Lee Seeman: Preserving Heritage

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Lee Seeman at the dedication of the beautifully restored cemetery in Serok, Poland.
Lee Seeman at the dedication of the beautifully restored cemetery in Serok, Poland.

Those who suffered and then perished in the Holocaust may seem long gone, but the efforts of those who still care go a long way towards brightening the future for many and honoring the lives of those lost.

Lee Seeman, town councilwoman and a member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of American Heritage Abroad, never forgot and continues to work to restore the cemeteries and monuments dedicated to those who perished so long ago.

Her latest effort involved the little town of Serok, in Poland, where she restored a once-desecrated cemetery.

Seeman was first appointed to the commission by then-President Bill Clinton and reappointed ever since.

Through all these years she has taken on project after project, traveling to Europe, to places were Jews once lived but were subsequently forced out, too often to death camps.

Their history was lost, their homes, their cemeteries, their lives were forgotten …. until, in some cases, someone came along and said “enough … no more” and brought hope and renewal to a sad history.

Seeman is one of those, as she has spent years identifying desecrated cemeteries and restoring the dignity.

With several cemeteries restored, about eight years ago Seeman asked her friend, former Congressman Gary Ackerman, where his parents were from; learning that his mother was born in a little village, Serok, in Poland, Seeman decided to investigate.

Seeman (who is always researching places to restore) looked up Serok and “just decided myself that I wanted to work on this.”

She learned there were 30 stones “lying lonely” on a hill. “The picture stayed with me and I decided that I was going to do something about that before they would deteriorate further,” Seeman told the Port News.

Help she did. The cemetery was restored, a monument was dedicated and the 30 “scattered stones” retrieved found a peaceful resting place.

Along the way, leading to the restoration, Seeman met David Albert, whose mother is the only survivor of Serok. The family met with Seeman and several traveled to Serok at the end of the summer to witness the dedication of the restored cemetery.

“We would not have gone to Poland had it not been for Lee and the article that you wrote about her efforts several years ago,” Albert said. In addition, Albert’s mother, sister and niece were reunited with the Catholilc-Polish family that had sheltered his mother from the Nazis.

The cemetery is in the same place it was so many years. A Polish bank graciously allowed this Jewish resting place to remain in this beautiful spot. Peace and dignity were stored.

“We can never do justice to those who were murdered in the Holocaust, nor to those Jews who’s very graves were desecrated,” Ackerman said in a letter read at the dedication. “But today in Serock we restore dignity to their memories .. and we celebrate that we are still here.”

Seeman said she is “so fortunate” that she can do this work. She said that her next project will be in Lithuania.

“I have the honor to work on the legacy of the Jews,” she said. “This was something I could do and the opportunity came and I began to research.” She plans to take her Bar Mitzvah-age grandson on her next trip. “We will see what we can do and pass the work on to the next generation,” she said.

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Karen Talley is the former editor of Port Washington News.

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