The cemetery in Świdwin was most likely founded in the 1770s or 1780s, which assumption is based on the fact that the community already had its own gravedigger at that time (although some data suggests the cemetery was founded only in 1890). The cemetery was located approximately 3 km from the city, in Polchleper Weg (present-day Dobra Rycerskie Street)[1.1] , a road leading to Drawsk Pomorski (Dramburg). The cemetery was located on the so-called Jewish Hill, close to Bukowiec Lake (Buchholtzer See), and was also used by Jews living in Sławoborz, 6 km away [1.2]. Like the synagogue, the cemetery was destroyed during Kristallnacht, and in the following years. All the gravestones were knocked over and shattered. Even after the end of the war in 1945 the cemetery was repeatedly desecrated by local hooligans. Nevertheless, the cemetery, where it is estimated between 400 and 500 people had been buried, is one of the few in the Zaodrzański Pomerania region (German Hinterpommern) that is still recognizable as such [1.3]. The area of the cemetery, both before the war and today, covers approximately 0.41 hectares. In 1988 it was still possible to find over 60 fairly well preserved gravestones. At that time a restorer from Koszalin commissioned professionals to photograph and number the headstones, which were the best-preserved gravestones in the area. The oldest is dated 1897, and the newest ones come from the 20th century. Many had German inscriptions on one side and Hebrew on the other (the inscriptions were filled with chalk in order to be more legible in the photographs). Fragments of six sample inscriptions that were identified in the 1980s can be found in the book [1.4]. Testimony by Dr. Rity Scheller, who personally visited the cemetery in Świdwin, confirms that this is the best-preserved cemetery in Pomerania, and in addition to gravestones part of the cemetery’s surrounding wall was also preserved. Until August 1994 fifty-eight tombstones had been catalogued, and at that time the cemetery was again under the care of specialists from Koszalin who prepared photographs and drawings that were to serve further research. Most probably in 1993 there were still marble tombstones there; today only sandstone ones have remain. The number of visible gravestones declined over the years, and there are signs of break-ins into some of the tombs. Nevertheless, in August of 1998 there were still between 200 and 300 headstones in the cemetery, though they were covered with moss to such a degree that it was no longer possible to read the inscriptions. The road leading to the cemetery is on the left side, though earlier an entrance on the right side was used. The cemetery itself and the surrounding area are overgrown with trees, which makes it a rather dark and gloomy place. However, in 2000 the cemetery was cleaned up as part of a joint effort by Polish and German youth. The gravestones found there are dated between 1869 and 1927. An alphabetical list of all the gravestones located and identified in 2001 can be found in the book [1.5]. Pastor Adam Ciućka of the Pentecostal Church, and Zbigniew Czajkowski initiated the project to tidy up the cemetery, and the work was done by members of the local Pentecostal church and their partner church in Hameln, Germany. Heinz Wandelt, a former resident of Świdwin, also came from Germany. Local businessmen helped as well, including Roman and Marek Marko, and Janusz Paprocki. Weeds and bushes were cut out, dug-up graves were filled, and overturned tombstones were put up; moreover, an inventory was made [1.6]. One year later, a commemorative plaque was unveiled, in both Polish and Hebrew. Unfortunately, however, in the following years the cemetery was devastated three times by unknown assailants (in 2003, 2006, and 2007). Many of the headstones were destroyed, as was the surrounding fence and the commemorative plaque [1.7] [1.8] [1.9]. Nevertheless, the Jewish cemetery in Świdwin is listed as a regional monument in Koszalin’s records[1.10] [1.11] .

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Footnotes

  • [1.1] Fritz R. Barran, Städte-Atlas Pommern p. 102.
  • [1.2] http://www.jewishgen.org/cemetery/e-europe/pol-sr.html, [accessed on September 11, 2008].
  • [1.3] http://polin.org.pl/cities/379/galeria/17622/, [accessed on September 11, 2008].
  • [1.4] Gerhard Salinger, Zur Erinnerung und zum Gedenken, vol. 3, p. 716.
  • [1.5] Gerhard Salinger, Zur Erinnerung und zum Gedenken, vol.4, p. 1060-1061.
  • [1.6] http://www.kirkuty.xip.pl/swidwin.htm, [accessed on September 11, 2008].
  • [1.7] http://www.ekumenizm.pl/content/article/20030526185332470.htm, [accessed on 11 September 2008].
  • [1.8] http://www.fodz.pl/?d=2&id=145&l=pl, [accessed on 11 September 2008].
  • [1.9] http://www.znak.org.pl/index.php?t=wydarzenia&id=714, [accessed on 11 September 2008].
  • [1.10] http://fodz.pl/?d=10&id=233&l=pl, [accessed on September 11, 2008].
  • [1.11] Z. Czajkowski, Żydzi w dziejach Świdwina, [in:] Nekropolie, Kirkuty. Cmentarze. Conference materials, Szczecin 2002.