Olympic paddler helps raise memorial to murdered Polish Jews

Polish national champion Dariusz Popiela spearheads project to restore memory of local Jewish Holocaust victims.


Jewish cemetery in Poland
Jewish cemetery in Poland
Flash 90

Local officials and residents attended the dedication of a memorial to the Jews from a village in southern Poland who were murdered there during World War II.

Dozens of people attended the ceremony on Sunday in the Jewish cemetery in Krościenko, including representatives of Jewish organizations.

Dariusz Popiela, a Polish Olympian who was 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 during the ceremony.

The monument at the cemetery 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.

The project also was supported by the Jewish Historical Institute Association and the Nissenbaum Family Foundation. About $30,000 was raised for the project.

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 to 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.