(JTA) – In a small town in Poland, a local ice cream parlor serves an unusual accompaniment: a gallery of artifacts that once belonged to local Jews, including the family who lived in the building before the Holocaust.
Jozef Gucwa opened a makeshift museum next to his glacier in Bobowa, a town near Krakow, in 2019. Poland’s main Jewish museum, Polin in Warsaw, selected him for an award for the preservation of Jewish heritage, but an advocate for the preservation of Jewish sites says he should instead be penalized for illegally appropriating Jewish property.
In “Beit Landau” are exhibited silver objects, including a Hanukkah menorah, a Purim noisemaker, a Torah scroll, florets that adorn the upper ends of the scrolls of a Torah scroll, kiddush cups. and an elaborate fish-shaped statue, a door opener with a Star of David adorning the handle, and a jewelry box.
Several dreidels are also on display, according to photos shared by Meir Bulka, who heads J-Nerations, a group aimed at safeguarding Jewish sites in Poland.
The name of the museum, which Gucwa charges around $ 2 to enter, means Landau House, and it refers to the name of the family who lived in the wooden structure before the Holocaust. The Landau are a ruling family of the Bobover Hasidic sect, which was named after and based in Bobowa until the Holocaust and then recreated in Brooklyn.
From his home in the West Bank settlement of Sha’arei Tikvah, Bulka has become a leading advocate for the preservation of Jewish heritage in Poland, after seeing messy cemeteries on a trip to see his ancestral home. the low. Bulka says the items on display at “Beit Landau” have been illegally appropriated in violation of Polish monument laws, which generally place historically significant finds in the possession of the state.
The items on display were found during renovations to the building to expand the glacier, Bulka said, and Gucwa declared his museum shop in order to avoid having to relinquish valuable property. Bulka said he made an official complaint to the Polish police.
The descendants of the Landau family in New York are trying to recover the artifacts, Bulka said.
Gucwa did not respond to requests for comment from the Jewish Telegraph Agency. JTA’s attempts to reach Leibish Landau, one of the family’s descendants, were also unsuccessful. A spokesperson for the Polin Museum declined to comment.
The museum is due to present its annual award today and Gucwa is one of six nominees. His appointment cites the fact that “he bought a Jewish building with the intention of setting up a Jewish-themed museum there” and says he looks after the Landau family graves in the Jewish cemetery in Bobowa. He first exhibited the items he collected in 2013, before the reenactment (by non-Jews) of a historic local Jewish wedding, according to the museum.
“This history lover researched, meticulously renovated, collected and finally made available to the public all the salvaged objects, thus recreating the pre-war character of the inn run years ago by Leon’s family. Landau “, indicates the site of the museum. “Józef Gucwa is constantly expanding his collection of Judaica and objects left by the Jews of Bobowa which can reflect their culture and at the same time offer us a glimpse into their daily life. “
Honoring Gucwa could embolden those who find property left behind by Jews who have been driven out or murdered, Bulka wrote on Facebook.
“It is very likely that recognition of his candidacy will legitimize property crimes committed by others who have found Jewish belongings or their property,” he said.