Ozarow Jewish Cemetery

Cemetery Information

Country
Poland
Region
Świetokrzyskie Voivodeship
District
Opatów
Settlement
Ożarów
Site address
The cemetery is located opposite to the catholic cemetery on Partyzantów Street.
GPS coordinates
Perimeter length
404 metres
Is the cemetery demolished
no
Type and height of existing fence
It is fenced with a stone wall about 1.5m high. It has a metal gate and a wicket.
Preservation condition
Fenced and protected Jewish cemetery
General site condition
It is a well-preserved cemetery. In the southern part, there are the remains of a former building, likely an ohel or a beit tahara. In the central area, it is forested and very overgrown, but there’s access to tombstones.
Number of existing gravestones
There are 150 preserved tombstones and 56 damaged fragments, which were found sticking out of the ground. The matzevot have very spectacular, unique ornamentation with various rare decorations, such as the detailed Torah ark, birds and figures of hands. All of the matzevot are large and richly decorated, with a high degree of craftsmanship. Nearly 200 tombstones have been preserved in the cemetery, some of which are very damaged and hardly visible from the ground. Most, however, are well preserved. On the left side of the entrance, by the wall, there are two more hidden tombstones.
Date of oldest tombstone
1893
Date of newest tombstone
1940
Urgency of erecting a fence
Fence is not needed
Land ownership
Other
Preserved construction on site
There is the ohel dedicated to one of the main Rabbis of the Ozarow hassidic dynasty, the Tzadik Rabbi Yehudah Leib Epstein.
Drone surveys
Yes

Historical overview

Ożarów was founded in 1569 by Józef Ożarowski as a private town. The first records of Jewish presence come from the 16th century. The Jewish community often exceeded the number of Catholics and followers of other religions in the town. In 1616, Martin Czombor from Hungary noted that “most of the inhabitants [there] are of the Jewish origin.” The pre-kehilla belonging to the Opatów kehilla functioned at the beginning of the 17th century, and an independent community operated there in 1735. In 1787, Jews constituted over 70% of the population. In 1886, Shaul Jedidja Eleazar Taub from the Modrzyce dynasty, a tzadik and creator of over a thousand Hasidic niguns, was born in Ożarów.

During World War II, a ghetto was established in the town, where also residents of other cities, including Włocławek, Kraków, Radom, and approximately 200 Jews from Austria, were gathered. In the fall of 1942, all of them were transported to the labor camp in Skarżysko and to the extermination camp in Treblinka. The cemetery was established in the middle of the 17th century at the latest. It was located southeast of the town, opposite the Catholic cemetery, near the road to Opatów. It was shaped like a rectangle with an area of 0.95 ha. It was significantly damaged during World War II. At that time, the ohel, the funeral house, and a large part of the wall were demolished. Together with the tombstones, they were used for construction purposes (hardening roads and pavements, strengthening war fortifications.) After the war, the cemetery was abandoned. In the mid-1960s, plans were made to transform it into a park, but they were never implemented. The renovation of the cemetery took place in 2002 on the initiative of the descendants of Jews from Ożarów. A group called Ozarów Cemetery Restoration Project led by Tanchum Becker and artistically supervised by Stefan Omanta, arranged, fenced, and commemorated the necropolis. The area was surrounded by a low sandstone wall with a wrought fence decorated with the stars of David. Matzevot recovered from the town and surrounding villages were transported to the cemetery. Until now, more than 100 sandstone and exquisitely decorated stelae and the foundation of the funeral home have survived. The tombstones are from the second half of the 19th century. In front of the entrance, there is a mass grave of 120 people shot in 1942, marked with an internal fence and a monument erected in 2001. In the southern part of the cemetery, in 2011, the ohel of Tzaddik Arie Jehuda Lejbusz, son of Jechiel Chaim Epstein, an author of “Birkat Tow” who died in 1914, was rebuilt. At the entrance to the cemetery, there is an information board in three languages. Although the area is overgrown with lush vegetation, the cemetery is one of the most interesting preserved Jewish cemeteries in Poland, and at the same time, it is the oldest historical treasure in Ożarów.