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Our Bialystok Jewish Angel -- Lucja (Lucy) Lisowska, a Jewish woman living in Bialystok -- is dedicated to preserving Jewish memory and heritage in the Bialystok area. She spends most of her spare time ensuring that the Wschodnia Street Cemetery is cared for and preserved.
In June 2006, Lucy arranged with FODZ (the Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland) to close an opening in the Cemetery wall that allowed partygoers and vandals easy access to the Jewish Cemetery. For more information and photos, click here.
In March 2007, Lucy was instrumental in persuading the Mayor of Bialystok to construct a wall along the northern border of the Wschodnia Street Cemetery that separates the Jewish Cemetery from the adjoining Catholic Cemetery. This wall is the first step in the restoration of this Cemetery and will save those who restore the Cemetery about $80,000 US. For more information and photos, click here.
BIALYSTOK JEWISH CEMETERIES
by Tomasz Wiśniewski (editor's notes in italics)
It appears that six cemeteries were used throughout the centuries by the Jewish community in Bialystok. The first one, from the second half of the 16th century, was probably located at the southern frontage of the Kościuszko Market Square (at the mouth of present Sienkiewicza Street), but neither its existence nor its absence can be confirmed with sufficient evidence.
The second, at the so called "Suraż suburb", came from the 18th century. The oldest tomb here was dated from 1764. This cemetery was situated on Kalinowskiego Street, more or less at the location of the present Park Centralny. It was divided into sections and had alleys marked out. It had functioned till about 1890.
This so called "Central Park" Cemetery is now located under the east half of Bialystok's Central Park. One matzevah survives near a mound (a hill) where it is thought more matzevot are buried. Click for Photos.
Next was the so called "cholera" cemetery situated at Bema Street (at about the present market site). It was established in 1840 with the aim to contain graves of contagious diseases victims (among them those who died in the epidemics of cholera in the 1830s and 1840s). Also bodies of less well-off were buried here. The cemetery was closed in 1892.
The "Cholera" Cemetery is now located under the ZUS (Poland's Social Security Administration) Building and its parking lot. As recent as 2001, the ZUS building was expanded unearthing many Jewish graves. Click for Photo.
Two years earlier, at the area of previous village Bagnówka (now Wschodnia Street) fourth cemetery was located, near orthodox and catholic cemeteries. Contrary to previously mentioned Jewish cemeteries, it still exists. The last burial took place in 1969. It is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Poland (its area measures about 12.5 h). Among its monuments there is the obelisk to the victims of pogroms of 14th, 15th and 16th June 1906.
This Cemetery, known now as the ul. Wschodnia (Street) Cemetery, is currently owned by the City of Bialystok and serves as a public park. Much of the Cemetery grounds still exist, except for the far eastern section, where houses now stand. These houses reportedly are built on foundations made from Jewish Matzevot. Of the estimated 40-50,000 original Matzevot, 5-7,000 still exist, with 50-75% of these either broken or toppled. JewishGen/BIALYGen and a group of students from the University of Bialystok are documenting the surviving Matzevot via digital photos. The students' work, the Golden Macewa Project, has a website.
In May 2002, the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, in compliance with Polish restitution law covering pre-war Jewish communal property, placed a claim on this Cemetery. The processing of this claim continues. As soon as ownership is determined, a project to restore the Cemetery and memorialize our ancestors will commence.
Click for photos.
The most recent Jewish necropolis was the cemetery which, as the only one in the occupied Europe, was established at the area of the Ghetto (at Żabia Street) on August 1, 1941. The bodies of 3,500 victims were buried here, among them fighters of the Ghetto Uprising. The Burial Society (Chewra Kadisza) functioned here until the Ghetto was destroyed in August 1943. The graves were simple, either for one person or common brothers' grave. In the years 1944 – 49, the cemetery was tidied up and enlarged (through buying out private plots of ground). The families of the dead and the murdered put up new tombs, frequently symbolic when the location of the body was unknown. The cemetery became the location of the obelisk to the fallen in the Uprising and Jewish partisans. At the beginning of the 70s, despite numerous protests, the city authorities decided to close down this unique cemetery. The remains of the victims were exhumed and put into a common grave. The tombs, the monuments and the mausoleum disappeared. Today the only evidence of the cemetery is a commemorative plaque erected in 1971.
The ul. Zabia Ghetto Cemetery is now a City park with a monument to the victims who perished in the Bialystok Ghetto. Click for photos.
|Locations of Bialystok Jewish Cemeteries|
|Two Older Bialystok Cemeteries -- "Central Park" and "Cholera"|
|Location of Cemetery now Bialystok's Central Park||Central Park Cemetery - Mound of Possible Matzevot|
|Central Park Cemetery - One Matzevot||Site of ul. Bema (Cholera) Cemetery - ZUS Building|
|ul. Wschodnia Cemetery|
|Cemetery ca. 1917 courtesy of Tomasz Wisniewski||Cemetery Gate: Mark Halpern with Golden Macewa Students|
View of Cemetery from Gate - Power Lines on right and
Houses in background built on Cemetery after WW2
|Cemetery View||Cemetery View|
|Cemetery borders Catholic Cemetery||Matzevah used as paving stone|
|Ohel for Rabbi Chaim Herc Halpern (1922)||Memorial to Victims of 1906 Pogrom||Sample Matzevah|
|Samples of Remaining Matzevot|
|ul. Zabia Ghetto Cemetery|
|Commemorates Fighters of Ghetto Uprising||Commemorates 3,000 Jews murdered in Ghetto|
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Copyright © 2004-07 BialyGen, Mark Halpern, Coordinator, All rights reserved.
Last Updated on 6 April 2007.