Łuków Old Jewish Cemeter
In 1403, the foundation status of the royal town of Łuków was changed from Polish law to Magdeburg law. Jews were forbidden to live within the city limits, though it is not known for how long. Jews settled in Łuków by at least the second half of the 15th century and probably lived just outside the city limits, in the starosty area in Podzamcze. The presence of an organized Jewish community is evidenced by a royal privilege granted to Christian bakers in 1505, protecting them from Jewish competitors. By 1607—according to the Waad Arba Aracot chronicle—there was already a kehilla in Łuków. Therefore, it can be assumed that, by this time, there were basic community institutions (a synagogue, cemetery, mikvah). In 1659, after Łuków was destroyed by a fire, the King granted a permit for the construction of synagogues and residential houses within the town, the right to free trade, and further use of the cemetery. The new synagogue complex was built about 100 metres north of the market square. In 1676, Jews accounted for 74 individuals among 304 inhabitants (24% of the total population), and, by 1861, there were already 1,155 Jews (68% of the total population). From the beginning of the 1920’s, great rabbis resided in Łuków. In 1939, about 6,000 Jews constituted half of the town’s population. During World War II, the Germans destroyed the community buildings and, in 1942, during the liquidation of the ghetto, they shot about 2,000 Jews and deported the rest to the death camp in Treblinka.
The establishment date of the so-called “old” cemetery is unknown (although, it is not certain whether it was the first burial place for Jews from Łuków). It can be assumed from indirect information that it was established in least the 16th century. In the privilege granted to the Jewish community in 1659, the cemetery is referred to as the ‘old’ cemetery. It was located outside the city limits (approximately 360 m south-west of the market square). It was expanded after 1843 and surrounded by a ditch and an earth embankment. Eventually, it was shaped like an irregular pentagon and covered an area of approximately 2 hectares. It was in use until 1864 when a new cemetery was opened. During World War II, the cemetery was destroyed, and the tombstones were used for construction purposes. After the war, the empty area was neglected, and, by 1954, buildings and infrastructure for a hospital complex were erected in its place. There are no traces of the cemetery, and no tombstones from before 1864 have been found.