Bychawa Old Jewish Cemetery
Bychawa was founded in 1537 as a private town under Magdeburg Law. The earliest record of Jews in Bychawa dates to 1578 where tax records mention one Jewish family. The synagogue and the beit midrash were located approximately 80 metres east of the town square, a fact which suggests the area was offered to local Jews early in the town’s development. In 1674 of the 150 residents in Bychawa 34 were Jews. In the 19th century, three of its residents were great rabbis from the Rabinowicz family. There were 2,294 Jews in 1900 (81% of the total population) and approximately 2000 in 1939 (56%). In 1942 the Jews from Bychawa were deported to the Bełżyce Ghetto and then to the death camp in Sobibór.
The cemetery was most likely founded toward the end of the 16th century and is located approximately 150 metres east of the town square, directly behind the synagogue, on a hill leading down to the Kosarzewka River valley. It covered a plot of land shaped like an irregular polygon with an area of 0.6 hectares. The cemetery’s early history is not known. After the first Rebbe’s death in 1852, an ohel was erected over his tombstone, where his two successors were also buried. The cemetery was in use until 1911 when a new cemetery was founded. During World War II it was completely destroyed: the fence was taken apart as well as the wooden outbuilding, and tombstones were used for construction purposes. After the War, the area became overgrown with grass and thickets, and was used as a landfill, where it remains as one today. In the 1970’s the southern part of the cemetery was used as an access road to the local co-op. Later, the eastern part of the cemetery was used for sewage and several drainage pits were built there as well. In 2016, along the current southern border of the cemetery, a concrete fence was built along with an informational plaque. Tombstones are still being relocated to the cemetery and the synagogue. To this day only over a dozen partial tombstones, made of limestone and sandstone, were found, the oldest dating to the 1880’s and the latest to between the 1920’s and 1930’s. Any later tombstones were originally from the new cemetery.