‘Full-out scandal’ as human remains dug up near old Jewish cemetery in Poland
The remains were found in the city of Siemiatycze Tuesday, on grounds adjacent to the fence of a Jewish cemetery. The bones were found during construction work for a new supermarket, parking lot, and electrical transformer station, according to AP.
Although reports state the remains were dug up in an area adjacent to the cemetery, beyond its fence, and that the land belongs to the Polish Motor Association (PZMot), Poland's Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said the area is still part of the cemetery, Gazeta Prawna reported. The rabbi said the Jewish community should have been informed that construction work was being planned at the site.
Schudrich called the incident a "full-out scandal" and "the worst deserialization of the Jewish cemetery" that he has seen since assuming his role as chief rabbi 17 years ago. Under Jewish law, human remains are not to be disturbed.
“There are no words to describe how this is possible today in a free, democratic Poland,” Schudrich said.
Siemiatycze Mayor Piotr Siniakowicz told the Polish Press Agency (PPA) that the incident has nothing to do with government, as the town is not in charge of taking care of the cemetery.
That sentiment was echoed by the city's deputy mayor, Henryk Tomasz Czmut, who told the PPA that "it seems that charging us, as a city, [of] harmful activities is too far-reaching." Czmut met with Schudrich Wednesday. The rabbi "expressed his disapproval" that there was no "reaction" from the city in connection to finding the remains.
However, Czmut said he found out about the incident Tuesday and immediately began taking appropriate action. The case is now under investigation by the District Prosecutor’s Office in Siemiatycze.
AP reported that the bones were "unceremoniously" dumped onto an empty lot after being dug up. But the Arutz Sheva news outlet said it was handed over to the rabbinical commission for Jewish cemeteries.
The city of Siemiatycze, located in eastern Poland, is home to some 15,000 people. It was around 60 percent Jewish until the Holocaust. No Jews currently live there, according to AP.