Jewish graves vandalized in Polish town where Nazis tortured Jews

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Unknown individuals painted pentagrams and wrote a former Pope’s name on several Jewish tombstones they desecrated in southern Poland.

The desecration occurred recently at the Jewish cemetery of Olkusz, a town located 25 miles northwest of Krakow, according to a report released Monday on the Facebook page of the Monitoring Centre for Racist and Xenophobic Behavior, a Polish nongovernmental watchdog.

The group presented three photos of desecrated headstones on its Facebook page. One of the images showed a pentagram — a five-pointed star which is a Christian symbol sometimes associated with Satanism — painted on the a gravestone. Smashed headstones can be seen in the background.

In its report on the incident, the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism said dozens of headstones were destroyed in Olkusz.

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Another headstone had the name Jan Pawel — the Polish name of Pope John Paul II — spray painted on it.

The Jews of Olkusz were deported to Auschwitz in 1942, and most perished there, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Two years earlier, German troops gathered all the men in the town square and murdered one of them after humiliating and beating the rest. The July 31 incident in 1940 was known locally as “Bloody Wednesday.”

The troops posed to have their pictures taken with local Jewish men including Rabbi Moshe Yitzchak Hagerman, who is seen standing barefoot while donning a prayer shawl upon which the soldiers had urinated. In the photograph, he is seen standing over at least six Jews who were forced to lie on the pavement at the feet of the smiling German troops.

Hagerman was murdered in 1942 in Majdanek.