Former synagogue demolished in southern Poland

Cnaan Liphshiz

WARSAW (JTA) — A wedding producer who in 2012 bought an 19th-century building in southern Poland that used to be a synagogue had it demolished to make room for a new structure.

Bulldozers on Saturday began tearing down what used to be the old synagogue of the city of Gorlice 200 miles south of Warsaw, the Gazeta Gorlicka newspaper reported.

The municipality sold the building and the 5-acre to Stanislaw Mucha-Słomski, a catering mogul and wedding producer, for approximately $100,000. The synagogue last functioned as a synagogue before World War II, when the town had approximately 4,000 Jews. Most were murdered in the Holocaust and the rest left. The synagogue was taken over by communist authorities and turned into a fire station. It was then abandoned and fell into disrepair.

German occupation forces had destroyed the synagogue’s interior during World War II.

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Poland has no laws regulating restitution for property that was owned by Polish Jews before 90 percent of them were killed in the Holocaust.

But legislation from the 1990s did lead to the allocations of dozens of millions of dollars to the country’s Jewish community today, which, according to the country’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, represents a Jewish population of several tens of thousands.

Half of about 5,500 claims for restitution for communal property have not been processed, according to the World Jewish Restitution Organization. Of the claims that have been processed, fewer than half led to positive decisions on restitution or were settled by agreement, which led to the return of the contested property or related compensation.

Gorlice used to have another synagogue, the Great Synagogue of Gorlice, which was located near the one that was destroyed last week. The Great Synagogue of Gorlice no longer exists but the building that used to house is still in existence and now houses a bakery. It is a monument earmarked for preservation.

Poland used to have more than 3 million Jews before the Holocaust. Approximately 90 percent of them were murdered and most of those who survived emigrated during the communist years.