Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries
The most extensive source of Jewish Cemetery Gravestones in Poland
Starting in 2006 with the Warsaw Jewish Cemetery on Okopowa Street, The Foundation (FDJC) has photographed and transcribed gravestones in over 80 cemeteries in Poland and displayed the information on its website.
In 2014, Jewish Records Indexing – Poland and the FDJC signed a collaborative agreement to enable searches of the JRI-Poland database to display links to transcriptions and photographs of almost 100,000 gravestones in the FDJC website.
The aim of the JRI-Poland/ FDJC agreement is to bring the remarkable work of the FDJC to the widest audience as well as utilize the multi-faceted JRI-Poland search engine options to dramatically increase the potential for finding gravestones of interest to researchers.
The History of FDJC
The original goal of FDJC was to photograph all the gravestones in Okopowa Street Cemetery in Warsaw, the largest Jewish Cemetery in Poland. The success of this project led to the expansion of the goals to the photographing and transcription of all Jewish cemeteries in Poland. For further background on the Warsaw Cemetery, click here. For a full list of cemeteries now included in the database, click here.
The Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries (FDJC)
The roots of the FDJC are another illustration of how one individual’s vision and generosity can be the start of a project far exceeding the original intentions.
On a visit to the grave of his grandfather in October 2006, Mr. Emile Karafiol of Chicago, Illinois, made a very personal and dramatic decision, one which has had far-reaching significance.
Recognizing the importance of the Warsaw Cemetery to Jewish people around the world with ties to Poland, Karafiol was convinced of the need not only to have every gravestone digitally photographed and indexed, but also to identify GPS coordinates where necessary as part of a master searchable database that would include the names, dates and details inscribed on each gravestone. A key part of Karafiol’s vision was to see that all these details, together with photographs, should be made available on the Internet for all to benefit.
Under the local management and direction of Witold Wrzosinski and Remigiusz Sosnowski, as well as The Jewish Community of Warsaw (JCW), and under the patronage of Rabbi Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, work started on the inventorying, imaging and gravestone mapping project. By 2010, work on the Okopowa cemetery had been virtually completed; with the additional financial support of Mel and Dina Fishman of Toronto, Canada and the JCW, the cemetery in Szydłowiec was documented in a similar fashion and other cemeteries followed.
In the spring of 2012, ownership of the Warsaw project was transferred by Karafiol to Wrzosinski and the JCW; later that year Wrzosinski incorporated the non-profit Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries (FDJC) in order to fund work on additional cemeteries.
By the end of 2012, with the support of the Polish Ministry of Culture and previous sponsors the FDJC team further expanded its efforts to include the jewish cemeteries of Mazovia. Then the Warsaw Jewish Community agreed to sponsor similar work on the Jewish cemeteries in the Lublin voivodeship and in Łomża, as well as around Białystok.
Then, with the support of the Polish Ministry of Culture and previous sponsors the FDJC team further expanded its efforts to include the Jewish cemeteries of Mazovia.
All inscriptions and photographs are maintained in one database with both a search engine and browsing capability. As some inscriptions are no longer visible due to erosion over time, the team is adding information to previously indexed cemeteries with data from archival sources.
In 2012, an agreement in principle was reached between Emile Karafiol, The Jewish Community of Warsaw, The Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries (FDJC) and Jewish Records Indexing – Poland to make it possible to also search the database through the JRI-Poland search system and thus vastly increase the world-wide awareness and reach of the data.
Where such vital records are available for a town, JRI-Poland will collaborate with the FDJC to try, when possible, to add surnames to gravestone transcriptions that only contain patronymics details .
The database along with the photographs and transcriptions of every visible gravestone inscription is managed and owned by The FDJC. The agreement between JRI-Poland and the Foundation gives JRI-Poland an exclusive right to link their search engine to the Foundation’s database.
The Foundation is managed by three highly qualified and dedicated individuals: Alicja Mroczkowska, an anthropologist and heritage conservation specialist from the Jewish Historical Institute, Remigiusz Sosnowski, cemetery Halacha specialist from the Warsaw Jewish Community, and Witold Wrzosinski, graduate of Jewish History, Culture and Languages Department at the Warsaw University, philologist and a professional genealogist. Read Witold Wrzosinski’s articles: “Hebrew Epitaphs as a Unique Source for the Study of Jewish History and Genealogy” and “Why I Am Writing a Field Guide to Jewish Cemeteries for Poles”.
Searching FDJC Cemetery records via the JRI-Poland search page
The JRI-Poland search system provides important additional features when accessing the FDJC database. Instead of just surnames, it’s possible to search the JRI-Poland database by surname, given name, and town or a combination of these. In addition, you can search by year ranges.
Together, these features provide an invaluable tool – both for expanding your overview or focusing searches and solving dilemmas associated with getting too many results when a search involves common surnames.
IMPORTANT: The FDJC database contains entries for cemeteries all over Poland. Therefore, do NOT indicate a specific “geographic region” when searching for records in the FDJC database.
Important note when searching the Warsaw Cemetery records
Researchers should be aware that, of the three Warsaw Cemetery databases, there might be entries in one that do not appear in the other and vice versa. The differences are due to the disappearance and destruction of stones over the years, spelling variations, errors in interpretation and perhaps other factors. While the databases may be updated over time, they will never be the same. Thus, researchers should check all of the Warsaw Cemetery databases.
The search process
Search the JRI-Poland database in the normal way, or narrow the search, by entering “Warszawa” in the “Town” field on the JRI-Poland search page. If matches in any of the Warszawa Cemetery databases are found, they will be identified in separate tables in the search results. If you have not narrowed the search, click on “Warszawa,” on the right side of the first stage search results page. The search results will link you to a form guiding you how to request information from the cemetery office. To search only the “Karafiol” database, or to learn more about this source, go to http://cemetery.jewish.org.pl/lang_en/
Information Request form – Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw
Please use this form to request information and/or a quotation. Upon receipt of your enquiry, the Director will advise the cost. You will be able to pay by bank to bank transfer, Bank or Cashier’s check in U.S. funds or Personal check drawn on a U.S. bank.