Mielec Memorial Site and War Cemetery on ul. Tragutta
(Cmentarz Żydowski w Mielcu, ul. Tragutta 9, Mielec, Poland – Link to Google Map)
by Izabela Sekulska
Published on June 1, 2021. Translation by Julia Zieba.
The Jewish Memorial and War Cemetery of Mielec on ul. Tragutta is a much larger plot than the one on ul. Jadernych. It is unclear when it was created and exactly how many burials are there (see History section below). Currently there are four memorials / tombstones (it is unclear if there are actual remains) flat on the ground, and a large upright memorial stone dedicated to the victims of the Shoah.
As late as 2019 the cemetery was in very poor condition with large overgrowth. In 2020 a group of local Polish volunteers, led by Mielec native Izabela Sekulska, organized a massive cleanup of the Tragutta cemetery. The cemetery grounds are now clear of brush, clean, and the fence is freshly painted. Volunteers regularly visit the cemetery to ensure its upkeep.
How to Visit
The Tragutta cemetery is on the outskirts of town in an industrial area; you should plan to go there by car. It is fenced and the gate is locked. To enter the cemetery, go first to the Muzeum Historii Fotografii “Jadernych” in town on ul. Jadernych (across the street from the Old Jewish Cemetery) and ask for the key. Please lock the gate when you leave, return the key to the museum, and report any vandalism or trash to the museum staff. Donations to help maintain the cemetery can be made either on-site at the museum, or on this website via PayPal. Please indicate that funds are for the New Jewish Cemetery of Mielec.
Prior to the establishment of the New Jewish Cemetery on ul. Traugutta, there were already two similar burial grounds in Mielec: one on ul. Jadernych and the cholera cemetery near present-day ul. Żeromski. But by the middle of the 1930s, the Jadernych cemetery was extremely full, and since the “cholera” cemetery was considered off-limits, there became a need to find a new plot of land for Jewish burials.
Allotments in what is known today as “Złotniki” (a village on the outskirts of Mielec) were selected in the late 1930s as the grounds for the new Jewish cemetery, and the burial site itself was established in 1938. Unfortunately, no documents have survived that would confirm any burials at this location before the war. This seems odd, however. According to Jewish tradition, the headstones (matzevot) are erected a year after death of the buried. Perhaps there was no time as the war began? There is no doubt that Jews murdered or shot between 1939 and 1942 were buried there.
A resident of the Borek estate, Tomasz Żola, served the role of the undertaker during the war. Mr. Żola would receive an order to dig a grave and later Jewish convicts were brought to the spot, shot, and buried. Tomasz Indyk, an eyewitness to these events, stated that members of the Mielec Gendarmerie would often perform these executions. Shootings of Poles (Gentiles) also occurred at the Tragutta cemetery, most often carried out by the German Gestapo. Some of the bodies have been exhumed after the war ended, but some are yet to be identified.
After the war the Tragutta cemetery was partly turned into a transport base, and in the 1990s a fence was built around it.
In the central part of the site there is a small hill, on which a small monument is situated. The inscription on it says the following, both in Polish and Hebrew:
“In memory of 300 Jewish people, the victims of the barbarism of the Hitler’s regime in the years 1939-1942. The cemetery has been established by the Jewish community in Mielec, destroyed in the years 1938-1945 by the Nazis.”
At the foot of the monument there are four concrete gravestones that lie flat on the ground. The history, and the inscriptions, of each person are below.
Cerla Kleinman (née Brenner)
During the Shoah Cerla Kleinman (née Brenner), her 12-year old son David, and her sister Sarah Brenner hid in Chrząstów on the property of a local Pole named Korczak. With them was also Devorah Ostrow and her two daughters: Leah and Mindel.
The hideout was located in a long, stone building in which horses and cows were kept. On the cows’ side a wooden trough was attached to the wall with metal latches. Korczak made space there for a hideout by cutting off roughly 75 centimetres from the end of the building. Later on, the trough for the cattle was disassembled and then reattached to the newly created wall. Hay and manure camouflaged the entrance. Korczak placed two rows of plank beds on both sides of this narrow corridor. In between walls he placed a bench and a bucket used as a toilet.
At some point in time Devorah Ostrow died of natural causes and was buried in the garden. It seemed thus far as if the rest of those hiding would be rescued, given that the Eastern Front was quickly moving closer and closer to the Mielec area. Yet, on May 31, 1944 at around 10pm Mr. Korczak entered the hideout and told the hiding Jews to go outside, as the Polish partisans wanted to see them.The family members were first thoroughly searched (the partisans were mainly looking for valuables) and then escorted to the forest, where they were eventually murdered1.
Based on the testimony of Mark Verstandig at a hearing in Paris after the war, it was established that a Mrs. Brenner was indeed hiding there (she was also mentioned by a Mr. Marcin Walas). Most likely they both meant Sarah Brenner, sister of Cerla Kleinman. With the birth dates in the Judenrat documentation taken into account, Cerla was 39 years of age when murdered, David was 12 years of age, and Sarah Brenner was 36.
Rachel Buchen (née Kampf)
The allotment on which the cemetery was built once belonged to a man named Moses Buchen. Moses survived the war and left Mielec afterwards. He was most likely related to the Rachel buried at Tragutta, especially given that her gravestone was already at the cemetery. It is safe to assume that in general if gravestones with names inscribed appeared on the site, then there must have been due to a family member’s initiative.
On the JRI Poland website she is most often listed as Rachel Buchen. Furthermore, the following has been retrieved about her life in a Rzeszów archive: “Rachela Buchen (née Kampf) was 62 years of age when deceased. She died either on 11th or 15th of December 1941” It is not 100% certain, however, that it is in fact the Rachel Buchen. The note found in the archive might also not be entirely correct as far as the dates are concerned, as such documents were more often than not written down for the succession purposes in courts. This information has also been reviewed by Tomasz Frydel, the co-author of a publication “Dalej jest noc” (The Night Lingers On). Upon discussing we have reached the conclusion that the date in the archives might indeed be incorrect, given that such executions as the one of Mrs. Buchen rarely took place in 1941. Therefore, the date on the gravestone, 1942, is the most probable one.
Unfortunately, no information has come to light thus far. I was not able to find any trace in the archives either.
Sarah Horn (née Leszkowicz)
Andrzej Krempa in his book “Zagłada Żydów Mieleckich (Holocaust of the Jews of Mielec) states: the four Jews hiding near the Ostrówek village did not survive the Nazi occupation. Around November 1943 one of the villagers informed the local Blue Police station that Jews were hiding in the area. The lieutenant Pielach, arrived at the place with two other officers. A manhunt was organized with the help of the local population. As a result, the siblings Sarah, Rachel and David Horn as well as their uncle Leszkiewicz were shot; a couple of the Polish locals stripped them of their clothing after the shooting (p. 102). Moses Horn, the surviving member of the family, also remained in hiding in Ostrówek, at Jan Perla’s house. Afterwards he testified against the perpetrators at the Court of Appeals in Rzeszów. In his testimony, he stressed that he still feared for his saviour’s life.2
According to the information I was able to retrieve from the Polish State Archives in Rzeszów, it can be said with certainty that the following perished during the aforementioned manhunt: Sarah Beila Horn (née Leszkowicz) aged 48, her daughter Rachel aged 22, son David aged 9, and Sarah’s brother Aaron Leszkowicz. The court accepted October 21, 1942 as the date of all the deaths.
The exhumation of the victims of Ostrówek manhunt was presided over by Moses Horn, Sarah’s son, who survived the Shoah. After the war he lived briefly in Mielec as well as Kraków and later on emigrated to the USA (via a DP camp).
The grounds on which the cemetery has been built, formally belong to the municipality of Mielec. Currently there are regulatory proceedings taking place. The inscription at the monument is not precise, and most likely is related to all the shootings that took place on March 9, 1942 – the day of the mass deportation of all Jewish people of Mielec. The gravestones were placed most likely after the war. The monument, as stated in the documents from 1985 was “new”. Thus it has been, most likely, made a few decades after the war. The cemetery is built on an allotment number 181101-1.0001.648/3. The approximate size of the site is 6411 square meters.
An article by Agnieszka Grzelak in Yad Vashem’s collections shows that in 1990s the previous owners of the plots in the vicinity of the monument transferred them to the municipality of Mielec. Based on the journal of Moshe Borger, a resident of Mielec who survived the Holocaust (currently kept in Yad Vashem), we can assume that a rabbi named Pfeffer visited Poland in the 1960s. The purpose of his visit was to help Jewish children emigrate from Poland. He also took photographs of the cemeteries on ul. Traugutta and ul. Wspólna. We can find him on the oldest remaining photographs of the cemetery.
In this post I used the following sources: the text by Mr Krempa, the co-author (alongside Mr Janusz Halisz) of the book “Mielec 1939-1945- Military Secrets and War Stories”- the chapter “Jewish cemeteries during the war”, Agnieszka Grzelak’s article, Yad Vashem’s collection as well as my own findings in the State Archives in Rzeszów.
- Krempa, Andrzej. Zagłada Żydów Mieleckich (Holocaust of the Jews of Mielec), p. 93-208.
- AIPN Rz. Team SAR, sign. IPN Rz. 353/3, old sign. GK225/3.