Jewish Cemetery, Żarki
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The Jewish cemetery in Żarki has a significant artistic, research and historical value, being one of the largest and most valuable sites of its kind in the entire Jura Krakowsko-Częstochowska (Cracow-Częstochowa Upland) region. More than 700 matzevot and obelisks have been preserved in the cemetery, some of which featuring rare types of ornaments, including a 12-pointed star and a candelabrum with an ornate base incorporating the gryphon head motif. Another notable feature is the presence of sepulchral monuments in the form of a tomb chest (sarcophagus), which is extremely rare in Silesia.

History

The very first mentions of the existence of a Jewish community in Żarki date back to 1741, even though it is suspected that the first Jews may have settled here back in the 16th century. According to a census conducted in 1921, more than half of all residents of the town at the time were Jews. The first, now-vanished Jewish cemetery, also known as the Old Cemetery, was situated on Gorki street and dated back to the 17th century. In 2008, the sole surviving fragment of a headstone from 1739 has been identified; this discovery served as an impulse for the establishment of a lapidarium on the site of the former necropolis, forming part of the Jewish Culture Trail. The cemetery on Polna street was established in 1821 as the second Jewish cemetery in Żarki. The oldest surviving headstone dates back to 1835, with the site of the cemetery itself having been extended on numerous occasions. In 1942, during the liquidation of the local Ghetto, the Nazis executed about 300 Jews in the cemetery. After the war, the overall condition of the abandoned burial ground was rapidly deteriorating, with the very first clean-up works only being performed in the years 1983-1985; an inventory of the existing headstones was also drawn up during that period, with a small lapidarium being set up on the cemetery site.

Description

The Jewish cemetery is situated in the north-western part of town, on Polna street. Due to the relatively good state of preservation of various artefacts of Jewish culture, a designated Jewish Culture Trail was established, with the cemetery forming one of the essential parts thereof.

Designed on a roughly rectangular plan, the cemetery has a total surface area of approximately 1.5 hectares, with no fence separating the burial ground from the surrounding area.

Today, the cemetery remains one of the largest surviving Jewish burial grounds in the entire region. Due to the lack of care, the original layout of walking paths and the overarching design of the cemetery have lost their initial clarity throughout the years. More than 700 matzevot from the late 19th and early 20th century have been preserved in the cemetery, with the oldest of them dating back to 1835. Most of the headstones take the form of obelisks or typical matzevot, made of sandstone, marble, concrete or granite. The sepulchral monuments are arranged in rows, with the greatest concentration thereof occurring in the south-eastern part of the cemetery. It is in this section of the site that a lapidarium was established in the course of the initial clean-up works, with fragments of old matzevot attached to a newly constructed wall of about 30 metres in length.

A notable feature of this cemetery is the presence of headstones in the form of a tomb chest (sarcophagus) - a rare sight in any Silesian necropolis; there are also numerous rare decorative motifs, including a candelabrum with an ornate base in the form of gryphon heads.

The site is open to the general public.

compiled by Agata Mucha, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Katowice, 27-08-2014.

Bibliography

  • Historical monument record sheet (cemetery). Jewish Cemetery in Żarki, prepared by Długołecka, 1986.
  • Nasze Cmentarze. Inicjatywa społeczna na rzecz cmentarzy żydowskich w województwie śląskim, Fundacja Brama Cukermana, Będzin 2013.
  • Krajewska M., Symbolika Płaskorzeźb na cmentarzach żydowskich w Polsce, [in:] Polska Sztuka Ludowa, Konteksty vol. 43 issue 1-2, Warszawa 1989, pp. 45-49.
  • Zabytki kultury żydowskiej w województwie śląskim, Bożek G. (ed.), Katowice 2007.
  • http://www.sztetl.org.pl/pl/article/zarki/12,cmentarze/3005,nowy-cmentarz-zydowski-w-zarkach-ul-polna-/ z dn. 27.08.2014
  • http://www.kirkuty.xip.pl/zarki.htm z dn. 27.08.2014

General information

  • Type: Jewish cemetery
  • Chronology: 1821 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Polna , Żarki
  • Location: Voivodeship śląskie, district myszkowski, commune Żarki - miasto
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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