New Jewish cemetery, Siedlce
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The history of the Jewish community in Siedlce, a village existing already in the 15th century, at that time located in the Sandomierz province and afterwards in the Lublin province, dates back to the middle of the following century. It was then that the first Jews started to settle in the new town, founded in 1547 by the owner of the estates, Stanisław Siedlecki. The earliest records in historical sources were made in the period of Władysław IV Vasa (privilege from 1635).

During the Czartoryski and Ogiński princes rule over Siedlce estates (1670-1807), the town grew into an important economic centre. Significant role in the development of Siedlce was played by
a growing Jewish community which at the beginning of the reign of Stanisław August had over 500 members. In 1794, by virtue of the royal privilege, a synagogue was built. The period of the Duchy of Warsaw and the Congress Kingdom was marked by a sharp increase of the Jewish population in the town which at that time functioned as the capital of the district, and then of the province and guberniya. In 1839, over 3,700 Jews lived in Siedlce (71% of the total population), and in 1865 – as many as 7,100 (73%). A manifestation of the community growth was the construction of a new synagogue (1859) and the opening of a large Jewish hospital (1890). The town served as the centre of social and cultural life of Jews from Podlasie region. Two newspapers were published there: Siedlecer Wochenblat and Dos Siedlecer lebn. Of the several hundred Jewish workshops and stores in the town, most were involved in shoemaking and tailoring.

During the 1905-1907 revolution, Jewish population of Siedlce was subjected to a bloody pacification by regular troops of the Russian army – the only successful attempt at organizing pogrom in the Congress Kingdom, in a manner they were taking place further east in the Russian Empire. Earlier, the secret Russian political police, Okhrana, failed to provoke the Polish community of the town to attack Jews accused of anti-state revolutionary activity. In September 1906, during the three-day pacification, probably as many as several dozen Jews perished in Siedlce, many more were injured and hundreds were arrested. Several hundred shops and homes were looted, many families were left homeless.

In 1912, there were two synagogues, three prayer houses and 20 Hasidic prayer rooms, serving the community of more than 17,000 people. Local branches of Jewish socio-political organizations were established, including the Zionist movement. In the interwar period, Jews continued to dominate in the economic life of Siedlce, one of the more important towns in the Lublin province, although their percentage of all inhabitants of Siedlce decreased steadily. In 1921, the community had fewer than 15,000 people, or 48% of the total population. On the eve of the outbreak of World War II, it constituted only 37% of the total number of inhabitants.

In September 1939, German troops occupied Siedlce, and that was the beginning of the Holocaust. Already on the night of 24 to 25 December, the occupants burned down the synagogue. In 1940, two Jewish districts were delineated (the so-called open ghettos). One covered the area of 1 Maja, Orzeszkowej, Kochanowskiego, Old Market, Browarna, Jatkowa, Targowa, Asłanowicza, Błonie and Pusta streets; the second included Sienkiewicza, Kilińskiego, Przejazd, Asz, Kozia, Poprzeczna, Pułaskiego and Przechodnia streets. In August 1941, Germans changed the first of them into a closed ghetto, in which they crammed over 12,000 Jews (including a group from Kalisz and the surrounding areas). A year later, about 10,000 ghetto prisoners were transported to the extermination camp in Treblinka, the remaining were temporarily left in a residual ghetto (forced labour camp in the area of 11 Listopada, Asłanowicza and Sokołowska streets). The last ones were murdered in Treblinka or shot in the Jewish cemetery in November 1942. It is estimated that from the pre-war community of Siedlce Jews, about 100 people survived the Holocaust.

The New Jewish Cemetery in Siedlce (the third in terms of the time of its establishment) located at Szkolna Street was probably founded in 1807. Originally it had the shape of a rectangle. In 1910, the oldest tombstone with a readable inscription was dated 1827. In the years 1869-1939, the cemetery was gradually enlarged by including further plots, which made it of an irregular shape. The last burial at the cemetery took place in 1988. During the German occupation, the cemetery in Siedlce became a place of mass executions of local Jews. In 1942, the remains of the deceased in transport from the ghetto in Radom were buried there. The corpses of Jews murdered near Siedlce were also brought and burned at the cemetery. In 1944, in order to erase the traces of the crime, Germans began to dig out corpses from mass graves and burn them. The occupants desecrated and devastated the cemetery: a large number of the tombstones served to build roads (used, among other things, to make kerbs); wall from the side of Szkolna Street was destroyed, and the remaining tombstones scattered and broken. In the years 1987-1989 the cemetery area was cleaned up and the brick wall was renovated. Since 1999, as a result of the restitution process, the Jewish cemetery has been owned by the Jewish Religious Community in Warsaw.

Currently, the cemetery covers an area of 3 ha. It contains about 1000 gravestones, the oldest of which dates back to 1855. On matzevot there are inscriptions in Hebrew and Yiddish. Among the most valuable are the tombstones from the second half of the 19th century: on the grave of Abraham, son of Meir Jonasz Rozenberg and on the grave of Rachel, daughter of Abraham and Rachel. There is a mass grave of the victims of the pogrom from 1906, and 18 mass graves of 5 and 10 meters length from 1942-1943, in which about 3,000 murdered Jews were buried. The place of their burial has been commemorated with a monument. In the first years after World War II the bodies of Jews which during the war were buried in the vicinity of Siedlce were exhumed. Their remains were also buried in the cemetery at Szkolna Street. There is a commemorative plaque on their grave. In 2009, thanks to the efforts of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland and the Jewish Religious Community in Warsaw, the plaque commemorating Siedlce Jews was placed on the gate of the cemetery.

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

General information

  • Type: Jewish cemetery
  • Chronology: 1807 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Szkolna , Siedlce
  • Location: Voivodeship mazowieckie, district Siedlce, commune Siedlce
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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