The New Cemetery in Lodz

Contents

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Background

The cemetery on ul. Bracka and ul. Zmienna, the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe, was created in 1892 when residents of the nearby neighborhood refused to allow the expansion of the old cemetery on ul. Wesola, containing over 3,000 graves. Izrael Poznanski donated the first 10.5 hectares of land towards the establishment of a new cemetery. The outbreak of a cholera epidemic in 1892 forced the Russian authorities to give the final go ahead to establish the new cemetery. Thus, the first people buried there in the winter of 1892 were approximately 700 cholera victims. In 1893, 1,139 people were buried at the new cemetery. From 1893 to 1896, the basic construction of the cemetery was completed under the supervision of well-known architect Adolf Zeligson. 

The Beit Tahara (Funeral Home) was founded by Mina Dobrzynska Konsztat in 1896 and completed in 1898. In 1900, the cemetery was greatly expanded by a purchase of land from Albert Cukier and in 1913 other lands were added. In that year, houses for cemetery workers and a wooden synagogue were built. The cemetery was severely damaged during WWI and many buildings destroyed. Its renovation was supported financially by factory owners. By 1925, the original wooden fence surrounding the cemetery was replaced by the red brick wall that still stands today. All tombstones in the cemetery face east. In the 19th century, many were colorfully painted, traces of which can still be seen.

Right: Beit Tahara at the Lodz Cemetery

After the German occupation in 1939, the cemetery became part of the eastern section of the enclosed Lodz ghetto. A total of about 200,000 Jews were incarcerated in the ghetto. Between 1940 and 1944, approximately 43,000 burials took place in the spare part of the cemetery that became known as the Pole Gettowe or Ghetto Field.  Many of those interred were victims of starvation, cold and disease (especially typhus); they included Jews from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Luxembourg, who were transported to the ghetto in 1941, as well as Roma (Gypsies) who died in the Gypsy Camp in the ghetto. The cemetery was the site of mass executions of Jews, Roma and non-Jewish Poles: the graves of the Polish scouts and soldiers of the Home Army are found there. The Germans forbade the use of stone grave markers, so burial sites were marked with metal bed frames or low cement posts. After the ghetto was liquidated in August 1944, about 830 Jews were left as a clean-up crew. They were forced to dig large holes for their own graves near the cemetery wall. The Nazis did not have enough time to kill them, and the empty holes have been left as a remembrance.

Right after WWII, Lodz became one of the largest gathering places of Jewish survivors of concentration camps and refugees from the U.S.S.R. This is the reason why so many graves from the first post-war years can be found there. A symbolic grave was constructed for 84 Jewish women from Lodz, from the Stutthof concentration camp, who were murdered 

Monument to the victims of the Lodz Ghetto

by the Nazis in 1945 near Wejherowo. In 1956, a monument in memory of the victims of the Lodz ghetto by Muszko was erected at the cemetery. It features a smooth obelisk, a menorah (an important symbol of the Jewish nation), and a broken oak tree with leaves stemming from the tree (symbolizing death, especially death at a young age). Also in 1956, the city authorities widened a road that reduced the southwest area of the cemetery. Tombstones were moved and remain in locations other than the original ones. The cemetery deteriorated and was vandalized over the following decades.

The first attempts to protect the cemetery were made in the mid-1970s. In 1980, the cemetery was registered as an historical site. In 1995, the city of Lodz and the Organization of Former Residents of Lodz in Israel established the Monumentum Iudaicum Lodzense Foundation

The Ghetto Field in the Lodz Cemetery, 1998. The sign reads: 

Pole Gettowe, Kwatera L IV          Porzadkowanie Oraz Ustawienie 250-CIU Pomników Zostalo Sfinansowane przez Rodzinie

LOLI I DAWIDA SCHARFÓW Z ISRAELA

to preserve the cemetery and other remains of Jewish culture in Lodz. In 1996, the World Restitution Organization joined the foundation. In recent years, a project was begun to place low concrete markers on the grave sites in the Ghetto Field. The Ghetto Field is marked by two large Ohels -- a brick construction marking the graves of rabbis, tzaddiks and spiritual masters of Chassidism -- covering the final resting place of the rabbinical dynasty of Pabianice (see section "G-V" in the cemetery plan) and the tzaddikim dynasty from Sochaczew (see section "G-IV" in the cemetery plan). Overgrown vegetation and moisture threaten the condition of the tombstones and create a significant problem in negotiating one's way through the cemetery. Recent efforts have focused on clearing vegetation and leveling the ground, as well as restoration of specific tombstones and mausoleums, the funeral home and the wall surrounding the cemetery.

Indexing of the Lodz Cemetery is in progress.  To see the names  and locations of those already indexed, go to the website for the Jewish Lodz Cemetery and see the cemetery plan.  You can search all the burial plots at one time through Steve Morse's One Step website.

 

The cemetery contains approximately 180,000 graves, marked by approximately 65,000 tombstones, ohels and mausoleums, many of which are of architectural significance.

One hundred of these have been declared historical monuments and are in various stages of restoration. The mausoleum of Izrael and Eleanora Poznanski is perhaps the largest Jewish tombstone in the world and the only one decorated with mosaics. The Monumentum Iudaicum Lodzense Foundation, recently initiated the idea to make the cemetery a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a result, it has now been formally tabled in the Polish parliament by the Polish minister of culture. The present size of the cemetery is 42.5 hectares. It continues to function as a Jewish burial site.

Tombstones in the Lodz Cemetery, with the domed Poznanski mausoleum visible in the background

The International Jewish Cemetery Project entries for the old and new cemeteries in Lodz contain reports on the physical condition of these sites and additional information.

Facts obtained from: Przewodnik po Cmentarzu Zydowskim w Lodzi (A Guide to the Jewish Cemetery in Lodz), 1997, Lodz City Office, A Guide to Jewish Lodz, 1994, by Jerzy Malenczyk, and other sources.

Records of the Cemetery

The extant records of the new cemetery, from 1892 to August 1944, are an excellent source of genealogical information. By viewing the father's name of the deceased, family relationships may be easily identified. After finding records of individuals in the LDS microfilm of Lodz, their burial location in the cemetery records may also be found, if the individual died in, or after, 1892. In some instances, the cemetery records can supplement information found in the ghetto list, Lodz-Names: List of Ghetto Inhabitants, 1940-1944, by supplying the father's name of those in the ghetto list and buried in the cemetery. Some ghetto victims whose names are not found at all in Lodz-Names: List of Ghetto Inhabitants, 1940-1944 are found in the cemetery records. This is evidence that the published ghetto records are an incomplete list of all Jews incarcerated in the ghetto. Limitations of the cemetery records are the lack of maiden names of married women and, occasionally, missing father's names.

These valuable records are held by two entities: the Jewish community of Lodz and the Organization of Former Residents of Lodz in Israel. The best way to obtain information from these entities is an on-site visit, either by yourself or your representative. Be prepared to offer a donation along with your request.

The Jewish Community of Lodz

Mr. Symcha Keller
Gmina Wyznaniowa Zydowska
ul. Pomorska 18
Lodz 90-201, Poland
Phone: 48-42-6320427
Fax: 48-42-6335156

Mr. Symcha Keller is the Secretary of the Jewish Community of Lodz. He has a large card file of, one hopes, all the burials in the large cemetery now in use. Each card gives, at minimum, the name of the person, his or her last address, and the location of the grave. He, as well as the caretaker at the cemetery itself, has a large chart of the graves.

Tombstones in the Lodz Cemetery

I visited the cemetery in 1997. Once you get past the first several rows of graves, which are on open ground, you enter a thicket, almost a jungle. The caretaker put on hip boots before going there. Footing is precarious. Upheaval of the ground here, and there, has thrown gravestones over. To find the grave of one relative I had to keep reading headstones while the caretaker checked against his chart. Back there, the alignment of the rows and columns is not at all clear. At what had to be the grave site of my cousin, the stone was lying on its face; we could not lift it.

Arthur S. Abramson

The Organization of Former Residents of Lodz in Israel
158 Dizengoff Street
Tel Aviv 63461
Israel
Phone: 972-(0)3-524-1833
Fax: 972-(0)3-523-8126

This all volunteer group in Tel Aviv maintains a database of those buried in the Lodz Jewish cemetery, between approximately 1892 and the ghetto's liquidation in August 1944. This information is printed in loose-leaf binders in alphabetical order. The burial list includes an identification number, surname and first name(s), father's name, age at death, date of death as year/month/day and exact site within the cemetery and notes.

Michael J. Meshenberg

For more information, see:

 

Photos courtesy of Pawel B. Dorman and Howard L. Rosen z"l
 

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