Warsaw, Poland – An anonymous Polish entrepreneur has donated hundreds of thousands of złotys to fund the restoration of the Jewish cemetery of Żywiec, a small town in the centre of Poland.
According to local media, the cemetery had, like many others throughout the country, fallen into ruin after the Second World War. The Jewish community of Bielsko-Biała, responsible for its upkeep, didn’t have the resources and manpower to restore this 19th century cemetery, now in a deplorable state and overgrown with weeds. Up until now.
The restoration should be finished in September, according to the benefactor who preferred to remain anonymous. Dorota Wiewóra, chairman of the Bielsko-Biała Jewish community, called the man “a great Pole”. “To say ‘thank you’ is not enough”, she added.
All across the country, many Jewish cemeteries are in an advanced state of neglect, due to decades of abandonment and to damages caused during the war, under the communist regime or by vandals. Last month, a memorial dedicated to Holocaust victims was vandalized in the city of Płock. Nazi swastikas were also painted on the fence of its Jewish cemetery.
Throughout the Communist era, many tombstones of Jewish cemeteries were left abandoned, or even used to rebuild walls and pave streets and roads of Polish cities scarred by years of war and occupation. Slowly, Polish municipalities are attempting to restore them to their original purpose and transfer them back to cemeteries.
But funding is hard to come by. Last year, the Polish government allocated 100 million złotys (24 million euros) for the reconstruction of the Jewish cemetery of Warsaw, the biggest in Europe.