‘I was the only Jew at Polish massacre memorial’

Jacob ‘Janek’ Geller

Jacob ‘Janek’ Geller

A Holocaust survivor has spoken of his sadness at being the only Jew present at a Polish commemoration for the massacre of 9,000 people during the Second World War.

Until the war, 60 per cent of the population of Konskie — around 6,000 people — were Jewish. Another 3,000 Jews from other areas were transported there when the town was designated a ghetto. Nearly all were exterminated in 1942.

Jacob ‘Janek’ Geller, 77, who survived the Holocaust when his family fled to Lviv from south-east Poland in 1939, said that despite the town’s history, “the whole thing had been forgotten”.

He found out about the ceremony when Marzena Skowyra, Catholic economist from Konskie, told him that she had decided to commemorate the massacre and had organised the event herself.

“I felt obliged to go,” said Mr Geller. “But I was the only Jew there. It was depressing in many ways.”

At the event, Mr Geller was asked to sing the memorial prayer El Maleh Rachamim but declined. “I am not a cantor and anyway, I am agnostic,” he said.

A plaque dedicated to those killed was unveiled, and an exhibition of photographs of Jewish life in the town before the Holocaust was opened to the public.

“Practically everything in the town had been Jewish,” said Mr Geller.

The Director of the Israel-Poland Friendship Society Bogdan Bialek and Konskie Mayor Michal Cichocki attended the ceremony.

Ms Skowyra told Mr Geller that she was determined to restore the Jewish cemetery in the town to its former glory, even though the site had been built on since the war.

Last updated: 3:40pm, May 6 2014