Located amidst the many monuments and memorials of the Bonaventure Cemetery stands a single headstone memorial covered with stones. This memorial marks the resting place of the ashes of 344 victims of the Holocaust. It has been more than 70 years since World War II and the Holocaust came to an end and this memorial remains, keeping the memories of the lives lost alive as visitors from around the world come to pay their respects and place a stone in their memory.
The memorial is marked with the single Star of David and reads:
“HERE LIETH A THIRD OF THE ASHES OF 344 CREMATED SACRED SOULS, VICTIMS OF THE NAZIS, INCLUDING THE REMAINS OF SCMUL SOM Y’CHEEL SZCERKOWSKI WHO WAS KILLED ON THE THIRD OF NISON 5705-MAR.17,1945 BROUGHT HERE FROM ALEM, HANOVER, GERMANY”
This memorial, had us very intrigued and upon further research we were able to gather some information on how the ashes of these souls came to be in the Bonaventure Cemetery of Savannah, GA. During our research we discovered that Scmul Szcerkowski, who’s ashes were brought to America along with 343 others, was killed at a concentration camp in Ahlem, Germany. He was survived by 3 of his children, including a daughter named Mania. Mania and her young son Sam were taken to Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons (DP) camp. Mania’s husband was killed in Ahlem and it was during her stay at the DP camp that she met Felix, another survivor.
Sometime later Felix and Mania would be married and while sharing a photo of Mania’s father, Scmul, with Felix they discovered that Felix remembered Mania’s father. Schmul and Felix had been at the same concentration camp, where Schmul was killed. Felix and Mania worked together to locate her father’s cremated remains, and in the processes were able to recover the remains of 343 others. They buried the remains and buried them at the Jewish cemetery in Hanover.
In time Felix, Mania, and their family would receive a sponsorship from the Jewish Community bringing them to America. This was made possible with the help of one of Felix’s relatives, that has survived the Ahlem Camp and was the head of the first DP family to come to Savannah. Before moving Mania had the remains of her father, Schmul, and the other 343 victims exhumed from the cemetery in Hanover and brought to America with them. In 1951 with the help of the Rabbis from the three Jewish Congregations a funeral service was held and Schmul Szcerkowski and the other 343 Jews who lost their lives in that camp were laid to rest in the beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery, along the Wilmington River.
When visiting this Holocaust Memorial, it is customary to pay one’s respects by taking part in the Jewish tradition of placing a stone upon the grave, whether you knew the deceased or not. The stones are a symbol of permanent and lasting memory.
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