Piaski: Social Action

Volunteers from across Poland and around the world came together to clean Piaski's cemeteries

Authored by Caroline Sturdy Colls

Desecrated killing sites

The Old and New Piaski Jewish cemeteries were desecrated by the Nazis during World War II and both were used as killing sites where members of the Jewish community were shot.

The sites have been reused and neglected since the war but experts and volunteers from all over the world came together as part of the “Recording Cultural Genocide and Killing Sites in Jewish Cemeteries” project to help restore the sites and public knowledge.

"This project is important for today’s society, because history needs to be remembered and not forgotten. How can change happen in the future if we don’t teach/learn about things that happened in the past?"

Volunteer working to clean Piaski's Jewish cemeteries, 2017

An interdisciplinary, international team

A partnership between Staffordshire University (UK), The Matzevah Foundation (US) and Fundacja Zapomniane (Poland) and  Studnia Pamięci worked alongside more around 30 volunteers to carry out restoration works and implement forensic archaeological methods in 2017.

Working together, these participants helped to clean, document and restore both cemeteries. However, they worked most intensively at the new cemetery, where vegetation and vandalism made it extremely difficult to see the few surviving matzevot and where the archaeological team identified human remains on the surface as a result of looting.

The project participants also took part in discussion groups to consider the causes and consequences of racial hatred and genocide, as well as a visit to Majdanek concentration camp.

The project team also worked with local and international groups – including the office of the Major of Piaski – to create sustainable strategies for Holocaust education and to develop further opportunities for this kind of collaboration in the future.

"The task of our volunteers is to clean up the places where the work with GPR will be carried out afterwards. Without our help, the archaeologists could not gain access with the equipment because the sites are unbelievably overgrown. So we cut the weeds and clean up. In the new Jewish cemetery in Piaski, garbage was stored. There were parties there as well. We found many bottles broken around preserved gravestones. Fragments of matzevot were found in the focus area. Near a tree house built in the cemetery, we found fragments of human bones. It was a shocking sight"

Teresa Klimowicz, Studnia Pamieci

"This project is relevant for today as it tackles history and aims to form a remembrance of the past and what has happened... It brings communities together and shows a common idea - that this needs to be remembered and recorded for history so that this lesson can be passed down from generation to generation."

Volunteer, 2017

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Download our full archaeological report for details about our archaeological investigations, social action work and references at Piaski's Jewish cemeteries

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