Jews’ re­mains dug up, dumped

Rabbi calls ex­ca­va­tion for sub­sta­tion and park­ing a des­e­cra­tion

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation & World - Vanessa Gera, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

Alek­sander Sch­warz/the Union of Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties 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.

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