Restoring Dignity to the Jewish Cemetery of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski
The Jews of Ostrowiec Memorial Project, based in Israel, has worked over many years to preserve the history and memory of the Jewish community of Ostrowiec along with its cemetery, much of which was devastated over the years.
The first mention of the Jewish Cemetery in Ostrowiec dates to 1657. Unfortunately during the post Shoah (Holocaust) years, much of the cemetery that had not been destroyed by the Germans, was damaged by the local population. The majority of the cemetery was later made into a grass covered park, and about 150 tombstones were gathered in a lapidarium that is currently protected and fenced off. The organizers plan in 2022 to begin to:
Coordinate general cleaning and pruning of trees near the lapidarium
Repair and restore matzevot and monuments
Paint the fence
Establish a plaque or monument to those buried there
Jews first settled in Ostrowiec in the early part of the 17th century. By 1925, there were over 9,000 Jews in the Ostrowiec community, with four main synagogues and over 40 smaller ones throughout the area.
After Germans entered the city on September 7, 1939, a Judenrat was set up and Jews were forced to be slave laborers in German controlled factories. In the spring of 1941, a ghetto was established in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski including Jews that were brought in from surrounding areas. On October 11-12, 1942, about 11,000 Jews were rounded up in the town square. About 1,000 were shot dead and the “non-workers” were sent in cattle cars by train to their death in Treblinka. A small labor camp for Jews, called the small ghetto, was set up in a portion of the former ghetto. In January 1943, there was a second deportation of about 2,000 Jews to Treblinka. Over 1,000 Jews were sent to labor camps in Sandomierz and Bliżyn. In July and August 1944, the women and men (mainly from the slave labor camp in the steel works) were deported to the death camp in Auschwitz. Ostrowiec was liberated in January 1945 by the Red Army. Few Jews, however, returned to live in Ostrowiec, fearing pogroms or anti-Jewish activity. After the War, by May 1945, less than 200 Jews remained.
For more information about on the Jewish history of Ostrowiec and the activities of the Jews of Ostrowiec Memorial Project, see https://jewsofostrowiec.com
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See the winter 2022 video of a walk through the cemetery!