Polish fund to restore Europe's largest Jewish cemetery


Warsaw (AFP)

Poland on Friday launched a multi-million euro investment fund to pay for the restoration of Europe's largest Jewish cemetery located in Warsaw and largely neglected since the Holocaust.

Culture Minister Piotr Glinski said that profits generated from the fund valued at 24 million euros ($28 million) would ensure maintenance of the site that bears witness to Warsaw's lost Jewish community.

The cemetery dates back to 1806 and spans 33.5 hectares (83 acres). It is is the final resting place for about 250,000 people, mostly Warsaw elites, according to its director Przemyslaw Szpilman.

In 1939, Jews made up more than 30 percent of the population of the Polish capital and numbered 3.5 million in Poland as a whole, or 10 percent of the national population.

Only 200,000 to 300,000 of them survived the Holocaust masterminded by Nazi Germany.

After the war, most Jewish survivors emigrated, with the last wave of departures taking place after an anti-Semitic campaign organised by the communist regime in 1968.

"This project creates an unparalleled opportunity to deepen and spread knowledge about the heritage of the Jews of Poland, and to strengthen the Polish-Jewish dialogue," Anna Chipczynska, president of Warsaw's Jewish community.

Invested through banks or in secured bonds, the permanent fund will generate a profit of around 600,000 euros per year, culture minister Glinski said.

Largely abandoned since the end of the Second World War, the cemetery is mostly overgrown but there are still some 20 burials each year.