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Wroclaw - the City of Jewish Cemeteries

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The city of  Wroclaw boasts not only ''The White Stork'' Synagogue but two Jewish cemeteries as well. The older one situated at 37/39 Slezna Street is at the same time the Museum of the Cemetery Art (the branch of the City Museum of Wroclaw). The cemetery covers the area of 4.6 ha and its origins go back as far as 1856 when the first burial took place. However, some of the tombs come from earlier times. The oldest matzeva dates back to 1203 and is regarded as the oldest tomb plate in Poland.

The cemetery contains a variety of tomb architecture. The tomb monuments range from small forms like columns, steles, sarcophaguses to large ones such as mausoleum chapels and sepulchers with portals and canopies, etc. This necropolis is also noted for the rich collection of cemetery art symbolic decoration of the graves and the matzevas (some Mauretian or Egyptian in style).

Currently, it is estimated that there are 12.000 graves in the Jewish cemetery. Some of them are the tombs of people coming from distant places like Boston, Lubeca, Bonn, Hanover, Gdansk, Warsaw, Tanger (Morocco) for the reason that according to a religious rule the bodies had to be buried on the day of the death or on the next day.

The tombs of the following personalities can be found there:
  • Ferdinand Lassalle - the founder of the first labour party in Germany
  • Heinrich Graetz – the author of the ‘’History of the Jews’’
  • Ferdinand Cohn – a world famous biologist
  • Gedajle Tiktin – rabbi of the Jewish community, since 1854 the first Royal National Rabbi for the district of Silesia
  • Auguste and Siegfried Stein – parents of Edith Stein a.k.a. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – a Carmelite nun and convert from Judaism via atheism and
  • Julius Schottländer - a famous German merchant.
 
In 1943 the cemetery was closed, however, during World War II wartime activities took place there. Some bullet traces can be found on some of the matzevas nowadays. Though after the war the cemetery began to fall into decay, it was later renovated.Nowadays the cemetery has been a historical monument since 1975.
 
Open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

The other cemetery, covering the area of about 11 ha, is situated in Lotnicza Street. It is the fifth largest Jewish cemetery in Poland. It was founded in 1902 when the cemetery at Slezna Street was too small. Since then it has been used by the Jewish Community of Wroclaw. Due to its historical and architectural beauty in 1983 the cemetery was registered as a historical monument. The number of the tombs amounts to approximately 8 thousand. The cemetery is also rich in architecturally varied tombstones and matzevas. The peculiarity is the only ohel (exceptionally dedicated to a woman) to be found in the area of Lower Silesia. There is also a tomb of the Jewish soldiers of the German Army who died during the First World War. Their names (as many as 432) are curved on the top of the monument. Though all the tombs are valuable examples of cemetery architecture, it is hard at times to admire their beauty as lots of the tombs are overgrown with ivy. Nevertheless, walking along the paths with the plants growing wild has an aura of tranquility and mystery.

The cemetery is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday. No fee is charged.
 
 

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