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The status of cemeteries in European culture is unique. Tombs with inscriptions
informing about the names of the buried are peculiar examples of historical documents
which persuasively illustrate the history of a given region by revealing the
truth about the nationality, religious beliefs, and social status of the buried. Thus,
cemeteries become unique reservoirs of memory, sometimes turning into objects of
ideologically biased interest and even destruction. That was the case of the Protestant
cemeteries in Poland which suffered as a result of historical ideologization affecting
the regions formerly populated by Germans. A metaphorical account of that
process can be found in The Call of the Toad, a novel by Günter Grass.
However, the problem is much more complicated. Since the 19th century changes
in urban planning of European cities resulted in transforming cemeteries into parks.
Various developments of this kind can be observed in Poznań, where till 1939 cemeteries
were connected to particular confessions, and, with an exception of the garrison
cemetery, there were no burying grounds open to all. The cemeteries which belonged
to parishes and communities were taken over by the city and gradually transformed
into parks, except the historic ones (the Roman Catholic cemetery on Wzgórze Św.
Wojciecha, the Protestant Holy Cross cemetery on Ogrodowa St., and the Jewish
cemetery on Głogowska St.). Such changes required a proper waiting period from the
moment of the burying ground’s closing to its final disappearance. Fifty years after
the last burial a cemetery could be officially taken over by the city. Transformations
which began at the beginning of the 20th century were continued in the 1930s, to be
completed in the 1950s.
Under the Nazi occupation, the decrees of the administrator of the Warthegau
made it possible for the city to take over the confessional cemeteries (Roman Catholic,
Jewish, and Protestant). Those regulations remained valid after World War II. The
City Council took over Protestant and Jewish cemeteries, and removed some Roman
Catholic ones. Some of them have been transformed into parks. Consequently, all the
Protestant and Jewish cemeteries, and some Roman Catholic ones, disappeared from
the city map in 1945–1973. Most of them have been changed into parks and squares.
The Protestant cemeteries were considered German and the parks located on such
areas received significant names, e.g., Victory Park, Partisans’ Park, etc. Cemeteries
were often being closed in a hurry and until today on some construction sites contractors
can find human bones.
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