Jewish gravestones used for roads

Jonny Daniels with some of the Jewish tombstones recovered in Gora Kalwaria in Poland. Below, one of those rescued.

Jewish tombstones used to pave roads and pavements during the Holocaust were discovered in Gora Kalwaria in Poland during construction of a road.

From the Depths founder Jonny Daniels, who was called to the scene by an elderly Polish woman living in the area who uncovered the tombstones when walking her dog, explained that Gora Kalwaria (Gur) was home to the Ger sect of chassidim.

From the Depths is a tiny foundation dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust in Poland. The area where the tombstones were found is just two kilometres from the Jewish cemetery of Gora Kalwaria.

“They told us that some of the pavements or even some of the roads were built during the time of the Nazi occupation here, and built using Jewish tombstones,” he said.

“What we can actually see here is really quite incredible and quite disturbing and painful.”

Daniels explained that they planned to return the tombstones to the Jewish cemetery where they belong.

On camera, he pointed out several tombstones that had been unearthed, which were intact with the names and the writing on the tombstones clearly visible.

“You can also see, which is interesting, the uniformity of the size so the reason also why, the colours of this tombstone would be somewhat protected, it would be taken, cut in half and they would be roughly the same size,” he said.

He said that they would be taken, flipped over face-down so people didn’t know what they were and placed to pave the streets.

“Sometimes we would use the full top of the matzeva [tombstone] where we can see everything that’s written, others [used] would be the bottom and some would be where we can see nothing at all.”

Digging his hand into the soil, Daniels also showed fragments and other pieces of tombstones still stuck in the ground that were “literally used to pave the road”.

“This is one of the craziest cases I’ve heard of, it really is quite shocking,” he said.

“Just to see so many, to see that this is just a small area that we’ve looked at — this is what we’ve found in just a few minutes.”

He said that if they were to dig further, “I’m almost certain that this entire area will be full of matzevot [tombstones].”

Daniels added that they would reach out to the company building these roads and hope to “do more than hope, we’ll demand from them that whilst building this road, they take care of this heritage and history because this isn’t right — this is a historical, horrendous thing that desperately needs to be corrected.”

He added that they would also take pictures and document them, “so if you know or have family or know of people from Gur or Gora Kalwaria, please share this and maybe we’ll be able to locate the tombstone of a loved one”.

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