Ancient Polish cemetery slated for destruction ‘saved by government’

By Leon Symons, January 7, 2010

An ancient Jewish cemetery slated for destruction has been saved by the Polish authorities.

The graveyard, in Wolberom, near Krakow, was supposed to have a $1 million school gym built on it. But the project was moved at the end of last year to a different site after skeletons were discovered on the grounds.

Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, praised both the local authorities and the government for the decision.

“I have very positive support from the offices of both the president and the prime minister. They understand that it is wrong to desecrate any cemeteries, including those of the Jewish community.

“It is about awareness. The more we engage and explain, the more national and local government respond positively, though there are still people and places that are very tough.”

According to Rabbi Schudrich, a number of old Jewish cemeteries have been discovered in recent years, as more land is being developed because of a rise in land prices since the fall of Communism.

In Wolberom, he says, “the area council received three million zlotys (about $1 million) from the EU to build the gym next to the local school. But they uncovered three skeletons in their graves. We knew the cemetery had been fenced off in the 1980s but the boundaries were wrong and it was less than half of its real size.

“I met the local council leader and was prepared to meet the regional council leader when I got a call saying the local council decided to move the whole gym to a different site nearby.

“We had explained that these were our parents and grandparents but we were not making demonstrations, picket lines or anything like that. We sat and explained in a menschlichkeit way.”

Last updated: 5:11pm, January 7 2010