Bodzentyn Jewish Cemetery
From the beginning of its history, the town of Bodzentyn was associated with the Kraków bishopric. Bodzentyn was granted town rights in 1344. Until 1862, the De Non-Tolerandis Judaeis privilege was in force which forbade Jews from purchasing real estate in the town. However, at the end of the 18th century, individual Jewish families settled in the town in areas belonging to the nobility. In 1820, 47 Jews were registered in the town. The Jewish community began to truly develop in the mid-19th century. In 1868, 1,061 Poles and 428 Jews lived in the town and, in 1897, 1,472 Jews lived in the town. Before World War II, Jews constituted about 30% of the population. In 1940, the Germans established a ghetto in the town, where Jews from the Bodzentyn and its surrounding areas, including Płock, were forced to live. In 1941, there were approximately 3,700 Jews in the ghetto. The ghetto was liquidated in September 1942. The Jews were transported to Suchedniów and then were transported in cattle cars to the Treblinka extermination camp. Dawid Rubinowicz—the author of the diary from the Bodzentyn ghetto—was also in that transport.
Until an independent Jewish community (kehilla) was established, Jews were under the supervision of the synagogue in Szydłowiec, where they moreover buried their dead. They obtained permission to establish their own cemetery in 1866. A year later, they officially received a square—the so-called Krakowiec—located near the road to Święta Katarzyna, on the slope of Góra Miejska, where for several years (informally) they buried their dead. The county engineer, Alfons Welke, designed a plan for the cemetery and set its boundaries. In the interwar period, the cemetery was fenced, and there was a gate as well as a caretaker’s house. In 1933, an adjacent field was purchased to enlarge the cemetery. After the liquidation of the Bodzentyn Ghetto, the Germans partially destroyed the Jewish cemetery. The cemetery largely survived World War II, but when the hostilities ended, it was further destroyed by the locals. The tombstones were used for construction purposes. Until the second half of the 1980’s, there was a pasture in the cemetery. The cemetery was officially closed in 1964. In 1983, the Commune Office cleaned up the area and erected an information board. In 1990, the cemetery was listed in the Register of Monuments of the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship.
In an area of about 2 hectares in the cemetery, about 80 matzevot have survived, most of which are made of sandstone and are still in their original places. The oldest tombstone dates to 1870, and the youngest to 1934. The matzevot have rich ornaments, Hebrew and Yiddish inscriptions, and traces of original polychromes. The mother of Gustaw Herling Grudziński, a writer, is buried in the cemetery. In 2006, a local priest, Leszek Sikorski, and a culture animator, Krystyna Nowakowska, initiated the cleaning of the cemetery. A local descendant of Jews, Max (Manes) Safir, was involved in the work. Thanks to Safir and with the help of the Swedish Committee against Antisemitism, funds for the renovation of the cemetery were raised. The renovation works were carried out in 2008–2009. The area of the cemetery was cleared of vegetation, and a symbolic gate and a monument dedicated to the Manes Safir family were erected at the entrance. The ceremony for the opening of the restored cemetery took place on August 26, 2009.