WARSAW (JTA) — An anonymous Polish entrepreneur has spent hundreds of thousands of zlotys to restore the Jewish cemetery of Żywiec, a town of 32,000 residents in southern Poland near the Czech and Slovak borders.
The cemetery had fallen into ruin following World War II and was among several under the care of the Jewish community of Bielsko-Biała, which has only several dozen members, Wyborcza.pl reported.
The community, which maintains responsibility for a dozen such cemeteries, was unable to pay for the upkeep of the 19th-century graveyard, which was overgrown with weeds.
The philanthropist, who asked to remain anonymous, expects the the work to be completed by September. He hired 10 workers to repair the fence and restore tombstones, many of which had toppled. Some weigh several hundred pounds.
“This man is a great Pole. To say ‘thank you’ is not enough,” said Dorota Wiewióra, chairman of the Bielsko-Biala Jewish community.
Eastern and Central Europe are dotted with crumbling Jewish cemeteries and untended mass graves. Last month a memorial to the Holocaust victims in the central Polish town of Plock was found vandalized, and swastikas were painted on the fence of its Jewish cemetery. The following day, Plock residents gathered to clean up the cemetery, which also was filled with garbage and overgrowth, and paint over the anti-Semitic graffiti.
The Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland has said that many cemeteries are neglected, “without any marking, without fences and even without gravestones,” Haaretz reported.
Last December, Jewish corpses were dug up and discarded by Polish workers building an electrical substation in what the country’s chief rabbi called “a full-out scandal.”
More recently, a rabbi from Washington, D.C., said he and his children encountered trash and bone fragments scattered around the grounds of two former mass graves of Jews in Ukraine.