The Beginning

What started as a small Jewish population in the late 17th century grew to a community of about 4,000 Jews at the outbreak of World War II when Nowy Dwor Mazowiecki was one of the more successful Jewish communities in Poland. The Jewish cemetery in Nowy Dwor the community for more than 300 years before it was desecrated by the Nazis who excavated it as a gravel pit and buried the headstones beneath nearby streets. 

Our mission is to return dignity to the Jewish citizens who were buried in the cemetery through its restoration and the building of a memorial wall to display the recovered headstones (Matzevot). In order to aid Jewish descendants of Nowy Dwor in tracing their roots, we have established a database of birth certificates and other legal documents retrieved from the Polish archives dating back to 1820. 

 

         
Before    After

      

THE NOWY DWOR JEWISH CEMETERY MEMORIAL STORY

 

The Nowy Dwor Jewish Memorial project was established in an effort to preserve and protect the desecrated Jewish Cemetery in Nowy Dwor, Mazowiecki, Poland. In 1988, during a visit to Poland with his father, Icek, David Wluka of Sharon, Massachusetts toured the town where his ancestors had lived since the mid 1800’s. There they found two cemeteries side by side. The Gentile cemetery was well kept. The Jewish cemetery had been all but abandoned. After eliminating the Jewish citizens of Nowy Dwor, the Nazis had removed the headstones (matzevot) for use in road building. The graves had been opened and plundered for their concrete caskets. There were bones scattered about the ground, but no evidence of what happened to the generations of souls who had been laid to rest there. Squatters had begun to build houses on the edge of the property that “belonged to no one.”  People excavated the hillside of the cemetery for sand and gravel. The pictures speak for themselves. On the right, Icek Wluka is standing in a grave where he has retrieved a child’s skull.

 

       

  

In 2001, Yosef Kieliszek, who was born in Nowy Dwor in 1935, and whose grandfather, Yankel Kieliszek, was David Wluka’s grandfather’s partner in a blacksmith shop, visited the town. To his dismay, he found the cemetery in the same sad condition that the Wlukas had seen in 1988. Over the next several years, Yosef considered various ways to “do something” to correct the situation and talked to his brother, Ze’ev Shaked, who lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Early in 2009, Ze’ev Shaked met with David Wluka in Sharon, and they shared the stories of their families. In June of 2009, Ze’ev, Yosef, and their sister, Tamara Kieliszek, her son Yarden and their cousin, Ichak Chlebowitz, met in Nowy Dwor upon the invitation of Michael Nawrot, and confirmed that the situation had not changed in the twenty years since David’s visit. They all decided, “Enough is enough!” The cemetery must be protected against further destruction, not only for our ancestors’ sake and dignity, but also as a reminder to new generations about the tragedy of Nowy Dwor Jews.

Determined to prevent further desecration of this last evidence of what was once a robust Jewish community, Ze’ev, Yosef, and Michal Nawrot met with the Mayor of Nowy Dwor and other leaders of the Polish Jewish community in Warsaw, including the Rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich. The leaders committed their support to the cemetery project. The City of Nowy Dwor agreed to provide police security equivalent to that given to other city property, and to install surveillance cameras that will be monitored by the local police. 

The Jewish community in Warsaw offered to contribute leftover soil from the construction of a Holocaust Museum to replace some of the ground that had been removed over the years.

In August 2010, Michal Nawrot’s neighbor revealed that he had discovered some matzevot when he dug a trench to install a sewer system for his home. With the City of Nowy Dwor’s support, a construction company excavated the first dozen matzevot from under the walkway along the street. Since then, about 100 matzevot have been recovered, many in good condition.

 

 

During this same period and since then, Ze’ev obtained access to public records in the archives and found official certificates (births, deaths, marriages) from the Jewish community, dating as far back as 1820. Hundreds have been copied and translated so far, and some can be viewed under “Family Records” on this website. Additional certificates will be posted on the website in the future.

Restoring the cemetery to its pre-Holocaust condition is not possible because most of the matzevot have been removed and none of the graves can be identified. However, the cemetery grounds can be preserved as a testimony to the vibrant Jewish community that lived in Nowy Dwor for many centuries. In July 2011, a fence with gates on two sides was built around the entire cemetery. This fence was paid for by donations from Nowy Dwor descendants and caring friends of the Nowy Dwor cemetery project. 

 

   

  

Because the matzevot cannot be returned to their original places, they have been displayed as part of a memorial wall located at the entrance area near the main gate. Construction of the wall began in late May 2011, and was completed just a year later.

 

The Cemetery Before

 

 THE WALL ON THE DAY OF ITS DEDICATION

 

The preservation of the Nowy Dwor Jewish cemetery is not a casual enterprise. Protecting the cemetery and the further recovery the lost matzevot still buried provides a vivid reminder of the tragic loss of the flourishing Jewish community of Nowy Dwor.

If you are related or have any connection to Nowy Dwor, we would like to hear from you. Any letters, photographs or personal histories that you would be willing to share will help fill out the picture. If you know of other families with Nowy Dwor roots, please tell them about the Nowy Dwor Jewish Memorial project and direct them to our website.

Please click on the Donate and Contact links to become a part of this important project. Nowy Dwor Jewish Memorial is a 501(c)3 organization, and donations are tax deductible under IRS regulations (United States residents). Your donation is the highest form of mitzvah because, as in the Jewish tradition of casting dirt into a grave at internment, this is an act of kindness that cannot be repaid.

 

Zog nit keynmol az du geyst dem letstn veg
(Never Say You Are Walking Your Last Road)

Never say you are walking your last road
When leaden skies conceal blue days.
Because the hour we have longed for will yet come
Our step will beat out like a drum: We are here!

From the green land of palms to the white land of snow
We arrive with our anguish, with our pain
And wherever a spurt of our blood has fallen
Our might and our courage will sprout.

The morning sun will gild our day;
And yesterday will vanish with the enemy
But if the sun and the dawn are late in coming
May this song go from generation to generation like a password.

This song was written with blood, and not with pencil-lead.
It's no song of a free-flying bird;
A people amongst collapsing walls
Sang this song with pistols in their hands.

 ~The Partisans' Song, Hirsh Glik~