The first records about Jewish inhabitants of Olkusz date back before year 1317. In town register there is a note saying "curie due Judeorum" which means "households of two Jews". It is not excluded that later on Jews left the town maybe forced by a royal edict. Not earlier then in the 16 th century archives mention Jewish presence in Olkusz again. Number of Jews and their importance in an economic field (especially trade in lead and silver and credit activities) will grow gradually from that time.

There are two Jewish necropolises in Olkusz. The old Jewish cemetery was established probably after 1584 at Slawkowski suburbs, at present Kolorowa street . The cemetery was devastated during the Second World War. Some matzevot were moved to a neighbouring possession and then flooded with asphalt. There are only few gravestones still existing. In last dozen or so years the cemetery was devastated again. In 1984 Dariusz Rozmus cataloged several dozen of gravestones during his research works. In the mid of the 90-ties only seven matzevot and slabs were noticed.

New Jewish cemetery in Olkusz was established at the turn of the 19 th and 20 th century. It is located at Jan Kanty street . According to different sources several dozen up to 200 matzevot survived and most of them were misplaced. Many gravestones were destroyed, used as building material or for other purposes. The cemetery is partly enclosed with a wall and partly with ruins of mortuary. Some inscriptions were filled with lead. Few matzevot were moved to the Museum of Fire of Olkusz Area.

In the picture there are matzevot from Museum of Firemen of Olkusz Area. The first to left gravestone was found in the cellar of some house and dates back to 1728. Next matzeva used to stand at the grave of Chaim Jeszaj who died on the 24 th of October 1919 . The inscription says: "Here buried. We cry on man perfect and just, in the young age, who acted faultlessly and benefited from his own work, reb Chaim Jeszaj, son of reb Mordechaj Josef - may his light shining! He was blessed in the evening of rosz chodesz marcheszwan of the year 680 according to the short count. May his soul be bound up in the bound of life".

The fist from right matzeva commemorates man called Abraham who died on the 17 th April 1916 . The inscription says: " Here buried man old and respectable among his nation, just and religious, perfect in his acts. He finds his shelter in the shadow of the just. Never his feet followed the way of wealth. Mister Abraham Cwi son of mister Mosze Aharon - Levi of blessed memory. He died on the holly Sabbath on the 12 th of nissan and was buried next day in the year 676 according to the short count. May his soul be bound up in the bound if life!".

Also at the cemetery we can find gravestones with still visible inscriptions. That picture shows matzevas of Jeszaj Elchonen son of Józef and Mosze son of Jakow Josef. On the left matzeva there is an inscription: "He was outstanding and religious rabbi, mister Jeszaj Elchonen son of deceased mister Josef of blessed memory. Here buried. For centuries will be engraved a monument for dear soul. His name and memory will exist for his progeny. In our town he fulfilled his duty in holiness. He was occupied with ritual slaughter and check-up of meat. In his work he showed his strength and courage. Man modest, bow in front of everyone. In the nights and days he just wanted to study law and Tora of Jeszurun. He died in good fame on the 22 nd of ijar of the year 677 according to the short count (the14th of May 1917). May his soul be bound up in the bound of life!" .

An inscription on right matzeva says: "Here buried man respectable, acting in honest way, dear, perfect and respectable among people, rabbi, leader, religious, honest, mister Mosze son of mister Jakow Josef of blessed memory. His soul rose on Friday, in the evening of holly Sabbath, on the 27 th of tamuz of the year 676 (the 28 th of July 1916) according to the short count. May his soul be bound up in the bound of life!" .

Text: Artur Cyruk & K. Bielawski
Photos: Paweł Goc, Izabela Obałek
Translated by: Katarzyna Nocek