The lapidary of Zwoleń

Extant matzevahs of Jewish cemetery in Zwoleń

Original text published in: Radomskie Studia Humanistyczne, Tom V, 2018, pages: 215-242.
On Museum's website we publish shorter version.

Brief history of Jewish cemetery in Zwoleń

16th to 20th century

The earliest mentions about Jews in Zwoleń come from 1st half of 16th century. Further royal privileges and conducive circumstances allowed them to develop calmly. With time the synagogue was built, also the cemetery. First information about it appears in Inspection of Sandomiria voyevodsip from 1661, however it’s very probably that it existed earlier.

Cemetery at first was placed far from the city buildings, at Northern East, but within the city limits. It was situated on a hill, on a left bank of Zwolenka river. It’s near to the former road from Zwoleń via Janowiec to Kazimierz Dolny. Nowadays it’s at Fryderyk Chopin Street, from the South rimmed with wet scrubs and occupies the area of 2 hectares.

By the time of November Uprising there are no informations about the cemetery, plans of its expansion, relocation or building another one. On 1831 there was a mention about devastation of Jewish cemetery in Zwoleń perfected by general Rüdiger’s soldiers. They demolished and burnt down pine fence, mortuary and so-called “Rabbis’ house” – a housing above Rabbi’s gave. In addition they wrecked 110 Jewish tombstones.

Step by step, all the damages were repaired. On the photographs from 1920s and 1930s Jewish cemetery in Zwoleń looked the same way like other Jewish cemeteries.

Occupation and post-war years

After September 1939 the Nazis were consecutively ruining the cemetery. Historical literature mention crushing of matzevahs after the liquidation of ghetto in 1942. Although this process probably started earlier. During the war the victims of Nazis’ terror was buried on the cemetery. As well Jews and Catholics. This mass graves were destroyed by Sonderkommado troops in order to keep Nazis’ crimes in secret. Before that, planned liquidation of the cemetery had started. The matzevahs, which had been there, were crushed and later used for example for harden the road Radom-Puławy.

After the war there were few tombstones on the cemetery, but over the years they also disappeared. On 26th April 1964 cemetery was closed for burials, and later the decision of transforming it into park was taken. Extant tombstones were dig in, paths traced, lanterns and benches placed, trees planted. After all, park in that place didn’t catch on among the people.

Nowadays cemetery is unkempt. There are still some parts of park lanterns and paths. Only candles and little stones put on the rocks by someone reminds about the past of this place…

Characterization of tombstones

The matzevahs and its fragments come from Jewish cemetery of Zwoleń are little collection representing tombstones, which were there in the past.

So far we know 16 tombstones, one fully preserved – all in the form of the stela. On four of them we can see complete inscriptions, on ten – parts of them, on three – only top, decorated with symbols part of the table.

The eldest matzevah (partly preserved) come from 1800, on the eldest with extant date of death we can see date 5656 (1895), on the youngest – 5683 (1923). Eight matzevahs were placed on men’s graves, seven on women’s, one cannot be assigned to gender category.

Next to the text we are presenting eight of the extant tombstones, the ones in the best condition.