Lublin Old Jewish Cemetery
Lublin was founded as a royal city around 1250 and was re-founded in 1317. From 1474, it was the capital of the Lublin Voivodeship. In the 16th through 18th centuries, the city held many great fairs, was the seat of the Crown Tribunal for Lesser Poland, a location for the Waad Arba Aracot conventions, and a centre of Hebrew printing. From at least the end of the 15th century, Jews were forbidden to live within the city walls. Jews instead settled in the area of the starosty and the noble jurydykas surrounding the city in around the 1330s. The largest housing estate was built in Podzamcze (the area around the castle). There was a synagogue complex in the city for the Lublin kehilla and other ones were located in the Kalinowszczyzna jurydyka and the Piaski Żydowskie jurydyka. In 1787, 4,231 Jews lived among 8,640 inhabitants, accounting for 49.6% of the total population. From the end of the 18th century, Lublin was an important Hasidic centre. After the equality reform of 1862, Jews could live anywhere in the city. In 1865, 12,922 Jews lived among 21,814 inhabitants (59% of the total population). The Jews of Lublin were very active in industry and trade. After World War I, modern Jewish culture, especially literature and theatre, flourished. Moreover, the world-famous Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva operated in the city in the interwar period. In 1939, there were about 43,000 Jews among the population of 122,019. During World War II, the district of Podzamcze was totally destroyed. In the years 1941–1942, Jews in the Lublin Ghetto were deported to extermination camps (Majdanek, Bełżec). After the war, over 3,000 Jews stayed in Lublin temporarily. The gradually shrinking community still exists today (since 1993 it has operated as a branch of the Warsaw Jewish community).
The exact establishment date of the first Jewish cemetery in Lublin is unknown, though it was likely established in the first quarter of the 14th century on Grodzisko hill (where a stronghold was located previously) – approximately 900 metres (m) from the Old Town Square and approximately 350 m from the synagogue complex. It was in use until 1831 when the new cemetery was opened. The cemetery was able to function for so long because a second layer of soil was laid in the area. During World War II, the Germans removed most of the tombstones and used them for construction purposes. The funeral house was destroyed, and centuries-old trees were cut down as well. Between 1946–1949, thanks to the Jewish Committee of the Lublin Landsmanshaft, the fence was repaired, and tombstones found outside the cemetery were brought back to the land. The area has been preserved entirely. The land of the cemetery is irregularly shaped (as it sits on a hill) and covers an area of 2.5 hectares. It is enclosed by a stone and brick wall from the 17th century and is covered with various trees and shrubs. Over 200 matzevot and parts of tombstones have survived, including 14 from the 16th century (the oldest one of which is from 1541). The tombstones are traditional stelae made of limestone, sandstone, and granite. Among them are excellent examples of Renaissance and Baroque stonework. The tombstones commemorating eminent scholars, marshals of Waad Arba Aracot, and the famous rabbis have survived.