Nearly 70 years to the day since the outbreak of World War II, the city of Kanczuga in Poland has placed a memorial plaque on the front of an old building that served as a synagogue for the town's Jews until the Holocaust.

Plaque on the synagogue building commemorating the former Jewish house of worship

Courtesy of Shavei Israel

The initiative behind the move came at the end of May, during a ceremony that took place in the town of Siedlezcka in Galicia, Poland, on the occasion of the restoration of the old Jewish cemetery, which served several local Jewish communities including Kanczuga.

Among those participating in the ceremony were Michael Freund, Chairman of "Shavei Israel" (who financed the restoration of the cemetery), and the mayor of Kanczuga, Jacek Solek. At the end of the ceremony Freund approached the mayor and asked that a memorial sign be placed on the synagogue building in Kanczuga.

The building that once was a synagogue for Kanczuga's Jews

Courtesy of Shavei Israel

The mayor immediately agreed, telling Freund that, "The city must be reminded of its past and the fact that Jews once lived in Kanczuga and were an integral part of its life."  He added it was also “important for people to know that it was once a synagogue and a house of prayer." 

True to his word, Solek convened the City Council the next day and passed a formal decision to put up the memorial plaque.  The plaque was affixed on the front of the building late last week.

The plaque was affixed in a prominent place, where every person who passes the spot could see it

Courtesy of Shavei Israel

“I am very pleased and deeply moved that the mayor responded to my request and had the city put up a sign on the front of the synagogue to remind everyone that Jews once prayed there, including my family,” said Freund.

“This is an important step towards ensuring that what happened to the Jews of Kanczuga during the Holocaust will not be forgotten. I urge other Jews and Israelis whose families came from towns in Eastern Europe to become more involved in preserving what remains of the priceless Jewish heritage that once flourished there.” 

The first recorded Jewish presence in the town dates back to 1638, with the total Jewish population numbering 967 in 1921. By the start of World War II Jews made up more than 80% of the town's population – a fact that did not save them from the Nazis, who rounded them up in 1942 and marched them to the Kanczuga cemetery, where they murdered them and buried them in a mass grave.

Among the prominent Israelis who originated in Kanczuga were former Knesset Member and Mapam party founder Meir Yaari and Binyamin Siegel – a former senior officer in the Israel Police.