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Rabbi Says Polish Government Committed in Principle to Restore, Preserve Some 1000 Jewish Cemeteries

The Polish government has committed itself for the first time to the principle of the restoration and preservation of an estimated 1000 Jewish cemeteries in Poland, most of which are in very poor condition, a New York rabbinical official reported.

Rabbi Hertz Frankel, secretary of a Rabbinical Committee for Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries, said the Polish government’s commitment developed from negotiations in Warsaw between a delegation of four rabbis and a layman with Kazimierz Kakol. Polish Minister of Religious Affairs, Sept. 6.

He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that the committee, representing all major Orthodox rabbinical and Hasidic organizations of the United States and Canada, was organized more than a year ago to raise the issue with the Polish government. After a year of negotiations, he said, the committee was invited to send the delegation to Warsaw to discuss the problem.

Frankel said also that an effort to work out details of the implementation of the commitment would be made at a second meeting with Polish officials by another committee delegation. He said the composition of the second delegation and arrangements for the second round of talks in Warsaw should be completed by Oct. 25.

DESCRIBES PRESENT SITUATION

The rabbi stated that the U.S. government, through its ambassador in Warsaw, was helpful in reaching the initial agreement. Help also was received from William Perry of New York, a survivor of the Holocaust, who is now an official of a local of the International Longshoreman’s Association, with the full support of the Association. Frankel said. Perry was the layman in the delegation.

Frankel said only a few Jewish cemeteries in Poland were in acceptable condition. He cited the Jewish cemetery in Cracow and one of two in Warsaw. He said the other cemetery in Warsaw was badly deteriorated. He noted that, since the wartime destruction of Polish Jewry by the Nazis, the majority of Jewish cemeteries were unused. Apart from neglect, he said, some cemeteries had been victims of urban renewal projects.

Noting that under Jewish religious law, all Jewish cemeteries are considered sacred places. Frankel observed that this was particularly true of cemeteries in Poland where founders of Hasidic dynasties and deans of major European yeshivas are interred.

He added that many Polish cemeteries had become the final resting places of thousands of Nazi victims buried in mass graves. He reported that, as a first step, the Polish government has said a sign will be placed on all Jewish cemeteries warning that any person defacing or disturbing the cemetery will face severe punishment.

SOME TO BE HISTORICAL MONUMENTS

Frankel said the Polish government’s acceptance of the principle was confirmed in a letter to the committee, dated Sept. 13, from Kakol in which the official added that some of the Jewish cemeteries “will be recognized as historical monuments while the others will be continuously maintained without this special status.”

Rabbi Menachem M. Rubin, former Grand Rabbi of Muzsay. Poland, now of Brooklyn, is chairman of the committee: Affiliated organizations are the Central Rabbinical Congress of the United States and Canada; the former Hasidic Grand Rabbis of Bluzsov, Bobov and Novominsk; the Rabbinical Alliance of America; the Rabbinical Council of America and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada.

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