The Jewish cemetery in Lesko, founded in the 16th century, is one of the oldest and most historically important in Poland. It is vast, and rises up a steep hill, just down the road from the town’s synagogue — an impressive and beautiful building just off the main market square, that dates from the mid 17th century. The only one of five prayer houses to survive World War II, it was devastated during the war and rebuilt in the 1960s — the reconstruction added baroque gables and extended the height of the tower so that it now extends above the roof level.
The synagogue is now used as a local art gallery. But importantly, there has long been a signpost outside identifying it as a former synagogue and describing the history: before World War II, nearly two-thirds of the town population was Jewish. In the entry hall there are several plaques listing the names of hundreds of Lesko Jews killed at the Belzec death camp in 1942.
The oldest stones in the cemetery are at the bottom, by the entrance — massive slabs with vividly carved epitaphs but no other decoration. Here is where the tour groups stop — a Polish tour group was visiting this time when I entered. The higher you gothe more, and more recent, and more vividly carved stones there are. There is very detailed description of the Lesko cemetery on the web site riowang.blogspot.com