On Tuesday, Jonny Daniels, the founder of From the Depths, a Jewish organization committed to preserving memories of the Holocaust, particularly in Eastern Europe, walked along the Vistula River in Warsaw, Poland, picking up pieces of stone with Hebrew lettering on it. “The Vistula River is hiding no end of secrets,” he told the AP. “They are everywhere… Jewish history is buried [here].”
A heat wave, combined with minimal rainfall, has caused a drought in Poland, forcing Vistula’s water levels (and those of its tributaries) to record lows not seen since the late 18th century. As a result, a number of relics from WWII, including the remains of Soviet fighter planes and their pilots, as well as Jewish tombstones.
The Jewish tombstones that were found in Warsaw are believed to come from the Brodno cemetery in Warsaw’s Praga district. Once the resting place of 300,000 Jews, only 3,000 tombstones remain there today; the rest were removed during and after the war and used as building materials and to reinforce the river’s banks.
On Sunday, remnants of a Soviet fighter plane was found in the Bzura River, one of Vistula’s tributaries, and were taken to a nearby museum. In the plane were: “parts of Soviet uniforms, a parachute, a sheepskin coat collar, parts of boots, a pilot’s personal TT pistol and radio equipment were found, along with a lot of heavy ammunition. The inscriptions on the control panel and on the radio equipment are in Cyrillic.”
Also discovered were stone fragments from the Poniatowski Bridge, which spanned the Vistula as the Germans destroyed the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, crushing parts of the structure along the way.
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.