Marian Zwolski, a businessman from Chmielnik, bought an old nightclub a few years ago, which had been closed for 15 years. When he opened the basement door of his new home, he discovered something unexpected: a mikveh, or Jewish ritual bath.
Before the Holocaust, the population of the city of Chmielnik, Poland, was about 80% Jewish. Sephardic Jews, expelled from Spain during the Inquisition, settled in Chmielnik and eventually built a synagogue in 1638.
After the war, there were only four Jews left. Today, the building houses a museum about the city’s Jewish life and history. Today, another Jewish heritage site has been discovered, in an unlikely location.
The Sphinx nightclub, located in Chmielnik, in southern Poland, closed its doors about fifteen years ago. The bar in the deserted building is still visible, with a Heineken sign on the wall and a sign stating that no one under the age of 18 may be served alcohol. The pole on which the strippers once performed is also intact.
The building was recently purchased by Marian Zwolski, a businessman and amateur historian from Chmielnik. He was stunned by what he saw when he opened the basement door, located under the dance floor. He learned that he now had a rare and beautiful Jewish heritage site.
The blue and white bathroom floor tiles are still there, as are the Stars of David on the wall. A smaller mikveh, probably used by women, is in an adjoining room.
“It’s amazing,” Meir Bulka, who campaigns for the preservation of Jewish heritage in Poland, said in an interview with Haaretz. “You walk into the basement and you’re in another world. It’s like a time capsule.
Zwolski, who also runs a funeral home in nearby Kielce – site of a 1946 pogrom that killed 42 Jews – said Ha’aretz he hopes to turn his new mikveh into a tourist attraction, or even a museum.
“I was born and raised here, so I care about the history of the place. I don’t want that to go away,” Zwolski says. “I encourage people to remember the past and I also call on you Jews to preserve it and ensure that it is commemorated. »
Cover photo: Ofer Adaret