OSWIECIM: Małopolskie Print

Coat of arms of Oświęcim

Alternate names: Oświęcim [Pol], Auschwitz [Ger], Oshpitsin, אָשפּיצין [Yid], Osvětim [Cz], Osvienčim [Slov], Oshpetzin, Oshvitsin, Oshvyentsim, Osvyenchim, Aushvits, Aushvitsa, Ushpitzin. 50°02' N, 19°14' E, 31 miles W of Kraków. Location of Auschwitz concentration camp. Yizkor: Sefer Oshpitsin (Jerusalem, 1977) and Zichronot fon Widerstand Auschwitz-Birkenau (Paris, 1984). This town in southern Poland, 50 km (31 mi) W of Kraków near the confluence of the Vistula (Wisła) and Soła rivers became part of the Lesser Poland Voivodeship in 1998 after previously being in the Bielsko-Biała Voivodeship since 1975. Jewish settlement in Oświęcim dates from to the early sixteenth century. Then, in 1549, a document listing an inventory of goods and income of the Oświęcim starostwo mentions Jews. On July 28, 1563, King Zygmunt August granted the Oświęcim burghers a privilege banning new Jews from settling in the town and preventing Jews from selling buildings that belonged to them. One year later, a royal inspection names only five Jews living there. In 1588, however, one Oświęcim burgher  sold the property on which a synagogue and cemetery were built. In 1636, the Polish king Władsław IV Waza granted the kahal the right of residence, property ownership, commerce, and the use of the synagogue and cemetery. Normal 0 In 1872 a Jewish merchant named Landau bought the ruins of the former Dominican complex including the church, Chapel of St. Hyacinth and monastery buildings and used them for his stables, storage for coal, oil and fertilizers, and as butcher stalls. The former sacristy became a shop and the Chapel of St. Hyacinth as storage for rags and bones, deeply offending the Catholic population. The Civic committee created at the initiative of Father Andrzej Knycz in 1895 bought these buildings from him and renovated the chapel and church. In 1904, someone also bought the ruins of Oświęcim Castle from Jews, which he renovated and partially reconstructed as a winery and brewery with guest rooms. In 1914, Jews were 5,358 of Oświęcim's 10,126 population and were the majority on the town council during the interwar period. Oświęcim is the location of the former Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945), now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a state museum. On the eve of World War II, the 8,000 Jews in the city were over 50% of the population. Between 1940 and 1945, approximately 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz-Birkenau gas chambers. IG Farben Buna-Werke chemical plant here used forced laborers from Auschwitz III - Monowitz concentration camp. Nineteen of the town's twenty synagogues destroyed during the war with the one surviving Auschwitz synagogue open as a museum. photo. Auschwitz torah. Normal 0 The location of the first Oswiecim Jewish cemetery established around 1588 is unknown, but the surviving cemetery, established at the turn of the 19th century, is situated at the corner of Dabrowski Street and Wysokie Brzegi. During WWII, the Nazis destroyed the synagogue and in 1941 closed the cemetery after the Jews were deported from Oswiecim. After the war, Jews returned to Oswiecim and cared of the cemetery and repaired the fence. In the 1980s, Asher Scharf of New York donated funds to restore the cemetery. Part of the 800 remaining matzevot were arranged in lapidaria include a restored ohel in honor of the Scharf family and another covering the grave of Szymon Kluger, the last Jew of Oswiecim. photos. cemetery video. [June 2009]

The cemetery appeared to be in remarkably good condition. Mostly all of the tomstones were in an upright condition. Monuments to the Holocaust and Ohels were in also in good condition. Grass and ground vegetation was generally under control and there was no graffiti on the cemetery walls or on the tombstones. Source: Leonard Markowitz; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . [date?]

January 1997 Dateline World Jewry reported damage to 43 marble and granite tombstones, toppled or smashed in the pre-World War II Jewish was recently discovered. [1997]

Auschwitz: some of the carried-off gravestones had been retrieved and dumped into the cemetery. Source: Cohen, Chester G. "Jewish Cemeteries in Southern Poland" from `An Epilogue' in Shtetl Finder. 1980.

BOOK: Gruber, Ruth Ellen. Jewish Heritage Travel A Guide to East-Central Europe. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992. p. 37

UPDATE: Jacek Prosyyk sent information about some stones of my family in Oswiecim including photographs. He also enclosed what appears to be a general publicity letter about his project. This letter advises that the Oswiecim cemetery was recently taken over by the Jewish Community in Bielsko-Biala. They decided to carry out an inventory of the stones and appointed Jacek Proszyk to do this. He intends to complete the inventory by November [year?], to be deposited in the archives of the State Service for the Preservation of Monuments. There will also be produced an alphabetical index. There are apparently over 800 stones. The letter includes an appeal from the Jewish Community for funds to help complete the project on time. The Bielsko Biala Provincial Authorities provided some funding, they apparently need a further USD$500 to cover costs already incurred. Jacek Proszyk also previously carried out similar work in the cemeteries in Bielsko-Biala, Zywiec (Sayb USCh), Milowka, Skoczow (Skotschau), Cieszyn (Teschen) and Ustron. The Jewish Community in Bielsko-Biala can be contacted at the following address: gmina (district) Wyznaniowa Zydowska, 43-300 Bielsko-Biala, ul. 3 Maja 7, PO Box 180. Tel. +48-33-126654 or 122438. Jacek Proszyk is at 43-300 Bielsko-Biala, PO Box 15. Tel. +48-33-146725. E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it source: Daniel Vulkan, Harrow, Middlesex, England Tel. +44 181 907 3951; e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it [date?] {CAVEAT: This information is postly merely should anyone wish to pursue it. IAJGS knows no information about the validity this project and therefore cannot endorse it. January 2001]

US Commission No AS 216

Alternate name: Auschwitz. Oswiecim is located in Bielsko-Biala region at 19º10, 50º5, 32 km from Bielsko-Biala. The cemetery is located at ul. Dabrowskiego. Present town population is 25,000-100,000 with fewer than 10 Jews.

  • Town: Urzad Miejski w Oswiecimiv 32-602, Prezydent Miasta Oswiecim. Regional: Wojewodzki Konserwator Zabytkow w Bielsko-Bialej, gmina (district) Wyzn. Zyd. W Bielsko- Bialej.
  • Interested: the Polish-Israeli Society in Oswiecim: Mirostaw Ganobis-Chairman, 21, 3 Maja Street, Apt. 30, 32-602 Oswiecim; Asher Sharf (USA).
  • Caretaker with the locked Jewish cemetery key: Mieczyslaw Kapala.

The earliest known Jewish community in Oswiecim was 1500-1550. The Jewish population as of the last census before W.W.II was approximately 7,000, 60%. Schoenker, Haberfeld and Scharf lived here. Buried in this Orthodox cemetery was the Polish legionnaire, Hirsch. The last known Jewish burial was 1939. The community of Brak Danych used this cemetery. The isolated urban flat land has a sign or plaque in the local language. A continuous masonry wall with locking gate surrounds it. Reached by turning directly off a public road, access is entirely closed. The size of the cemetery prior to W.W.II was 90x80 meters; its present size is 70x80 meters. 500- 5000 gravestones, about 1-20 still in original locations and 500-5000 stones not in original locations, from the 19th-20th centuries. [At the question of percentage of surviving stones toppled or broken, the words Brak Danych are written to indicate another cemetery.] Some removed stones were incorporated into roads or structures. The granite and sandstone flat shaped stones with carved relief decorations have Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish and German inscriptions. Some tombstones have traces of painting on their surfaces. The cemetery contains special memorial monuments to Holocaust victims, a marked mass grave, and the ohel of the Sharf family. Municipality owns site used solely as a Jewish cemetery. Properties adjacent are residential. Compared to 1939, the cemetery boundaries enclose a smaller area. Organized Jewish group tours or pilgrimage groups, organized individual groups, or private Jewish and non-Jewish visitors rarely visit. The cemetery was vandalized during W.W.II and also by locals during the 1970s-1980s. Re-creation and cleaning of stones, patching of broken stones, and clearing of vegetation is maintenance. Occasionally, the regular caretaker cleans and clears. Within the limits of the cemetery are an ohel and a bunker built during W.W.II. Moderate threat: nearby incompatible existing development, security, and vandalism. There are slight threats from weather erosion, pollution, vegetation and an incompatible development (planned or proposed).

Jacek Proszyk, P.O. Box 68, 43- 430 Skoczow, completed this survey on April 27, 1995. Documentation: Artykuly Historyczne. Jacek Proszyk and Miroseaw Ganobis visited the site in April of 1995. Miroseaw Ganobis (ul. 3 Maja 21/30, 32-602 Oswiecim) was interviewed.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 June 2009 10:43