The 13th of November marks the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Kurów Ghetto and the extermination of Kurów Jews, who had lived in the town since the 16th century.

“This year marks the 75th anniversary of the dramatic events in which the Germans transported 2,500 Kurów Jews, our neighbours, to death camps. Before the war, Jews had constituted over a half of Kurów's inhabitants. They were Polish citizens of Jewish descent"[1.1].

Stanisław Wójcicki, head of Kurów Municipality

Before the outbreak of the war in 1939, Kurów was inhabited by 2,571 Jews out of a total of 4,635 town residents. When the war broke out, the Jewish community shrunk as ca. 300 people fled to other cities. In January 1940, the Germans ordered to set up a Judenrat, while the so-called open ghetto was established in the early spring of 1941. In the summer of 1941, over 1,000 Jews transported from the Warsaw Ghetto were imprisoned there.

The first liquidation Aktion in the Kurów Ghetto started on 8 April or May 1942, according to different sources. The Germans executed the older and disabled people on the spot, and transported the rest, mainly women and children, to Końskowola, and from there to the Bełżec or Sobibór death camps. Then, in July 1942, the Germans opened a so-called closed ghetto, relatively small in size, where they imprisoned 45-50 Jews, mostly men. On 13 November 1942, the Germans carried out the final ghetto liquidation. They executed 36 Jews, its last inhabitants, at the new Jewish cemetery in Blich Street in Kurów. (For more information, see the history of the Jewish community of Kurów.)

On 12 September 2017, a monument in the shape a red brick wall was opened at the Jewish cemetery in Kurów to commemorate Holocaust victims and those who tried to save them during the German occupation. The monument consists of three broken parts. This is to symbolise the irreversible destruction of Kurów's past life caused by the death of those who shaped it, as well as of the destruction of the cemetery by the German occupier. The central part features fragments of matzevot from the Jewish cemetery in Kurów – some of the few physical traces left behind by the town's Jewish inhabitants. Commemorative plaques were placed on its sides. The initiative to build the monument came from the local government and was financed by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland and the Kurów Municipality.

A photographic exhibition entitled “Kurów in the inter-war period of the 20th century" was opened as part of the ceremonies, which also featured a screening of an amateur documentary depicting the life of Kurów inhabitants, as filmed in 1932 by US citizen Jack Weisbord, whose father-in-law came from Kurów.

The ceremony was attended, among others, by descendants of Jewish survivors from Kurów, representatives of the “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre, and local residents. In his speech, Stanisław Wójcicki, the head of the municipality, talked about the history of Kurów Jews and the Holocaust. Flowers were laid on behalf of Polish President Andrzej Duda by Deputy Minister Wojciech Kolarski.

Martyna Rusiniak-Karwat

The article was written on the basis of:

  • “Dzieje Żydów w Polsce i Kurowie”, [in] O Nas, 2017, No. 7.
  • Crago L., Kurów, [in] The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, Part A, ed. M. Dean, Bloomington 2012, pp. 665-667.
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Footnotes

  • [1.1] As cited in: Upamiętnienie społeczności żydowskiej w Kurowie [online] 31.09.2017, https://lublin.onet.pl/upamietnienie-spolecznosci-zydowskiej-w-kurowie/vvsp2dm [Accessed on 2nd Nov 2017].