Lomza


Lomza is a pleasant and green city, clean and orderly, as is every other town and village in the vicinity. It has two quite good (and several that are less so) and inexpensive hotels, a shortage of appetizing restaurants, and as far as I have been able to find, no Internet cafes at all, though the latter may have changed since by last visit. The interesting part of the town from the Jewish point of view is the "Stary Rynek" (the Old Market Square), the surrounding streets, and the areas around the two Jewish cemeteries. See the file recounting the history of Lomza from its earliest times until the Shoah.

There is industry in Lomza, some middle-sized factories, including an enterprise for the manufacture of wooden doors that must spend much of its profits on billboard advertising, posters on the sides of busses, and the like. The most visible factory is surely the Lomza brewery, which makes a palatable though undistinguished beer. The entire region, the most rural in Poland, is economically depressed; on days when unemployment payments are distributed, quite a crowd gathers before the unemployment office. Yet there is lots of construction of single-family dwellings here and in the surrounding communities.

Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version

Although this is the brewery's illuminated sign hanging over a bar, it is based on the seal of the municipality.

The image at left is a hand-tinted picture postcard, showing the Stary Rynek, the Old Market Square. Note the white building at the left, opposite; this is the Town Hall. The center picture is a photograph of the same building, though refurbished. In the postcard, see the red building opposite, toward the right margin of the postcard; that is the Great Central Synagogue, destroyed during Second World War, as explained in the history page. The rightmost image is a black-and-white picture postcard showing the building when it stood.

The second row of photographs below show the same marketplace as it is today; the picture on the left is toward the same corner where the synagogue once stood, and the other is toward the corner diagonally opposite.


On the left is the plaque marking the site of the destroyed Great Central Synagogue. I regret that the inscription is not legible in the photograph, and I did not write it down. I expect to be in Lomza again soon, and will rectify write it down so that I can include it on this page afteer my return. The middle image shows a plaque reading as follows: "In this place in August 1941 Fascist beasts murdered 600 persons of Jewish nationality. Of Blessed Memory". The picture at the right reads: "In this forest the Hitlerites performed the mass execution of a civilian population. In the years from 1941 -- 1945 there were shot here members of resistance movements and prisoners. On 15 July 1943 the Hitlerites shot fifty persons among the inteligentia of Lomza. In the same year they murdered 130 persons who were inmates of homes for the elderly in Lomza and Poles in shelters and asylums.

I was in Lomza during Easter week. These four show people entering the cathedral, near the Old Marketplace on Palm Sunday. The single picture below shows a smaller church nearby.


These are also taken near the Old Marketplace. The building is the Amber Museum. The other two pictures show exhibits displayed in it.


These are in the Old Jewish Cemetery, situated on a knoll in the Rybaki area of Lomza, originally an independent fishing village (which is what "Rybaki" means) that became a Jewish neighborhood at a time when Jews were forbidden to dwell in Lomza. The Cemetery is now just a city park; the stones, which had been strewn about, are stuck into the ground at random points, with no relevance to burials (which are in any case not visible), some upside down, few at all legible. I have included the picture at the right, on which someone has inscribed a swastika, only to make an opportunity to mention that this is one of only two examples of this sort of thing that I have ever seen in Poland. I have spent altogether well over a month in Poland, in Warsaw and the former Lomza Gubernia, and a similar length of time elsewhere in Eastern Europe. in that length of time, it would not be unusual to find two swastikas in many countries on the planet, and in Western Europe would be surprisingly few. I am not saying that there is no antisemitism in these countries; Poles and Lithuanians have told me of manifestations among ignorant and uneducated people. But I speak with many people when I travel (people are always interested in conversing with an identifiable foreigner), and I always identify myself as an Israeli; I have never seen any reaction to that other than a smile. Antisemitism has moved westward; Eastern Europeans have seen enough during decades of Communist rule to appreciate Israel's problems.

This, on the other hand, is the New Jewish Cemetery. As you can see, most of the stones have been overturned and/or shattered. Like most Jewish cemeteries in Poland, it was until a few years ago, severely overgrown, a solid thicket. A Catholic Pole native to Lomza, a physician now living in the U.S. took it upon himself to get it cleaned up, so that at least one can see the damage and evidence of malice. This Pole has told me that much of the damage was done after the war, not during German occupation, by Polish louts who "knew" that Jews must have been buried with many valuable possessions, and were trying to get at them. But the page on the history of Lomza seem to attribute destruction of the Cemetery to the time of German occupation, and to antisemitic motives.

The larger sign in the photo at left merely says "Jewish Cemetery". The smaller ones beneath it say that the Polish Government has proclaimed it a protected historical monument, and that it has been cleaned by the local Polish organization headed by the Pole mentioned above. This organization has a websitedevoted to the Cemetery. The picture at right is a general view of the Cemetery.

Some random headstones. The left photograph is not sufficiently legible; The center picture: Our dear father, Yerachmiel ben Yosef-Chaim Hefner, died 10 Macheshvan 5681 (22 October 1920). This may be the father or grandfather of the Dr. Hefner who was an official of the Judenrat in the last days of the Lomza Ghetto before its "liquidation" and took his own life after being forced to choose which Jews to send to be shot to death. See the history of Lomza.
The right photo: In memory of our dear mother, Rachel-Leah Zalemnowicz, died ? Kislev 5682 (December 1921).

From the left, the inscription on the first picture is a rhyme: We plead the Creator of souls and creatures/ To grant eternal rest in Heaven/ For the soul of our innocent father/Simcha-Isser Gagowicz. Died 21 Kislev 5678 (6 December 1917).

The second picture, again a rhyme; a scholar, from the word "Gemara" at the top of the stone: Our father, dear and innocent/ For study of Torah had fixed times/ He walked in straight ways/ Earned livelihood honestly all his days. Betzalel-Zwi ben Yosef Kalinski, died 24 Kislev 5696 (20 December 1935).

The third photograph is difficult to read. It is that of Avraham Kadish haLevi Brickman. Another rhyme, each line begins with a letter of the deceased's name, so that "Avraham Kadish haLevi" appears vertically at the right side of the inscription.

In the rightmost photo, a rhyme: An innocent and God-fearing man/ Who had fixed times for studying Torah/ Walked in straight ways/ Earned his livelihood honestly all his days/ Our dear father/ Yehuda-Arie ben Avraham-Ze'ev Tshervonka, died in good reputation 26 Elul 5696 (13 September 1936).


These are single dwellings and street scenes in Lomza. As you can see, some are of old design (the ubiquitous "Cape Cod" bungalow design, and seem quite old, while others, and certainly the large real-estate tract development show something of the activity in the city, and indeed the country, since the "regime change" of the early 1990s.


These show views of Lomza across cultivated areas of the region. (There are in the former Lomza Gubernia also large forested areas, and a wetlands national park and wildlife refuge. The latter is a popular destination for Polish internal tourism, where one can fish, birdwatch, and sometimes catch sight of animals such as European Bison; there are good hotels there, and the area is beautiful.) The picture at the left of the first row shows typical large apartment buildings, of which there are not a few in the city. The rightmost picture shows the road to Piatnica, just across the Narew from Lomza.


The pictures below are of the city park near the brewery.


Kids

These pictures are from an event that took place in the Stary Rynek, the Old Market Square. The vantage point is with the Town Hall (see the first pictures of this page) at the camera's back. A Latvian folkdance troupe had come to perform (there was no holiday, the dancing was itself the pubilc occasion). These first eight pictures show some of the people of Lomza who came to see. The troupe's Latvian bus is seen in the rightmost picture of the second row.

The next eight show the troupe in performance. If you think it was unnecessary to have so many pictures of the event, enquire how many I actually made -- it was the kind of thing one can't stop taking pictures of; one of the advantages of digital camera's is that they don't use up film in such a case.


Finally, these pictures show the daily outdoor market in Lomza, at which "you can buy anything": souvenirs, vegetables, clothing both semi-elegant and otherwise, professional tools, housewares, electronic goods, and more. As at the outdoor market of Vilnius (the largest outdoor market in Europe, which is unsurprisingly much better), all the vendors are Belorussians who commute from across the border for the purpose, and all the vehicles in the parking lot (the right picture of the second row) bear Belorussian tags. One suspects that not all the vendors are unsought by authorities of one country or the other, as the visages of some acquire a threatening appearance when a camera is pointed at them or in their general direction. Note that the railway car against which the cars are parked is old Soviet equipment, taken off its wheels. It must have been quite an effort to get it here, as the railway runs nowhere near Lomza.