Edited By Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pędich and Jacek Partyka
The Sacralization and Secularization of the Jewish Cemeteries in Poland
These days in many cities, towns and villages in Poland, the Jewish cemetery remains the only material remnant and testimony to the historical presence of a Jewish community. Out of an estimated number of 1,400 Jewish cemeteries in Poland today, only a few are still functioning as burial places for the current Jewish communities in Poland (Gebert and Datner). While many of the cemeteries have been preserved and reconstructed in recent years, others are neglected, abandoned or destroyed. In some towns, only remnants of a wall or a clearing in the forest mark the place where once a Jewish cemetery stood. But in order to thoroughly answer the question of what remains of the Jewish cemeteries in Poland we must understand this question not only in material terms, but also in terms of collective memory and consciousness.
The aim of this essay is to tell the post-Holocaust story of the Jewish cemeteries in Poland from the point of view of Polish society. I intend to do so by using the conceptual framework of the sacred and the profane. More specifically, I would like to analyze the material and symbolic transformation of the Jewish cemeteries in Poland since the Holocaust as an ambivalent and dialectic process of “sacralization” on the one hand, and “secularization” on the other. I would like to offer this sacralization-secularization dichotomy as an explanatory model for understanding how the Jewish cemeteries were perceived by Christian Poles, and how the...
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