Some of a Lost History of a Jews Is Hiding in Plain Sight in Poland

November 27, 2014 - Picnic Time

When Tomasz Kowal, a past champion of Poland’s Strongest Man competition, trafficked to a Polish panorama progressing this month with a associate strength contestant to lift an enormously complicated Jewish tombstone, it incited into a prohibited subject of a day in a internal media. Why were a tattooed musclemen with shaved heads who routinely lift trucks and toss kegs now yanking a Hebrew-engraved tombstone off a belligerent and relocating it into a case of a car?

That answer lies in an surprising devise now underway in a Eastern European nation to rescue mislaid tombstones of a once colourful though now decimated Jewish community.

Strength contestant Tomasz Kowal, rises a tombstone as a proffer for From a Depths. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

Strength contestant Tomasz Kowal, rises a tombstone as a proffer for From a Depths. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

Walking by towns and cities in Poland, one competence event opposite a really surprising sight: playgrounds, walking paths, gazebos, and even tools of a lions’ enclosing during a Warsaw Zoo built with stones with Hebrew writing.

Digging deeper, however, it appears these are no small stones. They are ruins of tombstones plundered from Jewish cemeteries during and after World War II, hundreds of thousands of grave markers with names and tributes — some intricately decorated. The final earthy sign of a encampment that was mostly wiped out.

“The usually thing we leave in this universe is a good name, and it’s a name,” says Jonny Daniels, executive executive of a non-profit From a Depths who is on a goal to find those gravestones and yield them bend some-more wise than portion as transport décor.

Three Hebrew letters can be seen in a mill corridor in Poland. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

Three Hebrew letters can be seen in a mill corridor in Poland. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

Daniels — a 28-year-old London-born Orthodox Jew who has lived in Israel for a decade — motionless final year to immigrate to Poland where he has charged himself with scouring a cities and panorama with a assistance of hundreds of Polish adults who proffer information and their time to find a plundered tombstones, that in Hebrew is famous as a “matzeva.”

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How a ‘Strongest Man’ in Poland lent his weight to a mission

TheBlaze spoke to Daniels by phone from his bureau in a Polish collateral Warsaw where From a Depths set adult a hotline, appealing to a open to call in Jewish tombstone sightings.

They recently got a call from a male who pronounced he had a strange-looking mill on his skill in a figure of a tree stump. He dug some mud out from underneath it and saw there was Hebrew essay on it.

Daniels set out to revisit a male and saw that indeed it was a singular Jewish tombstone.

“An aged Polish Jewish tradition was that when a child died, a tombstone was finished in a figure of a tree trunk. It was mystic of a life being cut down early,” Daniels explained.

He proceeded to try to pierce a mill though it wouldn’t budge.

“The bottom weighed about 660 pounds and we literally couldn’t even change it,” he recalled. He resolved they indispensable to get machine to lift a stone, though a lay of a land finished that devise roughly impossible.

Daniels returned to his bureau to try to figure out a solution. A few days later, he was reviewing a latest email tips and saw in his inbox a note from Kowal, a Strongest Man champion, who asked how he could representation in to a bid to find mislaid tombstones.

“I called him adult and said, ‘How clever are you?’ and he laughed. ‘How is 660 pounds for you?’ and he laughed and pronounced he competence need to pierce some help,” Daniels told TheBlaze.

So Daniels, Kowal (a strength contestant teammate of Kowal’s) and filmmaker Adam Fox (a childhood crony of Daniels’) headed to a tomb to see if a Jewish child’s tombstone could be budged.

When Kowal and his crony unearthed a two-piece tombstone – that by their clenched jaws looked like a aria even for them – their endeavour elicited many seductiveness in Poland, where they were seen as ruinous a classify of a massive bodied athletes, focused usually on building their exteriors. Now they were seen as seeking devout accomplishment and contributing to righting some of a wrongs of generations past.

Tombstones posing as transport art

Daniels recounted his initial vital find of tombstones doubling as civic art when he was contacted by a Polish publisher who asked him to come revisit his area park.

“I was repelled to see a park, including a pergola, was finished roughly wholly from matzevas, Jewish tombstones,” Daniels said.

Jonny Daniels, executive executive of From a Depths points out Jewish tombstone fragments used to build a wall. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

Jonny Daniels, executive executive of From a Depths points out Jewish tombstone fragments used to build a wall. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

“There was an widespread before and after a fight where Germans and Poles broken 90% of Poland’s 1,400 prewar Jewish cemeteries,” he explained.

Nine out of each 10 Polish Jews were killed during a Holocaust, some-more than 3 million Jews slain, in further to 3 million non-Jewish Poles who were killed.

Of a survivors, “Most did not stay in Poland so Jewish cemeteries were a giveaway for all,” Daniels said. “Unfortunately, people went and stole tombstones and used them in a vast array of uses.”

From a Depths successfully appealed to a Warsaw municipality to take all a tombstone fragments out of one park and after ride scarcely 5,000 mill fragments behind to a Brudno Jewish tomb in Warsaw. Daniels conspicuous that before a Holocaust there were 400,000 tombstones in Brudno. Today, 3,000 sojourn intact.

Some of Daniels’ kin were murdered during a Holocaust, so salvaging a country’s Jewish story is personal for him as well.

“I never wanted to go to Poland,” Daniels said, adding that books and cinema about a Holocaust were adequate for him.

But in 2011, he finished adult roving with Glenn Beck on a revisit to Auschwitz as partial of a documentary project.

“As a outcome of being there with Glenn we accepted how critical it is and how many indispensable to be finished in terms of Holocaust memory,” Daniels said.

Daniels says his stream query to locate blank tombstones aims to commemorate a encampment that is no more.

Jewish-Christian cooperation

To dedicate one’s time to this kind of try means daily doses of pain and tragedy. That describes partial of Daniels’ experience. At a same time, he has been heartened and desirous by a escape of goodwill from Poland’s Christian community, something he didn’t design when he set out on his project.

His “matzeva” hotline has now gotten some-more than 2,000 emails and phone messages. Tombstones have been found in a many doubtful places: in a steel emporium to whet knives, in a wall of a cowshed and in homes, even in lavatory walls.

“The list was truly endless. What we’ve seen is this conspicuous escape of Poles helping,” Daniels said. “The implausible thing is that Poland is a really Christian country, and we have to date hundreds of volunteers all a approach from Poland’s strongest male to firemen, to nuns and priests.”

Tombstones were converted into all sorts of uses, including as a heightening tool. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

Tombstones were converted into all sorts of uses, including as a heightening tool. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

One of those volunteers brought Daniels to tears. He told TheBlaze:

One of a volunteers came adult to me with tears in his eyes and said, “My great-grandfather was a Pole who perceived income from a Nazis to hunt Jews. After a fight when my grandmother found out she never spoke to him again.”

He said, “This is who we am, and there’s zero we can do about it. we totally know if we don’t wish to work with me.” At that indicate we had tears in my eyes and we stood adult and gave him a large hug. we said, “This creates me wish to work with we even more.” He’s turn one of a strongest volunteers.

“People are people and what happened happened a prolonged time ago, and people need to be given a event to pierce forward,” Daniels said.

How volunteers helped learn a formerly different atrocity

Daniels calls his tombstone devise an “ice-breaker” to open a review with Poles about their country’s dire past.

“There is a turn of guilt. Needless to contend a Holocaust wasn’t their fault, though approach some-more acted in a disastrous approach some-more than a certain way,” Daniels said. “We have to be really honest with that. … This tombstone devise allows us to start a routine of talking.”

Polish volunteers for From a Depths go from city to city to examine where they competence find tombstones. As they pronounce with a aged generation, they have also detected mass unmarked graves.

“Millions of Jews in a Holocaust weren’t killed in thoroughness camps though killed in a cities and forests nearby them and dug their possess graves,” Daniels said.

His volunteers have met Poles who were recruited by a Germans as forced laborers to puncture pits or to bury Jews.

Just this week, they met an aged lady in a city where they were stealing dual pieces of tombstone from a pavement. She approached them and when she schooled what they were doing told them that Jews in that city had been dull adult and taken to a margin and kept there for 3 days before being changed to a Nazi thoroughness camp. She pronounced that many died in that pitch that is currently a cornfield before they could be transported.

Elsewhere in northern Poland, volunteers detected a Jewish mass grave underneath a cruise area with a volleyball court.

Daniels pronounced that in places where a organisation listened reports of mass graves, they brought ground-penetrating radar (GPR) equipment. It is opposite Jewish eremite law to shovel bodies, though formed on a information collected, he believes there are people buried in those locations.

From a Depths skeleton to pitch a site of a cornfield as a place where Jews are believed to be buried and set adult a commemorative mill for them there.

Not usually signs of genocide though also signs of life found

In another northern Polish town, volunteers going doorway to doorway seeking about a plcae of probable tombstones met an aged male who pronounced while he had no information on tombstones, he did have something else that competence seductiveness them.

He pulled a Torah corkscrew out from underneath his cot and pronounced that it came to him, since his next-door neighbor when he was a child was a encampment rabbi.

Minutes before a Jewish race was forcibly changed out, eventually to land in a Treblinka genocide camp, a rabbi told a man’s father, “Please censor this for me. I’ll be back. If not give it to a Jew who will know what to do with it,” Daniels recounted a story a male told him.

The father put it underneath a lounge though when a family fell on tough financial times, they used it as paper for bland use. Thus, usually about 20 percent of a strange corkscrew stays intact.

Daniels now has a special thought for a Torah corkscrew that he described as “the pitch of Judaism and Jewish life” and gave a instance of Jews being killed as they ran into synagogues on Kristallnacht, a Night of Broken Glass in 1938, to try to save scripture scrolls.

Daniels receives a shop-worn Torah corkscrew from a male whose father betrothed a internal rabbi he would reason onto it. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

Daniels receives a shop-worn Torah corkscrew from a male whose father betrothed a internal rabbi he would reason onto it. (Photo courtesy: From a Depths)

“To have this corkscrew lay in a museum would be roughly a delay of this tragedy. In 2015, we will take this Torah corkscrew on a highway show. Literally, around a universe with a scribe, and a corkscrew will be finished by survivors of a Holocaust,” Daniels said. “They will write a letters in a Torah scroll. It came from Poland and will transport all around a universe to survivors and will finish adult in in a synagogue in a Knesset [Israel’s parliament] and will be used a integrate of times a week.”

“The symbolism of this – this was literally a final wish of this rabbi on a approach to his genocide that this Torah corkscrew be saved and this is precisely what we’re doing. We’re bringing this Torah corkscrew behind to life,” Daniels told TheBlaze.

But for that desirous endeavour his organisation needs support that “enables us to expose and return this Jewish birthright and story and pierce behind a memory of a people that were lost,” Daniels said.

Daniels pronounced that when he launched a non-profit, a organisation dictated to lift usually private funding, and so not be firm by probable restrictions tied to supervision funding. “All of a support comes from grassroots,” including grant from Glenn Beck’s gift Mercury One, Daniels said.

The bid to save a memory of Poland’s Jews was in a news this week when a city in a core of a nation faced an cheer after building a construction devise that would have converted a Jewish tomb into a residential housing complex. The devise is now on hold.

For some-more information on a work to deliver a memory of a Polish Jewish community, revisit From a Depths website at this link.

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