As soon as the water level drops, you can see stone tablets. Every few months, fragments of matzevot used by forced laborers to strengthen the bottom of the basin are fished from Lake Rusałka in Poznań. Now some of the surviving tombstones have been placed in the lapidary.
Roman Modrzyński, a councilor of the Święty Łazarz estate, informed that some fragments of matzevot excavated from Lake Rusałka were placed in the lapidary in the former Jewish cemetery.
“While visiting the remains of the Jewish cemetery on Głogowska Street, we witnessed the laying of matzevot from Rusalka. It is very good that this history page will not be forgotten” – he wrote.
“They came back crippled”
Alicja Kobus, the chairwoman of the Jewish community in Poznań, does not hide her satisfaction. – It is a historic moment and at the same time touching, when these tiny historical fragments return to the place from which they were once torn out with inhuman hatred. They came back crippled, but it is a great happiness for us – she emphasizes.
So far, the matzevot have been stored in the storehouses of the City Greenery Board. Now they found their way to the yard at ul. Głogowska 26a. It is a place that was part of the Jewish cemetery before World War II.
– I will make a sign at this point that these are fragments of Rusalka, the place of German execution, inhuman work – announces Alicja Kobus.
The cemetery was destroyed by the Germans during World War II. They did it with the hands of the Jews.
“They were ordered to profan the bodies in order to remove valuable items from the coffins” – wrote Dr. Wojciech Meixner in his memoirs published by the Jewish community in Poznań.
Stone matzevot were smashed and used to strengthen the bottom and shores of the Rusałka and Maltańskie lakes built by Polish and Jewish forced laborers.
Today, mainly the halls of the Poznań International Fair are located in the former Jewish cemetery.
They intend to pick out more fragments
A similar memorial site may be built right at Lake Rusałka. This will happen if the city decides to carry out the action of extracting the matzevot from the bottom of the reservoir.
The Mayor of Poznań announced that funds for such an operation will be found, provided that its costs are reasonable. – We will not suddenly move the lake to another place. We will not be able to remove all the elements and lead to a situation where no plate will rest in this lake. But what can be removed and recovered at a reasonable cost will be extracted – Jacek Jaśkowiak declared in November last year.
An information board will be installed in September
Social activists, including the Association of Abisynia Residents and the Łazęga Poznańska Association, will also want to join the action of extracting matzevot, which will put up an information board by the lake at the beginning of September.
A pylon measuring 60 cm by two meters will be placed near the railway viaduct on the eastern side of the lake. It will cost eight thousand zlotys to build the plaque. The entire amount was collected in an online fundraiser.
First crime, then the lake
Lake Rusałka was built in 1941-42. For its construction, as well as for the construction of the second reservoir – Lake Malta, the Germans sent Polish and Jewish prisoners. To strengthen the banks and the bottom, fragments of tombstones from the liquidated cemeteries of St. Martin, St. Małgorzata and Żydowski located on the premises of the present Poznań International Fair.
Before the Nazis built the lake with the hands of prisoners of war, they murdered prisoners in this area. According to historians, about 5,000 people may have lost their lives there.
After World War II, memorial sites for these victims were created on the lake, they are located on the eastern, southern and northern shores of the lake.
Every year, thousands of Poznań residents bathe in Lake Rusałka. In recent years, the neglected holiday resort has undergone a major renovation. The sand was taken to the beach and the pier was renovated. There is a restaurant, beach bar, fish bar, ice cream shop and water equipment rental. Children play on the playground, older ones exercise outdoors in the gym, play beach volleyball.
Main photo source: Roman Modrzyński