Old Jewish Cemetery, Lublin
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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According to the historical tradition the beginnings of the Jewish community in Lublin dates back to the times of Casimir III the Great. However, the earliest records relating to Jews in Lublin were written in the second half of the 15th century. At that time, Casimir IV Jagiellon granted to Lublin Jews the privilege of free trade (1453). They settled in Podzamcze (outside the town walls). The royal privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis which was granted to Lublin in 1535, prevented them from permanently inhabiting within the town walls, and this also caused the separation of the Jewish part of the town from the Christian part, which lasted until 1862. The rapid development of the Lublin community (of nearly 1,000 members) took place at the time of Sigismund’s reign. In 1556 Sigismund II Augustus confirmed the internal jurisdictional and administrative autonomy of the Jewish Community Co-operative. Eleven years later, the royal privilege was granted for the construction of
a brick synagogue. In the years 1580–1764, the established by King Stefan Batory so-called Council of Four Lands (Va’ad Arba Aracot) was gathering and debating in Lublin.

The wars in the middle of the 17th century put an end to the times of prosperity. In 1655, the Moscow-Cossack army burnt down the Jewish town, murdering over 2,000 inhabitants. More than
a century had to pass before the Lublin community was fully reborn. Some of the Lublin Jews joined the Frankist ranks, but at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, thanks to the tzadik Yaakov Yitzhak Horowitz, called the Seer of Lublin, the town became one of the most important Hasidic centres in the country.

From 1862, Jews (constituting half of Lublin's population) were allowed to settle in the area of the representative Krakowskie Przedmieście, in the surrounding of Lubartowska Street and in the Old Town. In Poland reborn, Lublin remained an important centre of Jewish social, cultural and educational life. In 1939, on the eve of the outbreak of the war, the Jewish community of Lublin numbered 43,000 people, constituting 35% of the total population. At that time, there were over
100 houses of prayer in the city.

Already at the beginning of German occupation, in November 1939, Jews living in the city centre were resettled to the area of the former Jewish quarter in Podzamcze (outside the Town walls). In January 1940, a 24-member Judenrat was established in Lublin, headed by Henryk Bekker. In March 1941, about 10,000 Lublin Jews were resettled to neighbouring towns, while the majority of the remaining were enclosed in the ghetto, set up in Podzamcze. Its area was initially delineated by Kowalska, Krawiecka, Sienna, Kalinowszczyzna, Franciszkańska, Unicka and Lubartowska streets.

In March 1942, Germans began to liquidate the ghetto, transporting from 26,000 to 30,000 Lublin Jews to the extermination camp in Bełżec. The remaining 7,000 were moved to a new ghetto in Majdan Tatarski. By November of that year they were all transported to the Majdanek concentration camp. The last Jews of Lublin perished on November 3, 1943, during the Aktion Erntefest, when Germans executed over 18,000 prisoners of Majdanek. It is estimated that out of the pre-war Jewish community in Lublin of 40,000 people, only 1,200 survived the war. German occupiers destroyed the deserted Jewish quarter in Podzamcze and devastated three Jewish cemeteries in Lublin.

In 1944-1945, a Jewish community of several thousand people was reborn in Lublin, but most of them emigrated after the pogrom in Kielce. In the 1950s, several hundred Jews still lived in Lublin, most of whom left the city after the events of March 1968. Currently, the Jewish Religious Community in Warsaw has its branch in Lublin.

The history of the old Jewish cemetery in Lublin dates back to the first half of the 16th century. It was founded on an afforested hill called Grodzisko, which until the end of the 10th century was used for defensive purposes. The privilege granted in 1555 by Sigismund I the Old confirmed the Jews' right to use part of the hill as a burial place, but the oldest tombstone preserved to this day was erected in 1541. With time, the cemetery covered the entire hill. In the first half of the 17th century, the cemetery was surrounded by a wall that is still there. The last burials in the old cemetery took place in 1830. The necropolis had been destroyed many times. It suffered the most serious damage during World War II. This resulted from the strategic advantages of the Grodzisko hill. Approximately 200 tombstones were destroyed. Part of the matzevot was used by the Germans for paving roads and squares, some were devastated in the post-war period (among others, in the years 1988-1991 there were several acts of vandalism in which 40 tombstones were ruined). After the World War II, the then communist authorities of the city completely neglected the necropolis. In the years 1968-1976 archaeological research was carried out at the cemetery, aimed at finding an old settlement. In the 1980s, thanks to the efforts of the Society for the Protection of Memorablia of Jewish Culture and funds from, inter alia, the Rotschild Foundation, the cleaning works in the cemetery began.

Currently the old Jewish cemetery at Kalinowszczyzna Street covers an area of about 1 hectare. Of the 3,000 tombstones, which were tightly arranged over the entire area of the hill, only about
60 have been preserved to this day. However, you can still see many tombstones of people especially meritorious for the Lublin Jewish community. The matzeva of the learned Talmudist Jaakow Kopelman, who died in 1541, is the oldest Jewish tombstone in Poland, standing in its original place. Nearby, there is a tombstone of the Seer of Lublin (died in 1815), renovated and secured with contemporary, open ohel. It is considered to be the oldest in Poland preserved in its entirety tombstone of a tzadik. The group of tombstones preserved in the old cemetery in Lublin reflects the processes of development of Jewish sepulchral art from the first half of the 16th century until the 1930s.

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

General information

  • Type: Jewish cemetery
  • Chronology: I poł. XVI w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Kalinowszczyzna 5, Lublin
  • Location: Voivodeship lubelskie, district Lublin, commune Lublin
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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