The first Jews had probably appeared on Polish territories in the nineth or the tenth century and were living among us for more than one thousand years. The relations with Christian population were different - sometimes better, sometimes worse, but Poland was not an exception. A lot of Jews, banished from other countries, found a shelter here and settled down, and some medieval chroniclers described our country as Paradis ludeorum. At the beginning of twentieth century 3,5 million Jews lived in Poland, every tenth citizen of Poland was of judaic religion. In many towns the Jews made up more than half of the population.
The one thousand years of Jewish presence in Poland was almost totaly destroyed by the Nazis. Very few Polish Jews avoided extermination in ghettos and concentration camps. Most of those who managed to survive the Holocaust left our country after the II World War. The next emigration wave was caused by the events in March 1968. At present only several thousands of Jews live by the Vistula.
Not numerous synagogues, mikwas, kahal houses and other buildings of different destination were saved from the war conflagration. Relatively many Jewish cemeteries survived and this website is dedicated to them.
The fate of Jewish cemeteries was tragic. They were damaged by the occupant, after the war not seldom used as a source of building materials, and consigned to oblivion by communist authorities. Today we often do not know - or pretend that we do not know - what there is behind an old wall or in a forest nearby.
Jewish cemeteries are very special places. Hidden somewhere out of the way, covered with high grass, they intrigue with their atmosphere and delight with finesse of making Hebrew inscriptions, which were laboriously forged by unknown craftsmen - artists. It is worth remembering that Jewish cemeteries are not seldom the oldest monuments of material culture in a particular town or a region.
The website www.kirkuty.xt.pl - created by a person of non-Jewish ancestry - is an attempt of presentation some Jewish cemeteries in a form of a photo gallery, enriched with general historic information. The authors hope that this guide will inspire to visiting these places and will draw attention to marks of pre-war presence of the community of Polish Jews, now disappearing from our landscape.
translated by Joanna Kołdras