Summary of the Year
Summary of the most important events of Jewish life in Poland between February 2017 and March 2018
Excerpt from the article:
Wrocław Classenstrasse Cemetery
In Winter 2017, human bones were discovered on Wrocław’s Gwarna Street just by the city’s main railway station. This has renewed interest in the old Jewish cemetery, which was once located in the area. The story is full of nuances, but the general outline is as follows:
The Classenstrasse cemetery, founded in the 1760s, has in part survived the war, yet for many years now no traces of its existence visible have been visible. Parts of the cemetery were razed by Germans, while others have been occupied by apartment houses, garages and sports facilities, progressively constructed there by the Polish administration since German Breslau became Polish Wrocław in 1945.
In 2015, an investor purchased a plot of land – a small part of the pre-war cemetery – with the intention of building a hotel on it. The archeological documentation from 2013, which made this purchase possible, stated that the ground was “clear” and thus construction work could begin. The plot of land in question contained a German-built bunker and some garages. In Winter 2016-17, construction work started, and it soon turned out that the ground purchased by the investor was full of human bones. The heavy machinery was removed and, between March and April 2017, archeological works were conducted. The remains of around a hundred people were discovered, though not in an untouched state, but rather tucked into small wooden boxes. It is assumed that these remains were brought from their original burial sites in other parts of the cemetery to this one area shortly before the war, since the Germans had been gradually reducing the size of the necropolis. The archeologist also discovered many swastika pins that had been thrown into the pits, concluding that these pins constitute evidence of intentional desecration carried out by Nazis. As the Chief Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich explains, original graves would never be disturbed, yet the situation encountered in Gwarna Street was unprecedented.
As of March 2018, one year has passed since the completion of the archeological work. The shell of a several stories high hotel already stands on the plot of land in question, while the exhumed bones are awaiting burial in a dignified manner in the functioning Jewish cemetery in Wrocław. It must also be mentioned here that the Wrocław Jewish Community, re-established in the post-communist period, could not by any legal means or at any time, reclaim ownership of the plot purchased by the investor. There is however a small part of the former Classenstrasse cemetery premises with no buildings or facilities standing on it, which the community is currently trying to reclaim.
At that very moment in time, when the case had almost come to an end, an article entitled “Digging Up the Past in the Jewish Cemetery” appeared in the American Tablet Magazine. Its author, who never sought to contact the local Jewish community, presents a somewhat sensationalistic image of a community that appears ignorant of the fate of the cemetery and the human bones unearthed there a year ago. Following the publication of this article, Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, issued a letter with his corrections, which was also published in the Tablet. Rabbi Schudrich states explicitly therein that the bones will be buried in due course. At the same time, the Wrocław Jewish Community is continuing all necessary legal proceedings to obtain ownership rights to the undeveloped plot of land next to the hotel, which is of course a lengthy and complicated process. Once this becomes a reality, the community will doubtless take care to properly commemorate the dead and protect this cultural heritage site. The owners of the hotel worked together with the Jewish Community throughout the whole process, as the Chief Rabbi also emphasizes.
Translation: Katarzyna Andersz
Proofreading: Barbara Pendzich, Maximilian Eisenhardt
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