Jewish cemetery, Góra Kalwaria
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The town of Góra Kalwaria was founded by Warsaw bishop Stefan Wierzbowski in 1670, but the first Jews did not settle there until the beginning of the 19th century. This became possible after the secularization of church properties when the area was included in the Prussian Partition - earlier de non tolerandis Judaeis privilege was in force in the town. From 1802, the newcomers, arriving mainly from other towns in southern Mazovia, rented lodgings from the Poles, and soon also whole houses. The Jewish community was established in 1821. In the middle of the 19th century, a wooden synagogue was erected at Pijarska Street. At that time, Jews constituted about half of the town's population (in the following quarter of a century, their percentage increased considerably). After the wooden synagogue was burned, in the same place a new brick synagogue was built in the years 1901-1902. The growing competition of Jewish merchants, traders and craftsmen aroused discontent of the Christian townspeople, who demanded that following the example of Grójec, also in Góra Kalwaria, the production and distribution of alcohol by Jews - in taverns and inns - should be prohibited.

The decisive event that contributed to the dynamic development of the local Jewish community turned out to be the settlement in Góra Kalwaria of the tzadik dynasty from the Alter lineage. In 1859, Icchak Meir Rothenberg Alter came there from Warsaw. The knowledge, authority and charisma of the tzadik attracted thousands of Hasidim from various parts of Polish lands. The successor of the tzadik called Gerer Rebe (Ger it is the Jewish name of Góra Kalwaria) became his grandson Juda Arie Lejb (called the Tongue of Truth, from the title of his best-known work Sfas Emes). It was during his “reign” that a new synagogue was erected. After him, his son, Abraham Mordechai Alter, headed the Hasidic court in Ger. After the World War I, the tzadik's court remained an important centre of social and political life of Polish Jews. Hassidim from all over Poland and beyond its borders made pilgrimages to Góra Kalwaria. Góra Kalwaria was also an unofficial seat of the strongest Jewish political party Aguda, representing Orthodox Jews. After the outbreak of the war, the tzadik Alter with his two sons went to Warsaw, from where - thanks to the help of Italian Embassy official and Jewish activists - they reached Palestine.

As soon as Góra Kalwaria was captured by Germans in 1939, repressions against the Jewish population began. German mayor Ewald Jauke forbade Jews, among others, to engage in trade, crafts and breeding and also forbade contacts with the Polish population. The community was obliged to provide a daily contingent of 100 men for forced labour. In the spring of 1940, about 400 Jews were brought to Góra Kalwaria from the towns incorporated into the Reich: Łódź, Pabianice, Aleksandrów and Sierpc. There came also deportees from Włocławek and Kalisz. In June 1940, a ghetto was established in the pre-war Jewish quarter (with the Jewish police). It covered the area between the Pijarska, Piłsudskiego, Senatorska and Strażacka streets. In total between 3,000 and 4,000 people were crammed in it. The ghetto ceased to exist at the end of February 1941 – when around 3,000 people were deported to Warsaw and from there to Treblinka in the following year. Several hundred people were shot during the liquidation of the ghetto. It is estimated that only 30 to 40 members of the community of 3,500 people survived the Holocaust.

The Jewish cemetery in Góra Kalwaria was founded at the beginning of the 19th century. It was located at the end of the present day Kalwaryjska Street, just behind the Catholic cemetery. The very first mentions of the necropolis appeared in the town budget for 1827–1832, in which the revenue from the Jewish community resulting from the lease of the burial ground was evaluated. It was not until 1864 that the synagogue supervision in Góra Kalwaria became the formal owner of the cemetery. Over the time of its functioning, the surface of the necropolis gradually expanded. During World War II, the Germans devastated and desecrated the cemetery. Most of the tombstones were taken away and used for construction works. Also the tzadiks' ohel, the fence of the necropolis and the pre-burial house were destroyed. Germans used the cemetery as the place where they were executing people of Jewish origin. Most of the graves of the victims of the Holocaust remain unmarked.

Nowadays, the cemetery covers an area of 1.3 hectares. About 140 tombstones or their parts have survived. Most of them were found outside the necropolis and recovered after the German devastation - unfortunately only few are marking the original burial sites. The oldest identified original matzevah is dated 1840 and commemorates Michal Messyng, daughter of Benjamin Bajnisz. After the end of World War II, the desecrated tomb of the Alter family was secured; in 1991 the destroyed ohel of the tzadik dynasty was rebuilt. In 1984, the present gate was installed, with an inscribed year of the arrival of first Jews to Góra Kalwaria. The current state of the cemetery is largely thanks to the tireless work of Feliks Wolf Karpman, one of the few survivors who stayed in his hometown. At his initiative, among others, a gate from the property belonging to the Alter family was brought to the cemetery. In 1989, the Nissenbaum Family Foundation commissioned the construction of a concrete driveway to the cemetery, a new permanent fence and a roof over the well. Despite the destruction, the necropolis in Góra Kalwaria is today one of the best looked after Jewish cemeteries in Poland.

Owner of copyrights to the description: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

General information

  • Type: Jewish cemetery
  • Chronology: pocz. XIX w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Zakalwaria , Góra Kalwaria
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district piaseczyński, commune Góra Kalwaria - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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