Okopowa Jewish Cemetery

Warsaw Travel Blog

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Okopowa Jewish Cemetery, Warsaw

I drive past this cemetery all the time. If you don't know it's there, it's easy to drive by without taking much notice.  There's a little black door at one end of a very long strech of a very tall brick wall.  That door is usually closed, but today as I headed for the supermarket I saw that it was open, so I parked across the street and headed over.  It looks like there's usually a charge to enter, but the lady who was attending the door asked me what I wanted, and when I said I just wanted to take a look around, she said it was ok to head in.  I'm amazed at the 83 acres of silence that stand behind that door.   

This cemetery is incredible.  It looks like 95% of it hasn't been in use since the time around world war 2 when it was the final resting place for the thousands of Jews who were victims in the Jewish Ghetto during the Holocaust.

  Since them a few graves have been added at the front, but for the most part it feels like land that time forgot.  The whole cemetery is thick with trees and undergrowth. As I walked around, thinking, I was occasionally startled by birds and squirrels dashing right past me. 

At this time of the year, as the leaves are still not on the trees and the weeds and grasses are just starting to sprout, it's easier to see the overgrown graves and crypts.  Actually, there are 200.000 graves inside this cemetery which was established in 1803 - in addition to the mass graves of the holocaust victims. 

I spent about two hours wandering around the cemetery, across overgrown paths, looking at the tombstones and taking in the poignant atmosphere.  Some of the areas are so overgrown that it's impossible to reach them, trees have sprouted up right through the graves.  It was interesting to check out the symbols used on the tombstones and the different artistic styles.  But most of all, it was incredible to walk among the thousands of tombstones which are like silent witnesses to what used to be one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe.

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Okopowa Jewish Cemetery, Warsaw
Okopowa Jewish Cemetery, Warsaw
photo by: scarlettwitch