In the middle of an overgrown wooded area, we discover the world’s largest collection of piled up tombstones. This is all that remains of the small above-ground architecture of a burial ground around 320,000 individuals active in the years of 1743 to 1940.
The cemetery was officially established in 1780, when Polish King Stanisław Poniatowski allotted a lease of specific sandy grounds to be used as a Jewish burial ground to an influential merchant, one Szmul Zbytkower. This was a welcome and long-awaited news for the Jews of Warsaw and Praga, who were until then forced to take their deceased ones to places tens of kilometres away. This watershed event served as a developmental impulse to the entire Jewish community of the Praga district. However, the founding of another Jewish necropolis at Okopowa Street in 1806 began a process that ultimately consigned the Bródno Jewish Cemetery to the role of the burial place for the poorer part of Warsaw’s Jewish community.
The last funerals known to have been conducted at the cemetery took place just before the complete enclosure of the Warsaw Ghetto on November 16th 1940. Two years later the Germans dismantled the cemetery walls, thus opening the way to its ultimate devastation. In the post-war years, under the mandate of the communist authorities, the remnant gravestones were torn from the ground. Some were appropriated as building materials and some collected for subsequent removal. The cemetery area was to be converted into a city park. The once more barren dunes were afforested and until quite recently served recreational purposes, including the consumption of alcoholic beverages and the walking of dogs.
It was only in the mid-1980s that the efforts of the Nissenbaum Family Foundation led to erection of a surrounding fence and a monumental bas-relief decorated entry gate. Unfortunately, part of the burial ground with burials was not included within the new cemetery perimeter.
The ownership rights to the cemetery were restored to the Jewish Religious Community of Warsaw in 2012. The Community has rebuilt the existing fence and completed construction of an exhibition pavilion. Exibition which presents the history of the Bródno district Jewish necropolis and jewish funeral tradtion will be opened vor visitors in February 2018.
Address: 15 św. Wincentego Street, 03-505 Warsaw
T: (+48) 22 678 74 53, (+48) 505 796 886
Admission charge: 5 PLN
Visits and guided tours are by prior appointment only.
Database including information obtained from gravestones at the cemetery: