I was very pleased to meet many of you at the recent Gombin Society 90th Anniversary. I am sending to you the status and plans for the continuing recovery and improvement to the Jewish Cemetery in Gombin which was totally destroyed by the Nazis in 1939.
The cemetery was established in the 17th Century even before the Synagogue was built in Gombin in 1710. When the German Army invaded Poland in 1939, Gombin, very near the German border was overrun in mid September 1939. The German tanks and troops came in from the North directly through the Jewish Cemetery. The Polish Catholic Cemetery, immediately adjacent to the Jewish Cemetery was bypassed. The Germans knocked down ALL the Jewish gravestones and dug a deep trench across the width of the cemetery as a defensive emplacement. All the gravesites were obliterated.
The stones were later used by local Gombin Poles to pave a sidewalk in the town. Those stones were recovered by the Gombin Society in 1999 when we legally recovered the ownership and rights to the land. The Cemetery monument was built with recovered gravestones. In addition, a fence surrounding the entire property was built by the Gombin Society and dedicated in 1999.
Last year we decided to continue the recovery and upgrade of the cemetery and improvements. The monument and fence had degraded after 13 years of harsh Polish winters. No vandalism or induced damage occurred. In fact, we find Yahrzeit candles there placed by an unknown supporter.
In 2012, the monument was cleaned and weather-proofed. Loose gravestones in the monument were remounted. The gate had fallen and was also repaired. All this cost $4,400 and was paid for mostly by donations. We have just engaged a contractor to cut the grass monthly during the growing season at a cost of $750 per year.
The next phase of work to be done includes replacing the gravel walkway from the gate to the monument and painting the fence surrounding the property. The fence is wrought iron and 1900 feet in length (five feet high). The cost for these two needed steps is $1,300 for the walkway and $12,000 for the fence painting. All these estimates were derived from three competitive bids from Polish contractors.
Another major recovery plan is to locate and identify the layout of the many graves which are still there but unidentified. Some research and careful archeology can be done. We are considering a second monument with the family names of the hundreds of Gombin Jews who lived and died in Gombin over the four centuries of Jewish presence there. This cost is not yet determined but will exceed $12,000.
These plans have been approved by the Gombin Society. A Gombin family, represented by Mr. Larry Zicklin has generously offered to match our fund raising up to a level of $12,500 if we raise an equal amount. Thus, all donations we receive will be matched. We have already raised over $4,000, independent of the cost of the Anniversary event.
I am sending this information to you in the hope that you may share in our effort to restore and maintain the longstanding Jewish Cemetery of Gombin. Any contributions would be most welcome.
We are also considering a visit to Gombin, perhaps in 2014. The new Warsaw Museum of Polish Jewish History should be fully open then and would be part of a group visit.
Again, thank you to those who attended the 90th Anniversary event and for supporting our programs.
Any donations may be sent to our Treasurer, Michael Kaplan, 45 Copper Mine Road, Princeton, NJ 08540
Arthur A. Gertzman
Tel (732) 672 7602