When I moved to Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki in 2003, this hill was overgrown and untended. One day, I took a shortcut through here on the way to the centre of the town, and found myself stumbling over old stones. I realised I was in a graveyard. Back then I knew little about the town’s
history. I was surprised to find an overgrown graveyard over the other side of the railway tracks from the Catholic cemetery, and asked my in-laws what it was all about. “That’s the Jewish cemetery”, they replied. During the war, it was desecrated by the Nazis and many of the
headstones - and contents - were used as foundation materials for local roads. The roads I had been walking on were literally built on Jewish bodies.
A few years later, I walked along the railway tracks and saw a beautiful new monument with gravestones mounted in a wall, some whole, some in fragments, some restored, some legible, all bearing witness to the Jewish community that had been here for 300 years.
With funds raised by Jewish donors and the local council, the cemetery had been restored, and new memorials built to commemorate many of the people who had been buried there.
A walkway led to the hill, which was now tidy and tended, with many of the stones I had stumbled across still in place.
While physically there was little to recover, a sense of dignity and the current of memory had been restored to the place.
At the outbreak of the war, just over 4000 Jews lived in Nowy Dwór; just under half of the population. From 1940 to 1942 a Jewish ghetto existed in the town. On December 14th 1942, the last transport took the remaining 2000 Jews from Nowy Dwór to Auschwitz-Birkenau.