The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Life and Fall of Wlodowa

The Memorial Book of Wlodawa

The tombstone street
Ben-Zwia Holzmann

World War I, when the town was developing beyond the orchard of Plasczynski towards the Okoniki road, the City Council was intending to purchase part of the orchard in order to lengthen Solna street, often called "die Schul gass" and thus connect the two parts of the city. But as the budget of the municipality was quite limited this plan was temporarily laid aside.

Only with the outbreak of World War II in the year 1939 when the Germans occupied the town this plan was realized. It, however was not accomplished with the help of the budget but rather by the toil, sweat and blood of Jews. The "Judenrat" was daily compelled to send a great number of Jews to perform the work on this new street.

In order to save costs of material, the Gestapo-engineer presented a devilish plan: paving the street with the tombstones of the Jewish cemetry .

Hundreds of Jews were lead to tear out the tombstones with their bare hands. The work was done under the threat of getting shot and was accompanied by ruthless strikes. This was one of the most horrible kinds of work the Jews of Wlodowa were forced to do. They cried silently and beat their heads against the tombstones, whispered psalms and asked for forgiveness of the dead whose tombs they profaned.

David Holzmann had to join the group who "worked" at the tomb of the Rabbi R. Leibele Sezel, and next to it stood the tomb of his own father Matetjahu, blessed be his memory. David made up his mind not to let anybody else tear out his father's tombstone -- he himself would do it, slowly, carefully, delicately... when he started digging the great marblestone on which it glittered in golden letters: "Here lies a chassid who will see the heaven Matetjahu Ben Israel", it seemed to him as if the letters were jumping from the stone and dispersing in the air and they hovered over the heads threateningly and imploringly. David could not hold himself in and broke out in a bitter cry and shouted deep from his heart: "Father, father, look who is beating you..." and as if mad he started to beat his head against the tombstone and could not calm down.

The Hews who were occupied tearing out the other stones came running in order to silence him, because his shouts were likely to cause them new troubles, but their words did not reach his ears. He fell over the tomb and cried like a little child: Look father where we have arrived, father forgive me!

Suddenly he became quiet. He spread-out his arms as if he wanted to hug the tomb in order to save it from desecration of the dead and started in a stifled voice: "Yitgadel wyitkadesh Shma raba...."

The cemetry of Wlodowa in whose earth passed generations are buried and which knows to tell about great sorrows, has never heard in its entire existence such a heartbreaking crying as it did at the time of the uprooting of the tombstones.

The tombstones standing already hundreds of years could not be easily torn out. There was a peculiar feeling that those buried beneath were graspong the stones with all their strength imploring not to disturn their rest and not to destroy the last memory for the following generations.

Accompanied by the SS-muderers Wlodowa's Jews led the tombstones from the cemetry back to city for the first time of their existence profaning their sanctity.

This was the most ruthless funeral Wlodowa ever saw.

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