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November 17, 2014 5:18 pm

Polish Firefighters Discover and Restore Jewish Gravestones From Beneath the ‘Rubble of Memory’ (VIDEO)

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The gravestone of Isaac Rozitsky was discovered in the Polish town of Rozprzy and restored by “From the Depths,” a non-profit engaged in rescuing Poland’s Jewish cemeteries. Photo: Screenshot.

It was an astounding discovery.

In the Polish town of Rozprzy, about 35 miles south of the city of Lodz, the local fire department recently came upon four matzevas – the headstones of a Jewish grave – in remote parkland. Officials promptly contacted “From the Depths,” a Jewish non-profit whose mission is to restore the headstones at existing Jewish cemeteries, or at other carefully selected places in cases where cemeteries do not exist any longer.

As part of their aim to eliminate any tangible signs of Jewish culture and life along with their program to exterminate the Jews, the Nazis destroyed cemeteries, frequently seizing the headstones for use as building materials.

“After the war and under Communist rule, further matzevas were used to build roads, pavements, airports, reinforce river banks, and to build monuments in parks,” explains the “From the Depths” website. “Privately, matzevas were also used instead of bricks to build houses, or as tools for everyday use such as a grinding wheel or a knife sharpener. Therefore, the fate of the Jewish cemeteries was doomed, and together with the matzevas, the names and identities of the deceased were brutally taken away from them.”

“From the Depths” Executive Director Jonny Daniels accompanied the Rozprzy fire department on their assignment to rescue the headstones. A video of the operation shows the firemen pulling up an ornate and surprisingly well-preserved headstone as Daniels reads its inscription. “Isaac Rozitsky,” Daniels says, deciphering the inscription on the stone. “For seventy years this has just been lying here. To find this is such an amazing thing.”

In an interview with The Algemeiner Daniels added, “We are receiving hundreds of calls about matzevas used in the wrong context, locations of mass graves and even from people wanting to give back Jewish artifacts such as Torah Scrolls from all over Poland, every week.”

“This really was an incredible act,” Daniels said. “These firemen all volunteered on their only day off, to come with us and help us uncover and restore our heritage and history. We are continuing to work with them and are now looking to try and find relatives of those buried in Rozprzy, and looking for funds to properly fence the cemetery.”

“The majority of the 1200 old Jewish Cemeteries in Poland have been destroyed, neglected and forgotten,” says “From the Depths.” “However beneath the rubble of memory, old matzevas still exist.”

Watch the discovery of the matzevas in Rozprzy:

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  • Pole

    Dov and Peter. We Poles do not owe Jews anything. Stop treating us like Germans or comparing to Danes. To me it seems that you know anything about Danes and ther actions during WWII.

    What Poles do now is an act of good will. Nothing more nothing less. We Poles can be proud of how our nation treated Jews in the last 1000 years. No other nation gave Jews so much freedom and respect like Poland. There were as many Jews in Poland as Blacks in USA (7 Poles – 1 Jew). Jews had their own religion, language. laws, traditions, holiday, parties, sports clubs, towns, everything. And If Poland would not have lost its independence, there would not be any Russian and Ukrainian Pogroms against Polish Jews. Also there would have been no Holocaust if Russia and Germany had not invaded Poland.

  • Dov

    Its nice to see that the grandchildren want to make the world a better place and even though their grandparents may not have stood up for the Jews, they will. Lets see things in the better light.

  • Peter

    It is nice to see that these firemen volunteered to recover these headstones. However, this would never have happened if their grandparents who lived during the war stood up and protected the cemetery from destruction. In fact, if the Poles were enlightened as the Danes, many fewer Jews would have been sent to the death camps. The one exception who stands out was Jan Karski, who risked his life to tell a first hand account to both FDR and Churchill of the plight of the Jews imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. We can’t turn back the clock 75 years but the Poles can start on the right path by returning all Jewish personal and communal property to its rightful owners. If the Germans can do this, so can the Poles.

  • Billy Bumps

    Oh God…I am so tired ad sick at ow we treat each