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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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