Police in western Poland are investigating whether a historic Jewish cemetery was damaged after workers uncovered human remains and tombstones at a construction site.
Anna Dygas, from the police department in the village of Maszewo, told The Associated Press on Thursday that an investigation has been opened into possible damage to a burial site. Experts were analyzing the human remains and the tombstones.
The private owner of the site notified police Tuesday after human bones surfaced during work to prepare the site for a construction job.
The head of Poland’s Jewish community, Leslaw Piszewski, said he was “devastated” by the report. He said the Jewish community will take steps to have a proper reburial of the remains at the same site.
So far, only about 500 out of some 1,600 Jewish cemeteries have been returned to the Jewish community in Poland, including some synagogues and prayer houses, he said. The properties, most of whose owners and users perished in the Holocaust, were seized by the communist state after World War II. They are now being gradually returned.
An amateur historian, Wojciech Janda, said the site is a 200-year-old small Jewish cemetery. Last year a history association he belongs to included the neglected, overgrown cemetery on a list of historical monuments.
Ewa Stanecka, a local official in charge of historic sites, said the owner never sought permission for the construction.
According to Janda, the first written mention of Maszewo’s Jewish cemetery dates back to 1820, when the area was part of Prussia and then Germany. The last burial was in 1933. The Germans destroyed the cemetery, breaking its walls and the tombstones, amid rising anti-Semitism in 1938.