WARSAW, Poland (JTA) – A Polish Olympian remembered Jews from Kroscienko who were murdered in the village during World War II at the dedication of a memorial he spearheaded.
Local officials, representatives of Jewish organizations and dozens of residents attended the ceremony Sunday in the Jewish cemetery in Krościenko, in southern Poland.
Dariusz Popiela, the 2017 national champion in the canoe/kayak slalom and the silver medalist at the European Championships, spearheaded a project to restore the memory of “the forgotten neighbors” as part of the Shtetl of Tzanz project of the Nomina Rosae Foundation.
“For many years I trained on the canoe track not knowing that a few dozen meters away is a collective grave of Krościenko residents,” Popiela said at the ceremony.
The monument looks like a broken Jewish gravestone with the names of 246 Jewish victims. Popiela collected money for the monument online on the website pomogam.pl.
About $30,000 was raised for the project, which also had support from the Jewish Historical Institute Association and the Nissenbaum Family Foundation.
According to Popiela, the most important part of the project is the possibility of “getting out of oblivion and putting on the monument the names and surnames of all Jewish Krościenko residents, resisting the plans of their murderers to erase their memory.”
On April 28, 1942, German occupiers carried out mass executions in the area. Research made it possible to collect a list of the Jews murdered in the village then and between the second half of 1939 and August 1942, when the last Jews left there.
The cemetery in Krościenko was destroyed during World War II. The gravestones — as in many other places throughout Europe — were used to build sidewalks and pave roads. At the cemetery during the war, Germans also carried out mass executions.
In advance of the dedication of the memorial, the cemetery was cleaned up and fenced in.