Wodzislaw Jewish Cemetery
Wodzisław was founded as a royal town in 1366. In 1508, King Sigismund the Old changed the town’s foundation status from Polish to German law. In the second half of the 16th century, the town was a strong centre of the Reformation. The first mentions of Jews date to the 16th century. In the 17th century, “Wodzisław was the second-largest Jewish community in the Krakow voivodeship. A kehilla (…) and a Jewish cemetery were established there. Jews also developed the former Calvinist building into a synagogue.” In 1783, Jews constituted 47.9% of the total population and, by 1867, the Jewish community constituted about 75% of the total population. Between 1918–1939, Jews from Sędziszów, Nagłowice, Mstyczów, and Nawarzyce also belonged to the community in Wodzisław. In the interwar period, Wodzisław had a strong Zionist movement. In 1940, the Germans established a ghetto in Wodzisław, in which there were about 4,000 people from Wodzisław, Jędrzejów, Ciechocinek, Łódź, and the Poznań Voivodeship. In November 1942, about 300 people were transferred to a labour camp in Sandomierz, and over 3,000 were transported to the extermination camp in Treblinka.
The Jewish cemetery was established in 1692 in the village of Świątniki, south of the city, next to the road to Kraków. In the records of the community from 1928, a fenced area of 4 morgas is mentioned. There was also a morgue and a caretaker’s house. In the years 1942–1943, mass executions took place in the cemetery and over 300 people were murdered there. By order of the Germans, the bodies of those executed in the Wierdonki meadows were moved to the cemetery. Mass graves are located in the new, western part of the cemetery. The cemetery was partially destroyed during World War II. The tombstones were used for construction purposes and for hardening roads. In the 1970’s, during the construction of the Wodzisław detour on the Warsaw-Krakow route, a road was built through the area which divided the cemetery into two parts. In 1988, the Nissenbaum Family Foundation applied for funds to fence the remains of the cemetery. In 1990, A monument commemorating Jews, the residents of Wodzisław and its vicinity murdered by the Nazis during World War II, was erected. At that time, only the eastern part of the cemetery was fenced. The western part, which is devoid of tombstones, and covered with grass and bushes, remains unfenced. The road leading through the cemetery is no longer used owing to changes in the national route S7. In the fenced part of the cemetery, next to the monument, there are about two hundred fragments of matzevot recovered from the town area.