• Jewish Centre Oswiecim
Before World War II the Polish small town of Oświęcim (German: Auschwitz) was home to a large Jewish community. Since 2000 the Jewish Centre Oświęcim remembers them and all Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The Jewish Centre is located only two kilometres away from the former Auschwitz concentration camp.
Image: Oświęcim, about 1939, Market square, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Oświęcim, about 1939, Market square, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu

Image: Oświęcim, 2012, Jewish Centre, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Oświęcim, 2012, Jewish Centre, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
The Polish small town of Oświęcim (German: Auschwitz) is located in the south of Poland near Cracow (Polish: Kraków). For centuries the town was torn between German and Polish spheres of influence. The town's name for example was changed several times, alternating between the Polish and the German one. Because of its location on the banks of the river Soła, Oświęcim received its town charter in the Middle Ages and became an important trading town. Jews have lived here since the early Middle Ages. In the 19th century, when this part of Poland belonged to the Habsburg Empire, Oświęcim became an important cultural centre for the local Jewish community. The number of community members grew steadily and several synagogues were built. After World War I and again part of Poland, the town grew rapidly. About 14,000 people lived there in 1939, half of them Jewish.
After the invasion of the German Wehrmacht in September 1939, the occupants immediately started taking measures against the Jews: Many had to close their shops or had to sell them to non-Jews. Some Jews tried to escape. The National Socialists destroyed all of the town's synagogues except for one, which was used as a store house. From February 1940 onwards several hundred Jews from Oświęcim had to conduct forced labour, many of them during the construction of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Later, all Jews had to move to a particular quarter of town. The SS deported about 600 Jews from Oświęcim to forced labour camps in October 1940. They expelled all remaining Jews from Oświęcim and drove them into the ghettos of the surrounding small localities of Sosnowiec, Będzin and Chrzanów. From there they were deported to extermination camps, amongst others to Auschwitz.
Image: Oświęcim, about 1939, Market square, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Oświęcim, about 1939, Market square, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu

Image: Oświęcim, 2012, Jewish Centre, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Oświęcim, 2012, Jewish Centre, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Almost all Jews from Oświęcim as well as Jewish refugees who stayed there were deported and murdered by the National Socialists. In total approximately 8,000 Jews from Oświęcim perished during the Holocaust.
Image: Oświęcim, 1940, Prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp carry off the remnants of the destroyed Great Synagogue, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Oświęcim, 1940, Prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp carry off the remnants of the destroyed Great Synagogue, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu

Image: Oświęcim, 2009, The restored Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Oświęcim, 2009, The restored Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
After the end of World War II there was no Jewish community in Oświęcim anymore. The name of the town, where the best known Nazi extermination camp was located, became a worldwide symbol for the persecution and murder of the European Jews. It was much less known that the town of Oświęcim had been home to a vivid Jewish community. In 1995, an American initiative created a foundation to establish a Jewish cultural centre in Oświęcim. The only remaining Jewish place of worship, the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue was restored and refurnished. Since 2000 the Jewish Centre Oświęcim shows the history and culture of the Oświęcim Jews as well as temporary exhibitions. The museum is a branch of the »Museum of Jewish Heritage«, founded in 1997 in New York. It also operates a meeting and educational centre of international scope.
Image: Oświęcim, 2009, Interior of the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Oświęcim, 2009, Interior of the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu

Image: Oświęcim, 2012, View of the special exhibition »New Life«, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Oświęcim, 2012, View of the special exhibition »New Life«, Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Name
Centrum Żydowskie w Oświęcimiu
Address
Plac Ks. Jana Skarbka 3-5
32-600 Oświęcim
Phone
+48 (0)33 844 7002
Fax
+48 (0)33 844 7003
Web
http://www.ajcf.pl
E-Mail
info@ajcf.pl
Open
November to February 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., from March to Octobre 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays

Possibilities
Educational programs for youth and adults; Readings, conferences and seminars on Jewish history, culture, religion, political topics and the Holocaust.