Jews’ remains dug up, dumped
Rabbi calls excavation for substation and parking a desecration
WARSAW, Poland — Human remains from an old Jewish burial ground in eastern Poland have been dug up and dumped in an empty lot to make way for the construction of an electrical substation and a parking lot, authorities said Thursday.
Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, described the excavation as the worst desecration of a Jewish cemetery he had seen in his 17 years as a rabbi in the country.
Jewish religious law holds that, once buried, bodies should be disturbed only under limited circumstances, such as to save lives.
A day after visiting the construction site in Siemiatycze, a small town that was about 60 percent Jewish before World War II, Schudrich showed The Associated Press photos of large mounds of earth with human bones, including a large part of a human skull.
“This is a full-out scandal,” said the rabbi, who originally is from New York. “Sometimes people can do something by mistake and could not realize they are seeing bones, but skulls are hard to miss.”
An official with the local authorities, Bogumila Kazimierczak, insisted that the building work had taken place not on the grounds of the Jewish cemetery but on already developed land managed by an automobile association.
The mayor’s office had had no information indicating construction there should be prohibited, Kazimierczak said.
Schudrich disputed that, saying the land in question was part of the old cemetery. He said that while another part of the cemetery owned by the state had been returned to the Jewish community after the fall of communism in Poland, the area in question hadn’t been because it was private property.
The rabbi said he had warned local authorities that it was holy ground and had asked them to inform him if there was ever a request to build there.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation.
Only 70 of the 7,000 Jews estimated to have been living in Siemiatycze on the eve of World War II survived the Holocaust, and none are believed to live there now, Schudrich said.
“This is a very egregious violation of the final resting place of the Jews of this town,” said Gideon Taylor, co-chair of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland.
Construction continues on a building and parking lot on the site of an old Jewish cemetery in Siemiatycze, a small town that was about 60 percent Jewish before the Holocaust.