The Jewish Cemetery at Chrzanów*
In Chrzanów, as in all cities, a cemetery remained after the Jews left. The Jewish cemetery at Chrzanów reached to the railway tracks, with only a narrow path separating it from the tracks. During the Nazi occupation, the Germans paved a road between Podlawa Street and Pawlok Street and for this purpose part of the cemetery was taken, leaving the cemetery within its present boundaries. The cemetery is fenced off by a wall from the 19th and 20th centuries and by a concrete wall on the side of Podlawa Street.
The Jewish cemetery is also called the House of Life or House of Eternity by the Jews. Adjacent to the Chrzanów Cemetery, at the exit of two bridges and Swietokrzyski Street, two mortuaries stood until the sixty-story building next to Borowcowej Street, and a single-story structure, next to Bartosza Glowackiego Street, were built. Recently, only ruins remained of the buildings, which were dismantled and the area cleared; after the wall was moved a short distance, a sidewalk to Borowcowej Street was built.
Jewish funerals, in contrast to their weddings, are very modest. Burial takes place on the day of death or the next day, as the Talmud stipulates that the burial take place shortly after death. The burial ceremony takes place in the cemetery. Flowers are not placed on the grave, only small stones. On the graves of the righteous, notes with a request are placed. In Jewish cemeteries, the grave exists forever, and not, as is customary in the Christian religion, where a neglected and untended grave may be replaced and a new body buried in the same place.
In the traditional Jewish cemeteries, there is no burial of murderers, criminals or suicides, or of Jewish converts to other religions.
As was accepted in Jewish communities, Chrzanów also had a burial association. Burial customs were determined in the Talmud in the 5th and 6th centuries. In the 18th and the 19th centuries the Jews in Chrzanów also acted in accordance with these customs.
The end of a human life on earth should not be solitary; therefore the entire family accompanies him to burial. After closing the eyes of the deceased, all mirrors in the house are covered, and all vessels containing water are emptied, as the Angel of Death has washed his sword therein. The deceased is laid on the floor and covered with straw or fabric. After the corpse is washed at the House of Purification, it is dressed in a white shroud, and in the case of a married man, also with a prayer shawl. A bag containing earth from Jerusalem was placed under the head of the deceased. The participants in the funeral together cover the grave. For seven days the family is in heavy mourning, during which even meals are not prepared. Official Jewish mourning for the dead lasts for a period of one year. The cemetery must be a distance of at least twenty-five meters from residential homes. It is forbidden to eat and drink within the area of the cemetery, to graze animals, to cut grass therein, or to take a shortcut though the cemetery.
The family of the deceased must erect a gravestone within one year. Thereafter, it is the obligation of the family to maintain and renew it.
*by Victoria Hadish