As K. Bielawski reports in his work published on www.kirkuty.xip.pl, due to the town expansion and in accordance with the decree of ‘Komisja Policji Obojga Narodów’ (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Police Committee) on closing down cemeteries located in built-up areas, issued in 1792, the Kazimierz kehilla faced the necessity of establishing a new graveyard. However, it seems that the decree was not observed strictly, as a new cemetery was built in Kazimierz only after 1851, on the sides of a ravine at Czerniawy, by the road leading to Opole Lubelskie, on a piece of land donated to the kehilla by Motek Herzberg. The majority of gravestones comes from the years 1880–1930, whereas the last burial took place there in 1942.

During World War II, just like the old Jewish cemetery, the one at Czerniawy was also almost completely devastated by the Nazis. Some matzevot were used to pave the streets in the town. However, in the cemetery several gravestones were preserved. During the occupation, the Jewish cemetery at Czerniawy became an execution site for Jewish and Christian inhabitants; however, the exact number of their victims is still unknown.

After the war, the cemetery was fenced with a brick wall, however, due to erosion it was finally taken down in 1971. At the time, the municipal authorities tried to sell the cemetery land as building plots, but found no buyers. In those times the People’s Republic of Poland was trying to wipe out all traces of the old multi-faith and multi-ethnic nature of pre-war Poland.

In the first half of the 1980s, on the initiative of Towarzystwo Opieki nad Zabytkami (Polish: Association for the Preservation of Historic Monuments) in Kazimierz, Nadwiślańskie Museum and Urząd Konserwatora Zabytków (Polish: Historic Monument Conservators Office), works on the partial reconstruction of the cemetery were undertaken. Several dozen tombstones were collected in the whole area of the town. Over the 40 years many of them had been damaged; however, some were preserved in quite a good condition, even with parts of polychromes.

In 1985, from the remnants of 600 matzevot, part of which could probably come from the old Jewish cemetery at ul. Lubelska, a monument was raised – a lapidarium (collection of stones) in the form of a “Wailing Wall”, designed by Tadeusz Augustynek. Through “a crack” (a crevice) in the monument, symbolizing the tragic fate of Polish Jews during World War II, one can step into the old cemetery where around 25 tombstones were placed, on an area of 0.71 ha. The oldest dates back to 1851, while the majority date to the second half of the 19th century and the first 40 years of the 20th century.

The preserved matzevot with polychromes are of high artistic value. The most common decorative designs on women’s matzevot are candles and Sabbath chandeliers. Many tombstones low-reliefs depict also a hand dropping coins into a collection box, a symbol of charity. One can see also matzevot with a decoration in the form of a collection of books in an open cabinet, a symbol of erudition in the Scriptures, as well as the images of lions, representing the name Arie Lejb or denoting a member of the tribe of Judah. At the hill side in front of the lapidarium stands approximately 50 matzevot. [1.1].
 

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Footnotes

  • [1.1] A. Trzciński, Śladami zabytków.., p. 25.