04 Jan The Jewish Cemetery:
The Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw is huge. It is spread over 33.6 hectares and there are over 200,000 people buried there. The cemetery was established in 1799 and the first burial was in 1807. Right from the beginning the cemetery had separate burial areas for men and women. The gravestones run the gamut of styles just as did the vast differences of the people buried there. There were many conflicts that arose between the various groups of people that used the cemetery. In 1913 an agreement was made to split the cemetery into four parts. One part for the Orthodox Jews, one for the Reform Jews, one section for the children and one for military and state burials.
There are many famous personalities and Rabbis buried in the cemetery such as Chaim Soloveitchik of Brisk, the Bais Halevi. R’ Dow Ber Meissels. The Netziv, many other Rabbis and Chassidic Rebbes. There is a board at the entrance listing the famous personalities buried there.
Interestingly the graves in the cemetery have the backs facing the cemetery gate the opposite of tradition. This started in 1819 when one member of the community was accidently buries with his head facing the cemetery gate. The Rabbi, Rabbi Szlomo Zalman Lipszyc, ruled that from then on everyone should be buried that way to avoid embarrassing the one buried that way.
Although the cemetery was destroyed somewhat by the Nazis during WWII, it survived mostly intact. The Germans used it to bury victims of mass executions and victims of the Warsaw Ghetto and Warsaw Uprising. The mass grave is a bare patch of grass roped off with one memorial stone. The cemetery was renovated and then reopened in the 1990’s.
This August (2019) we visited Warsaw once again with Project Mesorah Poland Tour. We were fed much more information about the history and people buried in the Cemetery. The most fascinating part of Warsaw history that played out in that cemetery during World War II was shared with us by our guide Ari Scharf.
He led us through the cemetery to a gated area with a trap door on top. This area was discovered and verified as the opening to a tunnel through which the children of the Warsaw Ghetto used to escape in order to search for food for their starving families.
Posted: January 7, 2018
Updated: December 17, 2019
Information, prices and hours posted here are current as of the posted or updated date. It is advisable to call ahead or check online to confirm hours and prices.
Mon-Thurs: 10am-5pm (or until dusk)
Fri: 9am-1pm ; Sun 11am-4pm