Before World War II, Poland was home to about 3.5 million Jews, the largest Jewish community in Europe.
Some 90% of them were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Today there are only a few thousand Jews left in Poland to look after the country’s 1,400-or-so Jewish cemeteries, most of which are overgrown or in ruins.
But now prisoners have volunteered to take part in a nationwide programme organised by the prison service and the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland…
“It gets the prisoners used to working and it helps destroy the stereotypes which still exist in Polish and Israeli culture. Thanks to this programme anti-Semitism can be defeated and the prisoners can learn a lot about Jews.”
Anti-Semitic incidents are on the decline in Poland, but the country has a reputation for being hostile to Jews…
A dozen prisoners from Grodzisk Mazowiecki outside Warsaw, carrying wooden rakes and metal trowels, walk the short distance to the town’s cemetery in the pouring rain.
As they arrive, workers are cutting the overgrown grass and weeds. Decades of neglect are clearly visible. Gravestones, some dating back to the 1700s, stick out of the grass at precarious angles or lie broken on the ground.
It is hard to imagine now, but at one time 85% of the town’s population was Jewish and the graveyard was seven times larger.
Small Jewish towns, or shtetls, were widespread across Poland and Eastern Europe before the war, but they were wiped out during the Holocaust.
A pleasant tale; but, I can’t help but compare it to the obligatory arrest of a couple dozen drug dealers every time there’s an election coming up – in my neck of the prairie.
It’s like listening to the teabagger Republican now running for governor here in New Mexico – who makes a big deal about every election she won for office downstate. She was going to put an end to plea-bargaining away penalties for drunk driving. One of our biggest problems.
She plea-bargained 800 DWI cases while she was DA.