World Society Vice-President Visits Częstochowa Jewish Cemetery

January 13, 2019

World Society Vice-President and Chairman of the Association of Częstochowa Jews in Israel, Alon Goldman, visited Częstochowa for the purpose of promoting a process which would be able to resolve the issue of the ownership of our Jewish Cemetery so that restoration works can begin.

The Cemetery is in a neglected condition. The surrounding wall is almost completely destroyed, many trees have collapsed and wild vegetation covers many graves.

Alon Goldman writes:

Unfortunately, due to the absence of an active Jewish community, such as in Warsaw, Kraków, Wrocław, etc., this issue has not been dealt with since the end of World War II. Apparently, to everyone, it was too uncomfortable and, as a result, no one took responsibility for the Cemetery – neither the municipality within whose jurisdiction the Cemetery lies and whose citizens are buried there, nor the Jewish Community Council of Katowice, which is now geographically responsible for Częstochowa. Surprisingly, the “Jewish Community Council of Częstochowa” (“Gmina”) is still listed today as the Cemetery’s owner, even though that organisation has not existed for many years.

This issue is of great importance and urgency given, for example, the antisemitic graffiti on the Cemetery gate last month, the massive construction being carried out around the Cemetery and the factories lying close to its fence.

During my previous visit to the city in September 2018, during the Huberman Violin Festival, I agreed with the Mayor that, on my next visit, there would be a comprehensive discussion on the subject, with the participation of Władek Kac, Director of the Katowice Jewish Community Council, whose jurisdiction covers Częstochowa and its Jewish community. Our friend, attorney Krzystof Straus, who helped us a lot in this matter, would also attend the meeting.

Unfortunately, despite a willingness to make concessions to the Częstochowa municipality regarding demands for compensation for the pre-War assets of the Częstochowa Jewish community, provided that the funds be used to restore the Cemetery, the municipality refused to accept responsibility for the Cemetery.

On two issues, it can be said that there has been some or partial:

  • The municipality will file a request to the District to receive a budget for the restoration of what are known as “War Graves” – these refer to the Mass Graves in the Jewish Cemetery.
  • The municipality will apply to the District for approval, without actually taking responsibility for the Cemetery, to manage/approve the restoration of the Cemetery’ wall due to the existing risks it poses to the integrity of the War Graves and to the integrity of the Cemetery itself.

On a snowy morning, I went to the Cemetery with Aleksandra Janikowska-Perczak, Director of the Department of Preservation of Sites in Częstochowa. Among other things, this departments is responsible for the preservation of the site of the Cemetery. Ms. Janikowska-Perczak was noted the poor condition of the Cemetery and we exchanged ideas about ways to restore the wall and about what was needed to restore the Cemetery itself. I must point out that, following the visit, Ms Aleksandra Janikowska-Perczak expressed her willingness and goodwill to help advance the issue with her own areas of responsibility.

I very much hope that, after this visit, we will find a solution and be able to move forward with restoring the cemetery – one of the last vestiges of the rich Jewish history of Częstochowa and of a Jewish community that no longer exists.

During this visit, I gave a particularly moving lecture to Henryk Sienkiewicz High School students in Częstochowa, where I told them about the history of my family in the Holocaust and what happened to the Jews of Częstochowa at that time. It was particularly moving since my father, Jerucham, Jerzy Goldman z”l, was a graduate of this high school in the 1935 class.