Vul. Rappaporta – the old Jewish cemetery
The old Jewish cemetery was located within the limits circumscribed by contemporary Rappaporta, Kleparivska, Brovarna and Bazarna streets, in the place of the contemporary Krakivsky market. It was one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in Europe mentioned for the first time in 1414. The cemetery has not been preserved.
The first mention of the old Jewish cemetery in the town records dates back to 27 May 1414. A record in the town account book of 1480 also indicates that there was a Jewish cemetery in Lviv at that time. A plot for the cemetery was allotted to the Jews for use over a long period of time on the so-called obshary (the grounds surrounding the town and owned by it) which were granted to the town by the king Władysław Jagiełło’s privilege of 18 September 1415.
In the seventeenth century, after private plots were repeatedly bought, the cemetery territory reached the size circumscribed by contemporary Rappaporta, Kleparivska, Brovarna and Bazarna streets. Its boundaries coincide with the territory of the cemetery that can be seen in an old plan of the town of Lviv drawn by Jean du Desfilles in 1766. From that time and till the Second World War the boundaries remained almost invariable. An outline of the old cemetery synagogue known as Beth Almin Jaschan can also be seen in the cemetery territory in the 1766 plan. For many years the old cemetery was used by the both Jewish communities of Lviv, the suburban one, which was founded as early as before the Polish conquest of Galicia in 1349, and the town one, which was founded after the town was built in accordance with the Magdeburg Rights.
The cemetery was closed officially on 22 August 1855. According to archives, a lot of Jews were buried there in the same year because of a cholera epidemic. The closed cemetery began to fall into decay. In his work dedicated to the cemetery, Majer Bałaban describes its deplorable condition in the following way: “… time has done its work; the monuments which have not been restored are about to go to wreck and ruin. The paths are so narrow that it is almost impossible to make one’s way along them, and trees and bushes are closely interwoven with one another below creating a real thick, impenetrable forest…” In the eighteenth century, the dense crowns of trees in the Jewish cemetery created a large baldachino in summer. In the winter of 1914-1915 during the Russian occupation the several century-old trees were cut down to heat the houses.
In the 1920s dr. Lewi Freund, a Lviv rabbi, and Józef Awin, an architect, founded the so-called Curatory for the Jewish Monuments Care under the Jewish community of Lviv. The Jewish cemetery was again given the status of monument which it received from the Austrian authorities in the early twentieth century. In 1928 and 1931 a renovation was being carried out; in particular, the Beth Tahara preburial house, the Beth Almin Jaschan cemetery synagogue and many grave monuments were restored. After clearing and conservation of stones 532 grave monuments on concrete foundations were placed there.
Today the old Jewish cemetery does not exist anymore. By experts’ estimate, 25-30 thousand persons were buried in its territory, which occupies about 3 hectares, over a period of more than 500 years.
The cemetery was destroyed first by German occupants and then by the Soviet authorities. As a historic and cultural monument, the cemetery existed under the care of the Jewish community till 1942. During the German occupation, persons who died from infectious deseases were again illegally buried there. These remains were not cremated and the exact place of burial was not recorded; that is why the German occupation authorities not only suppressed functioning of the cemetery, but also started to systematically destroy it. In the Soviet times a grocery market named “Central” and known in Lviv as Krakivsky was arranged in the place of the cemetery in 1947; the market was transferred there from the place where it had been since the medieval times. The old gravestones were used for paving streets and constructing retaining walls. The yard of the prison on Lontskoho street (now Bandery street 1) was also paved with the gravestones from the old Jewish cemetery.
Past, Present and memory: rediscovering Jewish Lviv
Virtual walk by the participants of summer school (2016)
Jewish Lviv: 100 addresses
Map of Borys Orach
As for today, the former Jewish hospital of Maurycy Lazarus’ foundation (now the 3rd city clinical hospital on Rappaporta street 8), the outpatient clinic and a beggars’ hospital (now the clinical laboratory of the same hospital in Rappaporta 4 and 6) built for the needs of the Jewish community are located on a part of the old Jewish cemetery territory.
The entrance to the cemetery was from Shpytalna street through the yard of the Funeral Society, near the cart shed and the mortuary (do not exist anymore).
Before the Second World War the administration of the old Jewish cemetery made a supposition that the oldest gravestones were on the graves of baby Jakub (1348) and Mirjam, Seul’s daughter (1378). However, it is difficult to agree with this supposition because it was very hard to read inscriptions on the old gravestones.
Prominent persons were buried by the Jews in the very center of the cemetery; as Majer Bałaban wrote, it was a “Jewish pantheon.” The gravestones of Nachman and Mordechaj Izakowich (d. 1618), Izak Nachmanowicz (d. 1637), Izuje Falk (d. 1614), David Halevy (d. 1667), Roza “The Golden Rose” Nachmanowicz (Gildene Rojze; d. 1637), Adel Kikines of Drohobych (d. 1710), rabbi brothers Chajm and Jona Reises (d. 1728) were located there.
Rabbis Lewi ben Jakob Kikines (d. 1503), Chacham Zwi Ashkenazy (d. 1718), Chajm Rappaport (d. 1771), Jakob Ornstein (d. 1839), Abraham Kohn (d. 1848) were buried on the outskirts of the cemetery.
Not far from that place there was a row of 129 gravestones dated 1664, the fact indicating a considerable number of casualties of a massacre done by the Jesuit college students. In the spring of 1914 a committee was created in Lviv under the leadership of Samuel Horowitz that was engaged in restoring the gravestones of the Jewish cemetery, carrying out excavations in its territory and studying epitaphs. The committee charged historian Majer Bałaban with this work; the historian had also to publish a description of all the monuments of the cemetery. A considerable part of the cemetery was put in order at that time; many gravestones were unearthed and numbered, and about 1400 epitaphs were deciphered, including those of prominent persons. The oldest of the preserved monuments was dated 1530.
Józef Awin (1883, Lviv — 1942, Lviv, Yanivsky concentration camp) was an engineer, architect, restorer, photographer, graphic artist, painter and watercolorist, historian and theorist of art, collector.Awin was a cofounder of the Organization of the Care of Jewish Monuments. Among other things, it did inventarization and restoration of old tombstones at this cemetery.
Kohn – the first
chief reform rabbi of Lviv.
Władyław Jagiełło – a king of Poland and a grand duke of Lithuania.
David Halevy – the author of the Turei Zahav ritual codex.
Jean du Desfilles – the author of a 1766 plan of Lviv.
Izak Nachmanowicz – a rich Lviv usurer and merchant, the head of the town Jewish community who financed construction of the Turei Zahav synagogue known also as The Golden Rose or Nachmanowycz’s synagogue.
Lewi Freund – a Lviv rabbi, one of the founders of the Curatory for the Jewish Monuments Care.
Maurycy Lazarus – the Jewish hospital founder.
Majer (Meir) Bałaban – a Polish and Jewish historian.
Mordechaj Izaakowicz – a rich citizen, Izak Nachmanowicz’s son, who founded the first Jewish hospital in Lviv.
Nachman Izaakowicz – a rich citizen, Izak Nachmanowicz’s son.
Roza Nachmanowicz (Gildene Rojze) – the key figure of a legend about how the Jews got their synagogue back; according to different sources, she might be Izak Nachmanowicz’s wife or daughter.
Samuel Horowitz – the chief of a committee engaged in restoring the gravestones of the Jewish cemetery, carrying out excavations in its territory and studying epitaphs.
- Central State Historic Archive of Ukraine in Lviv (CDIAL) 129/3/268:1.
- M. Bałaban, Dzielnica żydowska. Jej dzieje i zabytki (Lwów: nakładem Towarzystwa Miłośników Przeszłości Lwowa, 1909), 78.
- M. Bałaban, Zabytki historyczne żydów w Polsce (Warszawa, 1929), 119.
- M. Bałaban, Zapomniały zabytek, Sztuka, 1911, S. 4-5.
Edited by Olha Zarechnyuk and Yulia Pavlyshyn
Media Archive Materials