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 speak German.

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 Europe.

Town Square



Polish Houses

Little Chapels

Back to Photo Gallery 16


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