The town known as Auschwitz
This document records a transaction between a Christian citizen, Jan Piotraszowski, and the Jews of Oświęcim. Piotraszowski donated his house and a plot of land to the Jewish community in Oświęcim so that the Jews could build a synagogue and have land for a cemetery. Following this act, a formal Jewish community, or kehilla, was created.
This is the oldest tombstone, or matzevah in Hebrew, found in the
Jewish cemetery in Oświęcim. It adorned the grave of Abraham Aba, a rabbi.
The Hebrew inscription reads:
Abraham returned to his place
A righteous among philanthropists, who walked the paths of good men
A respected man and rabbi Abraham Aba son of Asher Zelig
Died in good glory on Thursday, 7th of Cheshvan.
May his soul be bound up in the bonds of eternal life
Excerpt from the document reestablishing the privileges of the Jewish community of Oświęcim, issued by King Stanisław Poniatowski on May 5, 1766, which reaffirmed the Jews’ right to reside in the town, trade, and rent real estate in and outside of Oświęcim, as well as use the synagogue and Jewish cemetery.
Jacob Haberfeld, founded the Steam Vodka and Liquor Factory in 1804, which was the first factory ever established in Oświęcim. The business developed rapidly and the vodka, rum, liquor, and juice made in the factory conquered new markets. Their marketing efforts entailed worldwide travel to present their products in international food fairs.
A 1918 article about the anti-Semitic events in Oświęcim in Nowy Dziennik (“New Daily”) followeingWorld War I. These events caused widespread panic and suspicion; in this environment, Jewish merchants were accused of speculating and hiding their stock. Anti-Semitic violence was often preceded by these accusations.
Challah cover for Shabbat [Hebrew: Sabbath]. This challah cover was sold to raise money for Kolel Chibas Yerushalayim (est. 1830), a charity that supported Jews who had emigrated to the Holy Land from Galicia. The cover features the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Many Jewish homes in Oświęcim also had special collection boxes to raise money for their brethren in Palestine. This challah cover was found in the 1990s in a house on Berka Joselewicza Street in Oświęcim.
Advertisement of Chrzanów Bakery owned by Chaim Gerstner with prices of bread for sale on Oct. 15, 1936.
Street sign for Tischlerstrasse (Carpentry Street), 1939-1945. When World War Two broke out, Oświęcim was incorporated into the Third Reich. The town was renamed Auschwitz and Polish street names were replaced with German ones. This street sign was located at Stolarska Street, which was renamed Tischlerstrasse, meaning “Carpentry Street” in German.
On the night of November 29 1939, the Nazis burned down the Great Synagogue, the largest and most important Jewish house of prayer in Oświęcim. In this document, the Germans ordered the Judenrat, the Nazi-created Jewish Council, to demolish the remains of the Great Synagogue themselves, under threat of strict penalty.
Henryk Enoch's notebooks from the 1940-1941 school year. Henryk Enoch was born in 1932 in Oświęcim and lived with his family at 8 Legionów Street. During World War II, he attended secret classes for Jewish students, taught by Jadwiga Marciniak, a non-Jewish teacher at Queen Jadwiga Public School in Oświęcim. In 1941, Henryk was deported with his parents to the ghetto in Będzin, where he died.
Lola and Mieczysław Bodner's registration card for the Jewish Committee in Oświęcim, 1946. In March 1945, Lola returned to Oświęcim, where she was met with hostility by her neighbors. She married Maurycy Bodner, a survivor of Gross-Rosen camp in 1945 and they adopted Mieczysław/Menachem, age five, a child victim of Dr. Josef Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz.
Register of Jewish residents of Oświęcim, created by the local Jewish Committee, which was established in April 1945. This notebook contains the names of several hundred Jews who survived the Holocaust and came to Oświęcim. Most remained for only a brief period. It lists both prewar residents of the town and survivors from other areas.
Rubber stamps of the Jewish Religious Congregation in Oświęcim, 1946-1949. The Communist regime in Poland renamed Jewish communities “Jewish Religious Assembly” and later “Jewish Religious Congregations.” The Communist government intended to control all religious organizations. In the immediate postwar years, the Jewish Religious Congregation of Oświęcim was chaired by Chaim Wolnerman.
Communism brought major political changes to Poland; under the guise of fighting illegal economic activities, the government liquidated private businesses. The Communist government put Leon Schönker under surveillance and, in 1949, accused him of tax fraud and arrested him. His factory in Oświęcim was nationalized and he was imprisoned for over a year.
Greeting card sent to Elina Kupperman in Israel by her former teacher, Jadwiga Marciniak, in Oświęcim, 1969. Jadwiga Marciniak kept in touch with her former student, Elina, and her parents, Salomon and Regina, who were survivors of the Holocaust. The Kuppermans also sent name-day and holiday cards to Jadwiga in Oświęcim.
Letter from Father Jan Skarbek to Iro Druks. Before the war, Father Jan Skarbek was known for having many friends among Oświęcim’s Jews. One of them was Dr. Iro Druks, a well-known attorney. They were both members of the Town Council. After the war, Father Skarbek helped survivors of Auschwitz, and stayed in touch with Oświęcim survivors who had emigrated, including Druks, 1950.
This exhibit was created by the Jewish Museum in Oświęcim
Director: Tomasz Kuncewicz
Project management: Maciek Zabierowski
Texts: Artur Szyndler, PhD, Maciek Zabierowski
Translation: Maciek Zabierowski, Shiri B. Sandler
Exhibit preparation: Piotr Gajek
Photographs of artifacts: Andrzej Rudiak
© Jewish Museum in Oświęcim www.ajcf.pl
The Jewish Museum in Oświęcim is part of the Auschwitz Jewish Center
The Auschwitz Jewish Center is operated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust www.mjhnyc.org