Jewish cemetery complex, Katowice
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Jewish cemetery complex

Katowice

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The Jewish cemetery in Katowice is one of the largest and best-preserved sites of this kind in the entire region. At the same time, it also forms an example of one of the most recently established Jewish cemeteries in the Silesian province, formed during a period when many Jews residing in larger towns and cities were beginning to become assimilated into the mainstream Polish society; these cemeteries, formed in an increasingly secular culture, dispensed with many of the orthodox religious principles, allowing, for example, for sepulchral monuments to be erected as free-standing structures or resting against the nearby walls. Another important feature of the complex, containing more than 1400 headstones and matzevot, are the preserved, original auxiliary buildings, including one of the few surviving Jewish funeral homes in the region as well as the last surviving example of a burial society building.

History

The formation of the Jewish community in Katowice in 1866 was the consequence of a rapid influx of Jews into the town after it was granted municipal rights in 1865. The newly formed community covered the area of the erstwhile town of Katowice, Katowicka Hałda and Brynów, which were later joined by Załęże, Dąb, Józefowiec, Bogucice, Zawodzie and Ligota Pszczyńska. Soon after the Jewish community was formed, a campaign for the establishment of a Jewish cemetery in Katowice has begun; before the cemetery was opened, the dead were buried in the existing burial ground in Mysłowice. In 1868, the Jewish community acquired a plot of land located in the vicinity of what is now known as Kozielska street and subsequently established their cemetery there. The cemetery was officially opened on September 9, 1869 (burial plots 5-14), with the very first burial ceremony taking place there in the February of 1870. The cemetery site was later successively expanded throughout the first half of the 20th century, on three distinct occasions. In 1910, the lot previously occupied by the auxiliary facilities of the burial society building was incorporated into the cemetery site, as was the north-eastern corner (burial plots no. 1-4). In 1927, the cemetery was expanded through the addition of the southern section (burial plots no. 15-22 and 23); these new sections were subsequently surrounded by a fence in 1929. The very last extension of the burial ground took place in 1945, with the addition of a rectangular plot of land on the south-western side (burial plots no. 22-23).

In 1869, when the cemetery was being formed, a Gothic Revival funeral home (known as the “House of Purification”) was erected. Rituals aimed at preparing the deceased for their final journey would be performed inside the building before the funeral ceremony itself.

The building was originally designed as a single-bay structure consisting of three rooms in total. The main entrance, positioned on the middle axis of the front façade, led directly into the spacious main hall where the bodies would be displayed. The hall was flanked by a pair of side prayer rooms where men and women would pray separately during the funerary ceremony. In the years 1927-1928, the building was redesigned by I. Grünfeld; a second, Neoclassical suite of rooms was added to the existing structure, with two separate entrances leading directly into the side sections of the building. During World War II, the interiors were devastated, with some of the interior partitions being torn down. After 1945, the building served as a storage facility. Today, the structure remains abandoned.

The burial society building, erected in 1890 in the north-eastern part of the cemetery, remains another essential part of the complex. In the years 1927-1928, the building was redesigned in the Neoclassical style, with single-storey annexes added on the northern and western sides of the existing structure. The building consisted of the official section, where the deceased would be prepared for the funeral rites, as well as the residential section for the cemetery watchman. After 1945, some of the interior space inside the building was allocated for use as a funeral home due to the partial destruction of the building which had hitherto performed this function. The residential section, on the other hand, continued to serve its original purpose well into the 1990s. In 2003, two rooms at the south-eastern corner of the building were torn down due to poor technical condition. Today, the building remains abandoned. It is the only surviving structure of its kind in the Silesian province.

Description

The cemetery complex is located in the south-western part of the Katowice city centre, at the intersection of Kozielska and Nad Osiekiem streets. The cemetery site is home to an ensemble of historical headstones surrounded by tall trees and shrubs, accompanied by the former funeral home and burial society building, positioned in the vicinity of Kozielska street. The entire complex is surrounded by an old, brick wall running along the northern, eastern and southern boundaries of the site, as well as a contemporary concrete fence on the north-western boundary.

The cemetery occupies an irregular, roughly L-shaped plot of land. The entire complex consists of two parts: the older, northern section (1869 and 1910) as well as the more recent, southern section (1927, 1945), surrounded by the preserved, original perimeter wall.

The older part of the cemetery, designed on an elongated trapezium-shaped plan, consists of 14 geometric burial plots separated by walking paths. The layout of the walking paths consists of three axes running in parallel to Kozielska street, with the middle one performing the function of the main alley, as well as five axes positioned at a right angle towards the street. An additional, peripheral path runs along the wall on the northern and western side, connecting to the southern alley running in parallel to the wall and separating the old and the new part of the cemetery. The total number of headstones currently present in the cemetery exceeds 1400. Most of the headstones originate from the 20th century and take the form of simple matzevot; there are also free-standing monuments or monuments positioned adjacent to the perimeter wall, created in the late 19th and early 20th century. Most of the latter are family tombs adorned with Historicist decorations, including the tombs of eminent families who have made a name for themselves in the annals of the city, i.e. the Goldstein, Grünfeld and Schalsch families. The tomb of doctor Jacob Cohn, the rabbi of the Katowice religious community, has also survived intact. The cemetery lies in the shade of purpose-designed plantings of trees and shrubs. The walking paths are lined with small-leaved linden, horse chestnut, white locust and warty birch.

Two free-standing buildings can be seen in the northern part of the cemetery: the funeral home and the burial society building; these buildings are linked by a wall running alongside the Kozielska street, containing the main entrance into the cemetery. The funeral home, positioned on the western side, is a single-storey structure with a low, colonnaded portico up front, its four columns supporting a triangular tympanum. The funerary society building, positioned on the eastern side, was designed on an irregular plan, consisting of several distinct sections covered with gable roofs (above the older part of the building) as well as a mono-pitched roof above the more recent section thereof.

The cemetery is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM (except Saturdays).

compiled by Agnieszka Olczyk, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 23-07-2014.

Bibliography

  • Cohn J., Historia gminy synagogalnej w Katowicach na Górnym Śląsku, Katowice 2004
  • Architectural monument record sheet. Zespół cmentarza żydowskiego [w Katowicach] (Jewish cemetery complex in Katowice), prepared by D. Bajowska, A. Olczyk, 2013, Archive of the National Heritage Board of Poland
  • Architectural monument record sheet. Dom bractwa pogrzebowego w zespole cmentarza żydowskiego [w Katowicach] (Jewish cemetery complex in Katowice - burial society building), prepared by D. Bajowska, A. Olczyk, 2013, Archive of the National Heritage Board of Poland
  • Architectural monument record sheet. Dom przedpogrzebowy w zespole cmentarza żydowskiego [w Katowicach] (Jewish cemetery complex in Katowice - funeral home), prepared by D. Bajowska, A. Olczyk, 2013, Archive of the National Heritage Board of Poland
  • Architectural monument record sheet. Ogrodzenie w zespole cmentarza żydowskiego [w Katowicach] (Jewish cemetery complex in Katowice - perimeter wall), prepared by D. Bajowska, A. Olczyk, 2013, Archive of the National Heritage Board of Poland
  • Zabytki kultury żydowskiej w województwie śląskim, G. Bożek (ed.), Katowice 2007
  • Zabytki Sztuki w Polsce. Śląsk, S. Brzezicki, C. Nielsen (eds.), Warsaw 2006.

General information

  • Type: Jewish cemetery
  • Chronology: 1869 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Kozielska 16, Katowice
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district Katowice, commune Katowice
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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