Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Poignant Trip Home to Poland

This blog post comes from Joel Rosenkranz, son of Holocaust survivor, Gallery Educator, and Speakers Bureau member Sol Rosenkranz. This past summer, Sol and Joel traveled to Sol’s hometown of Krosniewice, Poland (near Lodz), and wanted to share their experience.

Right after liberation in September 1945, Sol returned to Krosniewice and saw that the Germans had paved the town square with gravestones removed from the Jewish cemetery — all deliberately placed with the inscriptions up to further the desecration.  That memory of having to walk on these gravestones has stayed with Sol for decades. 

On a family trip to Krosniewice in 2002, we saw that the town square had been re-surfaced though there was no official record of the whereabouts of the matzevot (monuments). In late July of this year, Sol and I took another trip to Krosniewice, specifically to determine if the matzevot were covered over by pavement. With the help of Paul Radensky in the Museum’s education department, Sol contacted Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, who took an interest in this issue. Rabbi Schudrich, Sol, and I met with the town's mayor, Julianna Herman, who had independently researched records and interviewed elderly residents. Her conclusion — which we all accepted -- was that the matzevot had been removed from the square by the communist administration in the early 1950s.

That same afternoon we visited what was once the Jewish cemetery in Krosniewice and is now an abandoned, tick-infested, and densely overgrown field in which it is very difficult to keep one's footing. Guided by a sympathetic Pole, Andrzej Urbaniak, we were very conscious that we were walking over unmarked graves — there were of course no gravestones anywhere. Our destination was a place in the middle of the field where half a dozen fragmentary matzevot had been cemented together by a kindly soul. 

At that moment, Sol decided to fund the placement of a fence around the perimeter of the cemetery and to clear a path to the gate so that future visitors could pay their respects. Our goal is to erect gates with a Star of David design and protective fencing all around.  Many generations of Jews are presumed to be buried in this cemetery, including five of Sol's own family members. He is the last surviving Jew from his town and regards this effort as his duty and honor. With the expert help of Monika Krawczyk of the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland, we are moving forward with this project.

Please email Joel Rosenkranz --if you would like to receive a link to the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland for progress reports regarding the cemetery or for information about how you can help. Those wishing to correspond with Sol directly may write him at: 440 West End Avenue, 15F, New York, NY 10024

Images are courtesy of Joel and Sol Rosenkranz. Seen here:  Top photo: Mayor Juliana Herman, Sol, Joel, Chief Rabbi Schudrich, and their guide. Bottom photo: a makeshift memorial in the abandoned cemetery. 

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