Cemetery Memorial in Zolynia


The tablet and the memorial made of pieces of matzevot (headstones) in the Zolynia Jewish cemetery. Given the Jewish population over the years, it is probable that there are more than one thousand graves below the surface of the cemetery area. The cemetery dates to at least 1759.

 

History of the Cemetery

The Jewish cemetery in Zolynia served the villages that were part of the official Jewish congregation and is known to have existed as early as 1759. Prior to that, it is likely that Jews in Zolynia were buried in the cemetery at Lancut, which was the parent congregation.

During the Second World War, the Germans ordered the bodies of some executed Poles to be buried in the cemetery and not in the consecrated Catholic cemetery. This was a common practice in occupied Poland, the Germans seeing this as a final punishment and a deterrent to others. After the German retreat, bodies of Christians in the Jewish cemetery were reinterred in the church cemetery.

By the end of the occupation, the Germans ordered the tombstones in the Jewish cemetery to be uprooted, and, like thousands of headstones (or matzevos) from local cemeteries, they were used as hard beds in road repair and fortification projects. For years after the war, headstones were occassionally found during repair projects. Some of the headstones may still be beneath local roads, paths and town squares. Before the war, there had been a long brick wall along the perimeter of the cemetery, which was dismantled. Like many other Jewish cemeteries in towns and villages, the cemetery in Zolynia remained in its devastated condition, appearing to many younger people in the town to be an empty, rutted field.

The Waldman Memorial

After the establishment of the Third Polish Republic in 1989, former Jewish communal property was passed from the ownership of the national government to local Gmina governments. A few former Zolynia residents and their descendents began visiting the village. One of the early visitors was Jozef Waldman, a resident of Dusseldorf, Germany, who had been born in or near Zolynia. His mother, Sabinie Waldman (or Waldmann) had been buried in the Jewish cemetery in November 1939, a few months after the beginning of the German occupation.

Waldman reached an understanding with officials of the Gmina to allow him to fund a cleanup of at least part of the former cemetery area. By 1991, the field had been cleared of debris, smoothed and surrounded by a new iron and brick fence. Pieces of twenty-three headstones found in the cemetery and mounted on small pedestals as a symbolic memorial. A tablet was mounted dedicating the memorial to Sabine Waldman and the others buried there.

The following year, the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad, a federal advisory board, and the World Monument Fund of the Jewish Heritage Council, sent a small survey team to locate and catalogue former Jewish cemeteries in cities, towns and villages in Poland. The Zolynia Jewish cemetery was included in the report, issued in 1995 and posted on the Internet by 1998. The photographs above were commissioned from New York not long after.

Until his death in 2002, Josef Waldman provided funds to keep the cemetery memorial area mowed, free of debris and accessible to occassional visitors, by appointment with Mr. Antoni Giab, a neighbor from up the road. Since Mr. Waldman's death, the Gmina has arranged for maintenance.

Memorial Does Not Mark Graves

The twenty-three headstone fragments do not mark graves. The use of headstones and headstone pieces to create a memorial is not uncommon where cleanups of Jewish cemeteries have occured, and at some Holocaust memorials. Given the size of the Zolynia Jewish congregation, which peaked in the late 19th century, it is very likely that more than 1,000 people were buried in the cemetery.

The cemetery is located on an unmarked side street that runs off of Route 877, the main road through Zolynia. It remains the only public reminder of the Jewish culture which survived, side by side with others in the town, for over two centuries. There is no formal agreement regarding the cemetery and its future status and maintenance. This is now a subject of current discussion among members of the First Zoliner Society in New York, genealogical researchers and other stakeholders.

Below are images of the 23 headstone fragments in the cemetery memorial. The captions below each image are translations from Hebrew of remaining inscriptions, if any. Suggestions for better translations or interpretations are welcome. To view the images and captions, click on a panel number and then then on an individual photograph.

 

  • Cemetery Memorial
    "...Daughter of Natan..."
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "Monument to a modest woman…Roza, daughter of Moshe, died 6 Elul (August-September)"
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "A modest woman...a woman of valor...respected...Mrs. Chaya Stempel, daughter of Asher Lemel. Died 5 Nisan 5679 (April 5, 1919)"
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "Tombstone for the grave of a woman...modest and important...Golda, daughter of Yakov. Died 8 Elul 5670 (September 12, 1910)."
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "An honest and important woman..." The candelabra also denotes a woman's grave.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "Aged and full of days...Eliezer, son of Ari the Levi, son-in-law of the Rabbi Aryea Lipa..."
  • Cemetery Memorial
    No identifying information present.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    Only a few characters are legible.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    No legible characters.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "A woman honored in her community..." The candelabra also indicates a woman's grave.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    No identifying information.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    Marker is mounted upside down. Remaining portion includes an epitath but no identifying information.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "A modest and important woman...Beila Mintshi, daughter of Menachem Mendel...Died on the 2nd day of Adar Bet in the year 5689 (March 14, 1929)
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "Monument on the grave of a man of integrity and honesty who walked an upright path...Avram David, son of Shmuel... died 7 Kislev 5679 (November 11, 1918)
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "Tombstone for an honorable woman, modest fearer of G-d...Malka Chana, daughter of Yonah...Died 9 Kislev 5673 (November 19, 1912)"
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "Yachet, daghter of Yimelech...Died 6 Elul 5676 (September 4,1916)"
  • Cemetery Memorial
    Only two characters are legible
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "An honest and forthright man, a doctor..."
  • Cemetery Memorial
    Marker is mounted upside down. Only a few characters are legible.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    Only a few characters are legible.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "...Neftali Hertz, son of Tsvi David...Died 17 Tevet 5671 (January 17,1911)"
  • Cemetery Memorial
    Pitcher symbol indicates that the tombstone is for a man of Levite descendency. No identifying information remains.
  • Cemetery Memorial
    "A modest and important woman who did good deeds, Ester, daughter of Moshe...Died 27 Cheshvan 5691 (November 18, 1930)"
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