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Las Knieja near Aleksandrówka – September 9, 2014.

In Knieja Forest, the Lasting Memory Foundation placed memorial stones over 6 graves of those murdered there between 1942 and 1943. Among over 50 victims are Poles and Jews who were killed while hiding in that forest. Next to erected stones, the Foundation performed a ceremony which was attended by representatives of state and local governments, clergy, guests from Israel, students from local schools and residents.

The ceremony was honored with presence of the following guests: representative of the Chancellery of the President of Poland Jakub Beczek, Bishop Mieczysław Cisło, Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael Schudrich, parish priest of Aleksandrówka, Rywka Bursztyn from Israel with her family, Mayor of Batorz Commune, Deputy Mayor, Chairman of Batorz Commune Council, Janów Lubelski Forestry Manager with co-workers, teachers and students of three schools in Aleksandrówka, Batorz and Błażek . The ceremony was conducted by the Foundation’s President Zbigniew Niziński.
The first part of the ceremony was performed next to a grave of four Jews: Szlomo Bursztyn and a woman with two children. For a 95-year-old Rywka Bursztyn from Israel, Szlomo was a father-in-law. Before the war, he had lived in Aleksandrówka and traded horses. Now, next to his marked grave, stood his two granddaughters and two great-granddaughters. Rywka Bursztyn had been hiding in that forest together with a Jewish partisan group under command of Abram Braun. Rywka recalled the hardships of living in the forest as well as her difficult decision to leave her little children in the care of Polish families. One of the children, a boy named Lejb, was murdered by the Germans along with his Polish caregiver. Rywka also recalled having been provided with food by Aleksandrówka residents. She remembered two sisters Chawa and Rywka Obermeister, born in a nearby town Zdziłowice and murdered in that forest. She said: I am a living witness of what happened here during the war.
Rabbi and Bishop’s prayer took place. Bishop Mieczysław Cisło said: Since there are no more Jews in this land, we are the guards of Jewish graves. May this grave, as well as other graves, be our concern so that we could come here as we come to our own cemeteries and graves of our soldiers , insurgents, also present on this ground, to light a candle, lay a flower – the symbols of our human and Christian feelings towards those martyrs.
The second part of the ceremony took place several hundred meters away, in the place where about 20 people of Jewish origin, mainly women and children, are buried. In the fall of 1942, the Jews built here a large shed and tried to survive forthcoming winter in the woods. After snowfall, German soldiers followed footprints right into the camp and shot to death everyone they had found there. The residents of Aleksandrówka buried the victims in a single pit. At the ceremony prayers took place there, flowers were laid and candles lit as the participants paid tribute to the dead. Another commemorated place consisted of 3 graves in which 22 Jews are buried. Among the victims are Jewish partisans, including three Klajman brothers, Bursztyn and a Jew from Zakrzówek called “Pilot”. Next to a memorial plaque commemorating the victims, Rywka Bursztyn recalled her husband Abraham Hirszman murdered during the war. Zbigniew Niziński said: We do not know what the future may bring and therefore we should keep looking back into the past to prevent genocide from happening ever again. Afterwards, the guests moved to a ravine where five Poles and one Jew lie buried in a single grave. On 2 November 1942, the Germans attempted to eliminate a group of armed locals who were hiding there in a forest dug-out. In order to get close to the hiding place, the German soldiers brought a captured Jew. He was used as a living shield and killed during the shooting. Next, the Germans brought about 10 residents of Aleksandrówka and again used them as living shields. Several people were hurt and Józef Woś later died of his injuries. Eventually, the Germans threw grenades into the dug-out, killing five people hiding inside. The body of the killed Jew was thrown into the pit and all the victims were buried there together.
Rabbi and Bishop prayed together next to the grave commemorated by the Foundation.
The commemorations in Knieja Forest have been performed thanks to the funds of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute as well as individual donors.

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