The Associated Press, 'Poland donates large sum to preserve Warsaw Jewish cemetery'. Friday, December 22, 2017
The Polish government has donated 100 million zlotys ($28 million) to restore and protect a major Jewish cemetery in Warsaw, one of the country's largest public contributions toward preserving the Jewish culture nearly wiped out in the Holocaust. The Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery, established in 1806, is the resting spot of 250,000 Polish Jews — Yiddish writers, rabbis, philanthropists, scholars, bankers and regular citizens who once belonged to a vibrant community that made up one-third of Warsaw's population before World War II. Among the notable people buried at the Okopowa Street cemetery are Ludwik Zamenhof, the creator of the Esperanto language (1859-1917), and Samuel Orgelbrand, publisher of Poland's first modern encyclopedia (1810-1868). Today, decades after Germany uprooted and destroyed that community, many sections of the cemetery are a desolate sight. Some tombstones are broken or disappearing below decades of decomposing vegetation, and others bear inscriptions rendered unreadable by erosion. "It's a disaster. It's a large territory in the middle of the city which looks like a jungle," said Michal Laszczkowski, the head of the Cultural Heritage Foundation, a private organization that preserves Polish heritage sites. "That's why we decided to do something." The foundation will oversee the preservation work at the Jewish cemetery. Catholic churches, monuments and cemeteries have been among the organization's focus. In Warsaw on Friday, Polish Culture Minister Piotr Glinski signed a contract with Laszczkowski that formalized the government donation. The money established an endowment, returns from which are supposed to go to cleaning the cemetery, preserving its tombstones and monuments and reinforcing an outer wall.