Anti-semitic Vandalism Hits Old Jewish Cemetery in Poland

The desecration of one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Poland has been confirmed by the Institute of Jewish Affairs here.

The vandalization of gravestones at the cemetery in Lublin occurred in the context of an intensified anti-Semitic expression attributed to the growth of democracy and the removal of constraints on free speech in the formerly authoritarian Polish Communist society.

The desecration was reported in a letter published May 15 in the liberal Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

The writer, Dr. Simha Wajs, chairman of the Society for the Protection of Relies of Jewish Culture in Lublin, reported that 11 of 54 headstones in the 16th-century Jewish cemetery there were either smashed or upended.

One of the damaged stones marked the grave of Rabbi Shlomo Luria, an eminent 16th-century Talmudist and author known as the Maharshal. He died in 1573.

According to Dr. Howard Spier, an expert on Eastern European affairs at the institute, “the advent of democracy in Poland has opened up opportunities for extremist nationalist organizations, and chauvinistic and anti-Semitic phenomena — never absent in Poland — have resurfaced and intensified.”

Spier cited as examples buildings connected with Jewish religion and culture in many Polish cities, which “have been daubed with anti-Jewish slogans.”

He noted the open circulation in Warsaw and elsewhere of publications slandering Jews and the distribution of “anonymous leaflets inciting to violence” against Jews.

Anti-Semitism was widespread in the campaign for the local elections held Sunday. Of the approximately 100 political parties that ran candidates, the literature put out by about 20 percent of them contained chauvinistic and anti-Semitic elements, according to the institute.

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