Clean-up of the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery

The Warsaw Jewish Cemetery is the largest Jewish necropolis in the capital city of Poland, the second largest Jewish cemetery in Poland, and one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world. It was established in 1806, and the oldest grave markers preserved on the site date back to the first decade of the 19thcentury. It is the final resting place of many outstanding members of the Jewish community: clergymen, scientists, industrialists, writers, soldiers, and social activists. This is where the graves of Ludwik Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, or of Marek Edelman, a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, can be found.

The cemetery spans over a surface area of approx. 33.3 ha and boasts around 200 thousand grave markers – offering one of the most valuable collections of sepulchral art not only in Warsaw but also in the entire Poland. Most of the grave markers, measuring from several dozen centimetres to even 2 metres in height, are made of richly decorated materials, e.g. granite, multi-colour sandstone, and regular stone. Memorial tops have usually the form of a triangle or a semicircle. The reformed part of the cemetery features a range of monumental graves, sarcophagi, and richly-styled mausoleums.

The necropolis, remaining under the care of the Jewish Community in Warsaw since 2001, miraculously survived the time of WWII. In the post-war period it was left neglected for many years, gradually falling into ruin. But with time there occurred occasional attempts to restore it to its former glory. The Cultural Heritage Foundation is now running conservation and clean-up works at the same time. The latter have an additional social impact as they often bring together volunteers and supporters of our foundation. The undertaken activities include mostly collecting and removing trash, broken branches, and self-sown plants from the cemetery quarters.


In 2017, our volunteers concentrated their efforts on the oldest part of the cemetery.  The following quarters were cleaned up: 6, 95, 96, 16, 16A, 18, 83, 87, 101, 102. The works were carried out under the supervision of the authorities of the cemetery and the Jewish Historical Institute’s staff.

The clean-up took place every Sunday from 4 June to 24 September.

The project was carried out in collaboration with the Jewish Community in Warsaw.


In 2016 we had three voluntary camps (taking place 26 June – 1 July, 3-8 July, and 4-9 September), each bringing 20 people together. The project was promoted in local media, which encouraged further volunteers to join the clean-up – including on a short-term basis. This resulted in 150 people coming together to clean up the site.

The volunteers removed self-seeders, broken tree branches, and overgrown vegetation from quarters no.: 3, 4, 4B, 5, 5A, 23, 32, 39, 51, 92, 93, and from parts of quarters no. 6 and 12. The range of works was arranged with representatives of the Heritage Protection Department of the City of Warsaw, the authorities of the cemetery and of the Jewish Community in Warsaw.

The programme of each camp featured workshops on the Jewish sepulchral symbolism and Jewish funeral customs. The volunteers were also taken on a tour around the cemetery by Jan Jagielski from the Jewish Historical Institute. The principles of preservation of grave markers at historic cemeteries were discussed by Prof. Janusz Smaza from the Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.

The project was carried out together with the Jewish Community in Warsaw, financed from the resources of the National Heritage Institute as part of the “Volunteering for Heritage” programme.


In 2015 we managed to clean up quarters no.: 91, 97, 98, 100, 2, 2C, and the area around the former military mausoleum – a total of over a hectare of surface area. Our activities involved cleaning up a particular part of the cemetery by removing self-sown plants, broken branches, and overgrown vegetation. The works were carried out under the supervision of the authorities of the cemetery and the Jewish Historical Institute’s staff.

We had over 50 people working together. The outcome was a few thousand grave markers uncovered and two matzevot subject to conservation. The September clean-up was accompanied by education workshops on the symbols found at Jewish cemeteries.