Vandalism at Poland's Blonie Cemetery Destroys Last Traces of a Jewish Past

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WARSAW - The Jewish cemetery in the Polish town of Blonie, one of the smallest and most ancient in the country, was, to all intents and purposes, destroyed in April after vandals smashed its five remaining tombstones. In fact, the destruction of the cemetery took with it the final remnants of the area's once 1,200-strong Jewish community, transported by the Nazis to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941. 

Police in Poland believe the act of vandalism was carried out on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Authorities have further requested that anyone with information as to the perpetrators' identity call a hotline. So far, no calls have been received.

Local residents refused to answer Haaretz's questions about the event. The Mayor of Blonie, Zenon Reszka, also refused to respond. His office replied that the area was not owned by the municipality and that therefore it was not responsible for its safekeeping. The office of the regional governor announced it had no responsibility either, despite the fact that the cemetery was the last resting place of Jewish soldiers in the Polish army, who perished in the battles against Nazi Germany in the beginning of the Second World War.

Two years ago, employees of the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews found 40 tombstones in the overgrown vegetation of the Blonie cemetery, and transferred them to be safeguarded elsewhere. All the other tombstones were stolen throughout the years, and probably used for private construction. Museum employees discovered signs of digging in some of the open graves. It is believed that these were searched for hidden treasures.

Several years ago the Jewish community approached the Polish Interior Ministry and requested that it accept responsibility for the cemetery, but since it could present no documents as to its ownership, the request was rejected. Now the authorities are willing to hand over the site without any bureaucratic procedures, but it appears that the Warsaw community does not have the funds needed to preserve the cemetery, especially since it is already responsible for preserving 74 other cemeteries throughout Poland.

The Warsaw community's spokesperson, Joanna Korzeniowska, told the local press that the community would try to reach an arrangement with the municipality of Blonie. Judging by recent experience, however, the chances are not very high. Still, progressive organizations in Poland, especially youth movements that have preserved similar sites in other villages, promised to take care of the cemetery, or at the very least, see to it that it is properly fenced off. 

Monument to the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. Credit: Bosyantek / Wikicommons

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