NEW YORK (Nov. 12)
The Polish government has imposed a freeze on all building projects in Poland that might encroach on Jewish cemeteries, Kazimierz Dziewanowski, the Polish ambassador to the United States, announced here.
The freeze was ordered after bones were uncovered in the town of Kalisz by workers digging to lay water pipes for a school located in what was once part of a Jewish cemetery, Rabbi Chaskel Besser, a member of the presidium of Agudath Israel of America and chairman of the Polish department of the Ronald lauder Foundation, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Dziewanowski made his remarks at a meeting convened by Agudath Israel on Oct. 28. Participants included Hasidic dynasties of Polish origin, many of which have been trying for years to assure protection of Jewish burial sites there.
Dziewanowski was joined by Wojciech Adamiecki, chief counselor of the embassy, and Jerzy Surdykowski, Polish consul general in New York.
Besser, who visits Poland at least once a month to deal with matters of concern to the Polish Jewish community, said the school director protested to local officials that the digging had to stop after it was known there was a cemetery at the site.
Besser said gravestones from the cemetery were carted away 25 years ago to make room for the school.
The discovery of bones provoked protests from rabbinical organizations abroad and the Warsaw government intervened.
1,000 PRE-WAR CEMETERIES
The letter the government sent local officials instructing them not to build on Jewish cemetery sites was accompanied by a 14-page document explaining the significance of the burial places to the Jews.
Before World War II, there were about 1,000 Jewish cemeteries in Poland, of which 300 to 400 remain. There are an additional 300 sites where Jews were put to death during the Holocaust.
Dziewanowski said the Polish government ordered local officials to implement the digging freeze after a meeting in Warsaw attended by Jacek Ambroziak, a member of the Polish Parliament and chief of the Council of Ministers; Rabbi Menachem Joskowitz, chief rabbi of Poland; and Besser.
The Polish ambassador to the United Nations, Stanislaw Pawluk, “was very, very sympathetic, especially he himself being from Kalisz,” said Besser.
But a Jewish foundation which he did not name promised to build a memorial on the site but has not yet fulfilled its promise, Besser said.
Dziewanowski, who is known for his writings against anti-Semitism, told the Orthodox Jewish leaders that the Polish government was aware of the suffering of Jews in Poland in the past and is doing its best to right historical wrongs and establish good relations with Jews everywhere.
Asked about recent outbreaks of anti-Semitism in Poland, the ambassador said his government has proof that several well-publicized incidents were incited by people whose aim is to undermine the stability of the Polish government.
(JTA staff writer Susan Birnbaum contributed to this report.)