Synagogue in Oswiecim
The restored Chevra
Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue
Photo Credit: Auschwitz
Jewish Center Foundation
Interior of restored
Synagogue, opened to the public in 2000
The Synagogue shown in the two photos
above is the only surviving Synagogue in Oswiecim. Construction
of this building began in 1928 and it was finished in 1930. It
was used as a house of worship until the Nazis occupied the city
of Oswiecim on September 6, 1939. During the Nazi occupation,
it was used as a storehouse. Oswiecim had more than a dozen Synagogues,
all of which were destroyed by the Nazis, including the Great
Synagogue which was burned in March 1941 during the time that
the Jews were moved out of the town and into three ghettos.
The Bimah with the
Holy Ark in the background
An Eternal Light hangs
over the Aron Ha-kodesh (Ark)
The following quote is from a brochure
which I was given at the Synagogue:
Of the original furnishings, only
two dedications survive, both installed in 1928. The one to the
right of the Aron Hakodesh (ark of the Torah) is a skiviti plaque,
bearing the poignant inscription from the Book of Psalms: "I
have set God before me always." This plaque was donated
by Hinda Svietel in memory of her late husband, Shlomo Zalman
Peltzman of the town of Kety.
Behind the Parochet
(curtain) of the Holy Ark
Torah scrolls dressed
in soft cover cases
The Synagogue is located on a small square
that was formerly called Church Square, but was renamed Jana
Skarbka square after the Synagogue was opened to the public in
2000. The building is connected to the Auschwitz Jewish Center
which is shown in the photo below. The wooden stairs in the foreground
lead up to the entrance to the Synagogue which is the door on
the left in the background. Not shown in any of these photos
is the porcelain-covered stove that was used to heat the Synagogue.
Reception area with
steps up to Synagogue entrance
Religious objects on
display in reception room
The photo above shows a display of objects
in the Auschwitz Jewish Center. Notice the double-paned windows.
Prominently mentioned in the Center are the Haberfeld and Hennenberg
families who were engaged in distilling and selling liquor.
According to a brochure which I obtained
from the Center, Jews first settled in Oswiecim 500 years ago.
By 1939, over half of the population of Oswiecim was Jewish.
This quote is from the brochure: "For several centuries,
Jews prospered as traders, merchants, professionals and manufacturers,
and were entrusted with tax collection and the administration
of the lands of the Polish nobility."
Today, there were no more Jews left in
Oswiecim. Shimshon Klueger, the last surviving Jew, died in 2000.
Klueger is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Osweicim.
A movie is shown on a TV screen in a
small room in the Jewish Center. In the movie, several survivors,
who were children in 1939, tell about what it was like in Oswiecim
before the German invasion of Poland. There was a "large
Jewish presence in Auschwitz," according to one survivor.
All of the survivors said that they now live in Israel or the
United States, but none of them mentioned anything about how
they managed to survive the Holocaust.
One woman survivor said that the Jewish
children in Oswiecim were all "organized." There were
many organizations for Jewish children, and she had joined the
Zionist movement as a child. Another survivor said that she had
a home tutor so that she could learn German. Her father told
her that she would be able to go any place in Europe if she could
One survivor said that the Jewish houses
in Oswiecim had no running water, no electricity, no central
heating or air conditioning, and no inside toilets, but the Jews
had "culture." Another said that the Jews were not
rich, but they had a "rich Jewish life." One survivor
described the life in Oswiecim before the war as "a life
of dignity." All that is now gone; the Nazis not only killed
the Jews, they destroyed their rich, dignified way of life in
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