Hundreds of gravestones from the Old Jewish Cemetery in Bratislava have been discovered.
The gravestones mainly date from the 18th to the early 19th Century, according to the European Jewish Congress.
They were discovered in a pile in an overgrown area near a wall that is part of Bratislava’s active Orthodox Jewish cemetery. They had been untouched for 80 years.
The cemetery is known for being the burial place of Moses Sofer, who is also known as Chatam Sofer, one of the most prominent Orthodox rabbis in Europe during the first half of the 19th Century.
In a statement on the Bratislava Jewish community website, Tomas Stern, president of the Bratislava Jewish community, said that at least 300 gravestones had been discovered. A project to uncover the markers has been ongoing since February.
“This is probably one of the most important projects for the preservation of the cultural heritage of our community in recent years, which certainly goes beyond regional significance,” he said.
The gravestones are being documented and digitized, stated the European Jewish Congress. Their epitaphs are also being translated. Not all the stones are intact. Project members are attempting to find matching pieces of gravestone and reassemble them using archival photos.
The gravestones that are intact or reassembled in good condition will be taken back to the Old Cemetery and re-erected to stand in the same area as the Chatam Sofer memorial, which contains 23 graves that were not destroyed or removed over the years due to being covered in a concrete shell.
Even during the communist era, the memorial and these graves remained a pilgrimage site.
The cemetery dates back to the 1690s and was active until 1847. During WWII, it was destroyed when a tunnel was dug nearby.
The newly discovered gravestones had been long ago considered lost or destroyed.