Jewish cemetery in Limanowa – history

Cemetery – the most important monument of Limanowa Jews
The oldest traces of Jewish presence in Limanowa date back to the 17th century, but it was only in the 19th century that the Jewish community began to play a significant role in the town. It was also then that the first mentions of the cemetery appear, the remains of which, apart from residential buildings in the city center, are today the only tangible trace of the existence of Jews in Limanowa. All other material evidence of their presence: cheders (religious schools for boys), a Talmudic school, synagogues, and even a library run by supporters of the Haskalah (the Enlightenment intellectual movement of European Jews in the late 18th century) have been irretrievably lost.
Not much can be said about the history of the cemetery due to the lack of sources. It was probably established in the 19th century, which was the result of the dynamic demographic development of the Jewish community, whose increase in the record-breaking years 1886-1890 reached 181 people. In less than 40 years, the number of Jews in the Limanowa district almost doubled: from 1,584 people in 1869 to 3,046 in 1910. In the interwar period, their number in the city reached about 50%, and the City Council consisted of 1/3 of Jewish population.
From the 1860s, the death rate of Jews in Limanowa amounted to a dozen or so people a year, and although we do not have sources from the interwar period that could confirm this, considering the total population, it can be assumed that the number of deaths remained at this level until the outbreak of World War II world. This is also evidenced by the size of the cemetery, amounting to about 0.4 ha, which corresponded to such a need (currently the fenced area is about 0.2 ha). Before the outbreak of World War II, there were over 100 matzevot there. The necropolis, from the time of its creation, was in the possession of the local Jewish community. Among the Polish population, it was called kirkut, which was an expression derived from the German language.
During the war, the cemetery was a place of execution, where the Germans carried out mass murders of the local Jewish population, including, among others, representatives of the elders (Judenrat), as well as Jewish youth from the ghetto, located in the so-called Kamieniec. In 1942, it was mentioned: In the spring, several representatives of the Jewish elders were shot in Limanowa, and their bodies were ostentatiously transported across the city on a ladder wagon, ordering the families of the murdered to participate in this macabre procession, the way of which was marked with blood from the butter market to the Jewish cemetery. Only in July 1942, by the wall on ul. Kiliński killed 50 to 60 people. Today there is a memorial stone, placed in 2022 on the 80th anniversary of the liquidation of the Limanowa ghetto. At that time, the Jewish cemetery became a huge mass grave. Shot here, among others The 12 most beautiful Jewish women of Limanowa – it was a punishment for the escape of the Edner sisters. Among the victims was a student of philosophy, Sara Blech, who fell in love with a gendarme and Volksdeutsch from Bielsko – Pisch. As luck would have it, there were two Sara Blechs in Limanowa. Pisch arrested Baumacek (his boss and executioner of Limanowa) without the knowledge of the „uglier” one. Meanwhile, the „lord of life and death” in Limanowa gave the Edners 24 hours to come forward and save the remaining girls. When the time had passed, the policemen escorted the Jewish women to the cemetery. Then Baumack realized and ordered to bring the right – more beautiful Sara Blech. He ordered everyone to lie down and the policemen to shoot. Pisch was to kill his Sarah. His hands were shaking, so he missed. Baumack chastised him and shot him so that he smashed her head open. In Koniński’s memoirs, we read about another crime: At the cemetery, they order them to lie down on the ground, face down to the ground. Shot in the neck, in the back. The wounded bride crawls towards her fiancé, who has already taken his last breath. (…) Later the Gestapo put them with their faces already pale towards the bright sun. It should be mentioned that the cemetery was devastated many times during the war – the wall surrounding it was destroyed, as well as most of the matzevot, some of which were used, among others, in as a material for the construction of benches on the Limanowa market. Even in 1947 it was reported that the necropolis was profaned.
Current state
A dozen or so tombstones with inscriptions of varying state of preservation have survived to this day, mostly in Hebrew. The oldest ones come from the 19th century. Traces of grave foundations are also visible. The tombstones are made of sandstone and marble. In addition, the cemetery has three monuments from the 1990s, commemorating the Jews murdered in this place. The founders are private individuals – relatives of the victims. On the occasion of round anniversaries related to the celebration of the liquidation of the Limanowa ghetto (August 18), prayers are organized in the necropolis.
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