Piaski: New Jewish Cemetery

The new cemetery in Piaski contains evidence of severe damage to matzevot, executions and mass graves.

Authored by Caroline Sturdy Colls

A second Jewish cemetery for Piaski

The new Jewish cemetery in Piaski was used from the end of the 19th century and it was the second Jewish cemetery to be created in the town – the first being the old Jewish cemetery. The last known burial took place there in 1943 and the oldest surviving matzevah is a double stone dated 1906-1919.

The cemetery is located on the western outskirts of the town of Piaski in a particularly forested area (see also the map at the bottom of this page).

The cemetery is not fenced and in 2017, when the project team commenced the archaeological and social action projects, the site was heavily overgrown. Graffiti, waste and other detritus littered the former cemetery area.

A commemorative stone was installed in the cemetery in the 1990s but this has also been repeatedly vandalised.  The plaque was replaced in 2006 because of one particularly serious instance of vandalism.

The memorial at Piaski new Jewish cemetery (© Centre of Archaeology, Staffordshire University)

The map below shows the location of the cemetery (marked Cmentarz Zydowski).

Surviving Traces

Very few matzevot and fragments survive within the grounds of the cemetery.

During an archaeological survey at the site in 2017, walkover survey, mapping, HDR photography and laser scanning, were all used to locate, document the positions and record the inscriptions and motifs on damaged stones.

Map of the new Jewish cemetery in Piaski showing the locations of matzevot stones or fragments. Red indicates in-situ matzevot, blue indicates buried matzevot fragments (where it cannot be confirmed that they are in their original location) and yellow indicates surface fragments that may have been moved or scattered. (© Centre of Archaeology, Staffordshire University)

Only 27 matzevot remain in situ

The surviving matzevot are all damaged, fragmented and / or partially buried.

Marks on the stones indicate both blunt instruments and sharp objects being used to cause damage.

A damaged matzevah lies broken and partially buried (© Centre of Archaeology, Staffordshire University)

There is also evidence of graffiti being carved into stones and attempts to make inscriptions illegible.

Enhanced HDR image taken of the matzevah, showing up close how writing has been etched into the stone (© Centre of Archaeology, Staffordshire University)

Ongoing Damage

Some of the matzevah seem to be used for target practice by local youths. The site is also littered with rubbish.

The image (above) and laser scan model (below) show a matzevah which seems to be used for target practice by local youths. Litter and glass surround the stone which also exhibits considerable damage (© Centre of Archaeology, Staffordshire University)

As well as the vandalism that has taken place in the cemetery, the site also became a killing and burial site.

Piaski: Mass Graves

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Download the full archaeological report for more details about our work in Piaski's Jewish cemeteries and references

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