The cemetery of the Miedzyrzecz Community was established on the so-called Jewish Mountain[1.1], situated by the road to Skwierzyna, about 2 km north from the city centre. The hill administratively belonged to the village of Swiety Wojciech, which was part of the Pszczewskie estates in the Middle Ages. The rental fee had to be paid, which according to Zachert amounted to one ounce of saffron and one pound of pepper[1.1.1]. Probably burial fees for each deceased were added to it[1.1.1]. When the community transferred under the starost jurisdiction, and probably stopped paying fees to the Pszczew foundation, a serious conflict with the owner of Pszczew Andrzej Boczkowski resulted, who in 1682 built gallows at the cemetery, defiling the place. Only when the community was taken under the custody of the Poznan official Wojciech Breza (1696) it led to satisfactory results[1.1.1]. It is also known that Rabbi Meir ben Elisakim Goetz from Pila was buried at the Miedzyrzecz cemetery. He died while escaping the pogrom that was organized by Hetman Stefan Czarnecki in Miedzyrzecz in 1656 [1.1.1].

Nowadays it is difficult to judge the size of the cemetery. It was probably similar to the nearby Jewish cemetery in Skwierzyna. The Miedzyrzecz, and the slightly larger Skwierzyna communities were comparable, so also the cemeteries should have been of similar size. The Skwierzyna cemetery occupied the area of about 2.5- 3 ha. Cemeteries of this type were usually filled in chronologically, row after row, beginning from the peak of the hill and orienting the gravestones to the east. When the top of the hill and its eastern, northern and western slopes were filled, the burials were transferred to lower places, situated closer to the Miedzyrzecz- Skwierzyna Road.

According to ritual requirements a Jewish cemetery had to be fenced, and usually a pre-funeral house was built on the cemetery's area. The Miedzyrzecz cemetery also followed this pattern. Large pieces of the metal fence and the ruined pre-funeral house, marked on the already mentioned map from 1944, were still visible in 1946 [1.1.1]. Up to the present day there is a bank from the north side, probably the base of the old metal fencing.

There are no sources, which would prove that the cemetery was devastated in Nazi times. Two reports known to the author, made by Jews who lived in Miedzyrzecz before the war do not mention those damages [1.1.1] [see picture no.11].

It is also remarkable that other Jewish cemeteries from the region, for example in Gorzow Wielkopolski, Skwierzyna, Trzciel, Trzemeszno Lubuskie and Brójce, did not suffer from damage during the war. Of course it does not prove the fate of the Miedzyrzecz cemetery, considering that on the map from 1944, on the slope of the Jewish Mountain near the post funeral house, there is a quarry marked [see picture no.12]. According to Ryszard Patorski from the Miedzyrzecz Museum it may mean that at the end of the war the Germans began, or made preparation to excavate gravel from the hill, which consisted of 90% of that material. It is however curious, that Stanislaw Cyraniak, examining the Jewish cemetery in 1946 did not notice the excavation place, and apart from general disorder (broken macevas, destroyed pre-funeral house, weeds and ivy growing on the area) nothing else caught his attention. Anyway, the devastation and gradual liquidation of the cemetery began for good in 1947, when the reconstruction of the road from Miedyrzecz to Skwierzyna began. Florian Wisniewski, who worked there said, that to build the section between Miedzyrzecz and Glebokie Lake gravestones and gravel from the cemetery were used. The material was used as road metal[1.1.1].

Another step of the cemetery’s liquidation took place in 1955-1956, when a beach at Glebokie Lake was done. A private carrier from Miedzyrzecz Firlej took gravel from the Jewish Mountain and he fertilized the beach at Glebokie Lake. Bones were found in the gravel, which were collected and taken away [1.2]. At the end of the 1960s, on the partially removed mountain a rifle-range was organized, which was used, among others, by the pupils of the nearby high school. On the whole area of the liquidated cemetery human debris could be found, that nobody took care of[1.3].

Similarly to other cemeteries, on this territory till the end of the 1960s individual and organized theft of gravestones took place, made of granite and marble. Thieves were not interested in sandstone macevas, because new treatment was not profitable. That is why sandstone macevas survived till the turn of the 1960s and 1970s [see picture no.13]

The legal process of liquidating the Miedzyrzecz cemetery began already in the 1960s. The regulations concerning cemeteries and burials from 1959[1.4]stated, that: the cemetery’s territory  [...] can only be used 40 years after the last burial took place at the cemetery[1.5], nevertheless there were exceptions for public utility reasons, the country defense reasons, or the need to fulfill national economic plans. It is hard to state unequivocally when the last burial took place at the Miedzyrzecz cemetery. According to a letter issued by the Presidium of the Province National Board dated December 23, 1969, concerning a pre-term liquidation of the Jewish cemetery in Miedzyrzecz, it was to happen in 1935.[1.6]. It is known, however, that the last Jews – about 15 families- lived in Miedzyrzecz till March 1940, when they were arrested and taken to the temporary camp in Bürgergarten near Pila, and from there further to ghettos and camps on the territory of occupied Poland[1.7]. [see name list]. Anyway, in light of the regulation, the liquidation of the cemetery did not take place before 1975.  

Rather, the attitude of the Polish authorities of that time to Jewish heritage is shown, among others, by the document created in 1965 it the Province Association of Communal and Housing Economy in Zielona Gora[1.8]. It mentions 875 cemeteries on the territory of the Zielona Gora Province, which are deserted and no longer used.[1.9]. The document orders to tidy those cemeteries, taking into consideration the economic, esthetic and also political aspect, as it would oppose to the negative public opinion in Poland and abroad[1.10]. Tidying cemeteries meant usually their liquidation, and it was so effective, that nowadays there is hardly any trace left of them. The starting point for the official liquidation of the Miedzyrzecz cemetery was the application of the Presidium of the County National Council in Miedzyrzecz concerning a pre-term liquidation of the kirkut. In a letter addressed to the Presidium of the Province National Council in Zielona Gora from November 10, 1969 there is a request to use the cemetery as a gravel excavation post.[1.11] The decision of the Province National Council from December 23, 1969 was in agreement with the expectations of the Miedzyrzecz authorities. In their justification they wrote: Considerable gravel resources have been discovered on that territory, so it would be used for gravel excavation, and afterwards the land is going to be reclaimed and covered with plants[1.1.11]. The decision about quickened liquidation was taken on the base of article 6 of the before mentioned regulation from 1959. In the case of the Miedzyrzecz cemetery, its liquidation was justified with the need of realizing national economic plans, which seemed to depend on the already exploited gravel resources on Jewish Mountain. The regulation became officially obliging on January 17, 1970, after it had been approved by the Minister of Communal Economy[1.12]. In this way, the legal liquidation of the cemetery of the Jewish community, which had been living in Miedzyrzecz for 700 years, was prepared.

The crucial phase of the cemetery’s liquidation took place in the 1970s, and was the result of excavations done by the Miedzyrzecz PUBR (concrete production company). According to the stories told by the concrete mixing workers, there happened to be bones in the gravel brought from the Jewish Mountain. After the gravel had been taken away the place was used as concrete waste storage, and finally as a dumping ground. This situation lasted till the early 1990s. Edward Klusek who visited the cemetery’s territory in that period writes: Among piles of rubbish, rags, in the surreal landscape, among old trees I discovered a cemetery [...] I started to look around, I found strange pieces of gravestones, lying next to old tires and burning rags. I found many, about 6, I saw fragments of beautiful, marble gravestones and some more modest, made of rough stone.[1.13].

The land reclamation of that territory was finally made in the early 1990s. The ground was leveled by bulldozers, and some time later it was used for the town’s ring road, which today runs through the middle of the no longer existing cemetery hill [see picture no.14] From that period on there were scarce findings connected to the cemetery. In total there are 7 macevas preserved nowadays. One can be found at the Miedzyrzecz Museum [see picture no. 15], five, properly secured and exposed in an interesting way can be found in Obrzyce, at Jerzy Dabrowski’s place [see picture no. 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20], one in the estate of Stefan Murawski, at Moniuszki Street in Miedzyrzecz. [see picture no. 21]. There is also a picture from the 1960s showing the cemetery and the gravestones of Schwarzes [see picture no. 13]. Up to present times in the part of the cemetery approaching the Miedzyrzecz – Skwierzyna Road, some stone and metal grave elements can be found, and also maceva fragments, with readable inscriptions.

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Footnotes

  • [1.1] Stadt und Kreis Meseritz. Ein Heimatbuch, vol. 2, Herne 1989, p. 262-267. Translated from German by Ewa Ochwiejewicz.
  • [1.1.1] [a] [b] [c] [d] [e] [f] [g] Stadt und Kreis Meseritz. Ein Heimatbuch, vol. 2, Herne 1989, p. 262-267. Translated from German by Ewa Ochwiejewicz.
  • [1.2] Stanisław Cyraniak, report from January 2007.
  • [1.3] Jerzy Dąbrowski,inhabitant of Miedzyrzecz, report from January 2007.
  • [1.4] Regulation from 31 January 1959 concerning cemeteries and burials.
  • [1.5] Regulation from 31 January 1959… . Journal of Laws no.11, point 62, item 6.
  • [1.6] State Archive in Zielona Gora (=APZG), PWRN, department of communal economy.
  • [1.7] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life, Before & During Holocaust, ed. E. Wiesel, S. Spector, G. Wigider, Jerusalem 2001, p. 812.
  • [1.8] APZG, department of communal economy, nr WZ GKM – VII/19/7/65.
  • [1.9] Existing in 1950–1975. The territory was more or less the same as that of today’s Lubuskie Voivodeship
  • [1.10] APZG, department of communal economy no. WZ GKM – VII/19/7/65.
  • [1.11] APZG, PWRN, department of communal economy.
  • [1.1.11] APZG, PWRN, department of communal economy.
  • [1.12] APZG, Presidium of the Voivodeship National Board in Zielona Gora, department of communal economy letter no., UZ-c/I/3/70 dated January 17, 1970  § 1: It is allowed to use the Jewish cemetery in Miedzyrzecz closed by the decision of the Minister of Communal Economy from March 10, 1961 no. Nr UZ – c/14/6/59 to carry on national economic plans /decision 31/69 Presidium of the Voivodeship National Board in Zielona Gora  from 23 December 1969.
  • [1.13] E. Klusek,  Zamordowany cmentarz, [in:] „Kurier Międzyrzecki” no. 5, July 1991, p. 11.