (if at all) I shall have, will be given to the Zdunska Wola Memorial Project if any of you will take it upon himself to lead and coordinate, or the Zdunska Wola Organization in Israel will move finally to real action and not only exploring the preservation possibilities...
I stress this, as I don't wish to profit a single shekel from this project! This should be very clear to you.
That is why I told you in April to hold on and don't send anything, as I was not sure if I will be able to go (and I didn't in the end, for lack of seats on the flight, being an airline employee and flying thus only on "stand by" basis).
Finally, I end this long message with my translation of the last paragraph from Miriam Akavia book: "The Price" Sifriat ha'Poalim, Tel Aviv, 1988.
"FORGET ME NOT"!
"Fresh and strong is still my impression from my last visit in Poland (1988), country where I was born, me and the heroes of my stories.
They came out towards me from deserted yards; from foreign apartments they peeked from shut doors, in which I knew every crack; from old houses they descended down to me on stairways so well known to me, and while I was in the street - they watched me through empty hollow windows. I saw them walking below the shadow of familiar trees in the public parks, or resting on sun bathed benches; their children - and me among them - playing hiding games among the lilac bushes, or hiding behind thick stems of trees. Meeting them was painful, since my longings to them never faded. With trembling hands I wished to touch them, a real touch, but I could not, because they were and were not - because they are gone.
My visits in the Jewish cemeteries were most difficult. Here rouse towards me, not only my beloved, but a whole nation rouse from the depth of earth, from collapsing and crumbling tombs, in entangled jungle of vegetation which was spreading around them.
The roots branch out, press and clip around our ancestors' tombs and swallow them. the tombstones rise up and twisted under the pressure of the roots. These tombstones, which were erected on our deceased graves, struggle for their lives...
And they are countless. Hebrew words, not understood by the people of that country but very well understood by us, written upon them. By the hand of an artist they were engraved in the stone, in letters of gold and silver, and they constitute elegies, love poems, praise and prayers, pain and farewell, wisdom and sorrow... and longings for Zion... Grand Jewish tombstones, neglected now and deserted in a foreign land, in a country with no Jews anymore. In Poland.
And the camps. Six millions of our people perished here and never brought to burial. In the land of Poland. And now, in the season of spring, wild flowers flourish around Auschwitz, Treblinka, Chelmno, Meidanek and around the Jewish cemeteries. And among the flowers, one special beautiful small flower is distinct to my eyes, and its color is the same as the color of the skies: "Forget-me-not".
Their growth seems like magic to me! How they grew here, so many - countless - so fresh and nice, in the earth sunk in blood. Their sight filled my heart with gratitude, for growing there, and for having the colour of the sky and for having the name:"FORGET-ME-NOT"..."
Shalom Zdunska Wola...
Tel Aviv 12.7.1999
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