Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Unspeakable photo essay on desecrated Jewish gravestones in Poland

I am rarely emotionally affected by something I view online. However, Tablet magazine has an article and photo essay that should leave anyone speechless.

Between 2008 and 2012, photographer Łukasz Baksik—itinerant documentarian and questing typologist—traversed his native Poland, painstakingly documenting the ways in which Jewish gravestones, or matzevot, had been looted and appropriated, both in rural villages and cities, since the 1940s. “Quarried” from cemeteries during World War II (by the Nazis), the decades that followed (by Poles), and even up until the present day, matzevot had been and continue to be used in any instance in which ordinary stone might normally, mundanely, and practically suffice.

The matzevot Baksik photographed had been repurposed (a tricky verb in this context) as paving stones for courtyards and passageways, or else to patch crumbling walls and curbstones in need of reinforcement. They had been shaped into querns and grindstones; had been used to construct a cowshed, a pergola in a city park, a sandbox for children; had ended up as “recyclable” tablets for new Catholic gravestones—the Jewish gravestone was simply carved into again, like a palimpsest—and as a path for monks who, Baksik relates, “had become used to walking on a paved path, and not through the mud.”

...[T]o live and work in close proximity to looted gravestones, and with apparent spiritual equanimity, is only possible if the matzevot themselves do not register as being representative of fellow human beings.

Watch the slideshow. Now.