The Jews of Kraków and its Surrounding Towns

The 'Mysterious' Chevra Kadisha Cemetery Book

During the German invasion of Kraków and the subsequent destruction of the Miodowa Street cemetery, someone had the foresight and good sense to hide the Chevra Kadisha's Cemetery Register in a chimney of one of the Judenstadt houses. After The War, during renovations, this register was re-discovered and was again used to record the locations of post–war burials. This book was eventually brought to Israel by the late Yaakov Lieberman, whose wife, Shoshana, made it available to JewishGenners. The register covered the years since 1922 (plus a few earlier records), and listed the plot, row, and grave number for over 20,000 burials. In 1999, volunteers transcribed the data from this 'Tel Aviv' book into a database that can be searched at JRI-Pl.

The only book left
(click to enlarge)

Now, in 2002, a researcher (M. Romm) — during a trip to Kraków — discovered what she called "the only book left (hidden in the chimney) after the Jewish Community building was burnt in 1945 — the index of the Jewish cemetery". This book is now in the Jewish Community Office in Kraków. It seems that we are thus dealing with two books. Click on the image to the left to see a larger view of this fascinating 'Kraków' book (images provided by M. Romm).

What makes this mystery even more strange is the next image (lower right) that shows the burial data for Moshe GRAJOWER. It shows that he was buried in Plot 3 1/2, Row 2, Grave 15. Note the page number in this image: Page 177.

Now, if one searches the JRI-PL database, one will see that it also has a Moshe GRAJOWER buried in Plot 3 1/2, Row 2, Grave 15. In this case, however, the entry is found on page number 69! It is thus clear that there were TWO Chevra Kadisha books — one written in Hebrew, that today lies in Kraków, and the other written in Western Script and has been in Tel Aviv, Israel, for the past five years or so.

The only book  M.I.G. grave
(click to enlarge)

Several questions arise:

One possible explanation is that the Chevra Kadisha kept their own register, written in Hebrew, and arranged according to first name, whereas the Kraków Municipality kept its own register, written in Polish, and arranged according to surname. It should also be noted that the 'Kraków' book is small and easily hidden in a chimney, whereas the 'Tel Aviv' book was huge (as those researchers who did the transcription will readily testify) and thus probably difficult to place in a chimney. Perhaps details of the 'chimney story' got a bit blurred with the passage of time — it applied to the 'Kraków' book, but not to the 'Tel Aviv' book.

…a truly mysterious book


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Compiled by Eilat Gordin Levitan. Updated March 8, 2020 Copyright © 2007 Eilat Gordin Levitan (