Dozens of gravestones vandalised at Jewish cemetery in Polish city

Almost 70 gravestones have been vandalised at the Jewish cemetery in the Polish city of Bielsko-Biała. The attack was carried out this weekend by unknown perpetrators, with police now seeking to identify the culprits.

“I’m sitting with tears in my eyes; I can’t understand it,” wrote Dariusz Gajny, who manages the cemetery and posted images of the damage on Facebook. “Police have been on the scene since the morning. I hope the perpetrators will be caught quickly.”

“Today is not only an unacceptable desecration, but also a blow to the history of the city and all the people who are involved in saving the cemetery,” added the Jewish community of Bielsko-Biała, a city of 170,000 people in southern Poland.

Before the Holocaust, thousands of Jews lived in Bielsko (before it joined with neighbouring Biała), constituting around 20% of the population. Most, however, were killed during the German-Nazi occupation, with many others leaving after the war. Today, the city’s Jewish community consists of only around 50 members.

Local news website Bielsko.Biala.pl reports that police were informed of the vandalism this morning, with their spokesman confirming that 67 tombstones were damaged. CCTV footage is being secured to try to identify the culprits.

The site is the only surviving Jewish cemetery in the city, and was established in 1849. It suffered extensive damage during the war, when over half the tombstones were stolen or destroyed. The site has had protected status since 1983. In 2009, a monument to Bielsko-Biała’s Jews killed during the Holocaust was unveiled there.

Earlier this month, over 50 tombstones were destroyed at a Jewish cemetery in the city of Wrocław. Police detained and questioned five 12-year-olds on suspicion of carrying out the attack.

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