Friday, May 22, 2015

My first visit to the Jewish cemetery in Lubaczow in May 2002

As I entered the Jewish cemetery in Lubaczow for the first time back in May 2002, I at once understood I had a real problem.

My friend Erela Goldschmidt, originally Marysia HILFERDING, born 1942 in Lwow, had died in Israel in November 2001. To honor her memory as a child survivor of Holocaust, I had come to Lubaczow to locate the grave of her maternal grandmother - a Mrs. WEINRATH who had died some time before 1935.

The gravestones were written in Hebrew, but I could overcome that with my knowledge of modern Hebrew. Later I bought a book called "Otzar Roshei Tevoth" to understand some of the words that were new to me.


The dates of death were all noted according to the Hebrew calendar - months were no problem, but as the years went further and further back, I got lost. 

Later I therefore bought the book "Ad mea ve-esrim" giving me the corresponding dates for the years from 1900, according to the general calendar and according to the Hebrew calendar. Later I have used Stephen P. Morse's Deciphering Hebrew Tombstone Dates in One Step

The dates on the gravestones only referred to the date of death, not to the date of birth. Sometimes the words would mention the person died "in the prime of his life", "full of his days" - giving some hints to the age of the deceased.

Male given names were the names of men I knew in real life, coming from the Tanach, occasionally with an added nickname I had heard in Israel. Aizik for Yitzchak, f.ex.

Female given names were often the names I knew mostly from stories about life in the shtetl in Eastern Europe - Gitel, Scheindel, Beile.

The  two major problems I discovered on that first visit were these:

1. Family names were inscribed on just a few gravestones. Later I found out that only around 40 of more than 1600 have the family name inscribed on the stone.

2. Despite Bogdan Lisze's attempt to clean the cemetery before my first visit, part of the cemetery was a real jungle. The part that he had cleaned in 2002, was covered again with bushes when I came back in 2003.

How would I find Mrs. Weinrath's gravestone under such circumstances?
I did not know her given name.
I did not know the year she died.
Her family name would probably not be on the gravestone.

To find her grave, I would need to document the whole cemetery. Thus started my Lubaczow cemetery project.

Now, in 2015, I will share my present knowledge about this cemetery. My work is not perfect, but I hope that others who look for their family graves or those who want to learn about the Jews who once lived in Lubaczow, will find the material helpful and inspiring enough to improve the information.

In the end I managed to find the grave of Erela's grandmother! Her name was Reisel Rosalia WEINRATH nee GOTTLIEB. She was from Rawa Ruska and she died in 1924. 

Of all the photos I have taken in this cemetery, only her gravestone have this orange-purple light mark on it.

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