The Jewish cemetery in Opatów is located within the Park Miejski (Municipal Park), between ul. Kopernika, ul. Partyzantów and ul. Krzysztofa Szydłowieckiego.

As a historical monument, it is a destroyed site. What has been preserved are  only a fragment of a stone wall and two lapidaria on the north side. Today, to a large extent, it has been transformed. Within its historical boundaries, among other things, there are the Municipal Park, a Cultural Centre and an amphitheatre.

The cemetery was established in the first half of the 16th century, when Jews began settling in Opatów, in a hilly terrain which was then located outside the town. Its area, as known from the inter-war period, was gradually expanded to extend over an area of more than 3 hectares

Its borders were:

  • to the west, ul. Stadionowa (today ul. Partyzantów)
  • to the north, ul. Kierkucka (today ul Kopernika)
  • to the east and south by fields, and
  • to the south-west by the market square (then “animal” square, which in 1942 became Opatów’s “Umschlagplatz”).

Before the Holocaust, the cemetery had an L-shaped outline and the entire area was surrounded by a stone and brick wall.

The main entrance and the pre-funeral building were facing ul. Stadionowa (today, ul. Partyzantów). To the left of the main entrance, there were three ohels of tzadikim. Interestingly, they did not belong directly to the Opatów (Apt) dynasty, comprising the descendants and heirs of Abraham Jehoszua Heshel of Opatów (1748-1825), who was known as Apter Rebbe. This dynasty, while its founder was still alive and actually held the office of rabbi in Opatów (1800–1808), after 1808, moved to Międzybóż and Zinków in Podolia (which is why it bears the proper name Apta-Zinkov-Mezibuz).

Those ohels were for:

  • Meir ha’Lewi Rotenberg of Opatów, called Majer Apter (c. 1760-1831), rabbi of Opatów from 1809, from c. 1815 recognised as a tzaddik, follower and, according to some sources, successor of the Seer of Lublin. His son and successor was Pinkas (d. c. 1837) and his grandson, Pinkas’ son, was Jacob (called Jaakow Apter);
  • Samuel Magid (first half of the 19th century), a disciple of Maggid of Kozienice - founder of the Kozienice (Kozhnitz) dynasty;
  • Shlomo Epsztain of Ożarów (Shlomele Ożarower), of the Ożarów (Ozerov)[1.1]

Majer Bałaban emphasised the historical value of the cemetery in Opatów. In the local necropolis, in addition to traditional matzevot, there were sarcophagus-type tombstones following the Prague model (found in Poland only at the Kraków Remu synagogue), as well as monumental tombstones (one of which still stood after the Second World War).

The cemetery continued to function throughout the German occupation during the Second World War. Approximately 300 victims of the Holocaust were buried there - deceased ghetto residents, those shot in street executions, those killed on their way to the railway station in Jasice during the liquidation of the ghetto and those who were found in hiding places.  Executions were also carried out in the cemetery itself.  Probably the last burial was in September 1945, when Lejb Zylberberg, shot in Opatów, was buried there.

In the early post-war period the cemetery was abandoned, but not destroyed. In 1959, the Catalogue of Art Monuments in Poland listed “about a thousand stone gravestones from the 17th century onwards”.

In 1956, the Ministry of Municipal Economy, at the request of the Opatów City Council, issued an order to liquidate the necropolis. This was met with protests from the Central Jewish Social Commission (1958) and Wigdor Malzyner, a former resident of Opatów (1962).

In 1962, the Ministry of Municipal Economy agreed to create a municipal park in the Jewish cemetery. The matzevot began to be removed and taken from the necropolis. They were used

  • to reinforce the tributary of the Opatówka - the river flowing from Marcinkowice (especially the section from the bridge on ul. Legionów to the bend in the river on ul. Dorzeczna),
  • to reinforce the walls of the war graveyard at the parish cemetery, and
  • to build city walls.

They were also taken by residents to use as building materials for private properties. The exhumations during the liquidation were only symbolic. Twenty-five bodies were exhumed and reburied in “3 packets” in the northern part of the cemetery by ul. Straconych (today, ul. Kopernika 11).

The newly estabished park covered an area of 2.5 hectares. Pathways were marked out, grass and trees were planted, benches and litter bins were placed and lighting was installed. It is worth noting that the old trees were removed in favour of planting typical park plants - chestnuts, maples and poplars.

As late as the 1960s, a fire reservoir (surrounded by a chain-link fence) was dug to the left of the entrance by ul. Partyzantów and a playground was installed behind it with a small merry-go-round and swings.

In the first half of the 1970s, construction of a community centre began to the right of the main entrance to the cemetery. Work continued intermittently until the 1980s, during which time the fire reservoir was backfilled and a band shell was built to replace it (and the playground). In 1984-1988 it was roofed with eternit and, in 2013–2014, it was covered with sheet metal and toilets were added.

In the 1970s, the cemetery wall on the eastern side (Primary School No. 2) and southern sides was demolished. Only a section on the northern side remained.

In 1984, a kindergarten (so-called “papierowe przedszkole” – paper kindergarten) was built in the central part of the cemetery renamed as park. This building was demolished in 2004. Nowadays, Lapidarium II is located there.

In 1982, on the 40th anniversary of the deportation of Opatów’s Jews to the Nazi German extermination camp in Treblinka, at the initiative of the Warsaw branch of the Society of Friends of the Opatów Region, a small terrazzo monument was erected, bearing inscriptions, but with a Star of David symbol. It is  located near the entrance from ul. Kopernika and commemorates the site’s past.

In 1989, Lapidarium I, situated on a small hill in the south-eastern part of the cemetery, was built from the collected and gathered fragments of original matzevot. It was an initiative of members of the Society of Friends of the Opatów Region (TPZO), in cooperation with Jan Jagielski from the Social Committee for the Care of Jewish Cemeteries and Monuments in Poland, together with the head of the municipality.

Fifteen slabs were set up in a form resembling matzevot, with embedded fragments of twenty-three original gravestones. Lapidarium I soon fell into ruins, probably due to technical defects and sheer vandalism. In 1997, the Opatów Town and Community Office repaired it, changing the concept from vertical stelae to horizontal ones. Now, there are nine concrete bases, with sixteen original fragments of matzevot inserted.

Based on a 2011 settlement between the Town Hall and the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Warsaw, in exchange for temporary ownership of the site, the Town Hall erected plaques at the entrances in memory of the religious nature of the site (from ul. Kopernika and ul. Partyzantów. In 2012 a symbolic gate was erected by ul. Kopernika. Two plaques, in Polish and Hebrew, tell of the history of the Jewish community in Opatów.

Since 2001, activists of the Society of Friends of the Opatów Region (TPZO) have been acquiring more tombstones and their fragments from individual donors and excavating them from the river.

In 2022, Lapidarium II was created from these tombstones. It was established in the central place of the cemetery, on a rectangular area bounded by curbs and covered with granite gravel. The matzevot were arranged according to tradition - women’s matzevot on one side and men’s matzevot on the other. An inventory of tombstones was carried out by specialists associated with the Grodzka Gate from Lublin (Monika Tarajko, Andrzej Trzciński, Paweł Sygowski).

On 23 October 2022, Lapidarium II was officially unveiled by members of the TPZO, with the participation of a large group of descendants of Opatów’s Jews, who came from the United States, Canada and Israel, as well as Jewish and Christian clergy, town authorities and Opatów residents. Lapidarium II is an open-ended project, so that matzevot that are still being found can be returned to their rightful place in the cemetery.

As a whole, the cemetery has not been entered into the register of historical monuments, but the lapidarium was listed in it by decision No. 441/A of 22.04.1991 (Provincial Conservator of Monuments in Tarnobrzeg) and A.532 of 22.04.1991 (Świętokrzyskie Province Conservator of Monuments).

Many depictions of the cemetery from the inter-war period (including ohels and pilgrimages on the anniversary of Meir Apter’s death) can be found in paintings by Opatów resident Mayer Kirshenblatt, as well as in photographs in the Opatów Yizkor (Memorial) Book.

Maria Borzęcka


  • Sefer zikaron le-ir wa-em be-Jisraela aszer ha-jeta we-enena od. Izker buch cum ondenk fun undzer geburts-sztot in Pojln welkhe iz mer niszto, ed. Z. Yasheev, , Tel Aviv 1966.
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  • Gromek-Gadkowska, Likwidacja cmentarza żydowskiego, “Ziemia Opatowska” 2021, no. 34, pp. 6-–7.
  • Jagielski, Kto ma usłyszeć…, “Fołks-Sztyme” 1988, no. 41.
  • Jagielski, Opatów, czyli „Apt”, “Fołks-Sztyme” 1990, no. 2.
  • Kaleta, Cmentarz żydowski w Opatowie (typescript of a master’s thesis), Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, 1999; in the collection of: The “Grodzka Gate ­– NN Theatre” in Lublin.
  • “Katalog zabytków sztuki w Polsce”, vol. 3, woj. kieleckie, z. 7: Powiat opatowski, eds. Łoziński, B. Wolff, Warsaw 1959, p. 51.
  • Kirshenblatt, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett B., They Called Me Mayer July. Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust, Berkeley 2007.
  • M. Kirshenblatt, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett B., Nazywali mnie Lipcowy Majer. Żydowskie dzieciństwo w Polsce przed Zagładą. Wspomnienia malowane, Warsaw 2023
  • D. Komeda, Cmentarz żydowski w Opatowie, karta cmentarna, Tarnobrzeg 1989 (typescript in the archives of State Services for the Protection of Monuments in Tarnobrzeg).
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  • J. Myjak, Przywracanie cmentarza, “Fołks- Sztyme” 1989, no. 11.
  • J. Myjak, Przywracanie pamięci, “Tygodnik Nadwiślański” 1988, no. 46.




  • [1.1] A. Kaleta, Cmentarz żydowski w Opatowie (typescript of a master's thesis), Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, 1999; in the collection of: The “Grodzka Gate ­– NN Theatre” in Lublin.