|Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue|
|Location||Jan Skarbek square, Oświęcim, Poland|
The Oświęcim Synagogue, also called the Auschwitz Synagogue, is the only active synagogue in the town of Oświęcim, Poland. The formal, as well as pre-war, name of the synagogue is Khevre Loymdei Mishnayos (English translation: Association of Those Who Study Mishna). It is now part of the Auschwitz Jewish Center, which includes a Jewish Museum and an Education Center.
The Oświęcim synagogue was the first building restored to the Jewish community under the Polish government’s post-Communism law governing the restitution of Jewish communal property seized by German occupiers during World War II, and retained by the post-war Communist government. The building was claimed by, and is now owned by, the Jewish community of nearby Bielsko-Biala.
The synagogue was built circa 1913. During World War II, the Nazis demolished its interior and used the building as a munitions depot. After the end of war, a small group of Jewish survivors restored the synagogue to its proper function. However, the custodians soon left Poland and the synagogue ceased to operate.
In the 1970s, under communist Poland, the empty building was used as a carpet warehouse. The synagogue reopened on September 11, 2000, completely restored to its pre-war condition by the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation of New York, at the cost of one million dollars. It is an active synagogue used for prayers by groups and individuals visiting Auschwitz. The adjoining house was purchased by the foundation and turned into a contemporary museum called the Auschwitz Jewish Center (Żydowskie Centrum Edukacyjne). It depicts the life of Jews in pre-war Oświęcim. Both the synagogue and the Jewish center are affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.
The great synagogue
The Auschwitz synagogue was not the largest synagogue in Oświęcim. The better known Great Synagogue of Oświęcim was destroyed by the Nazis on November 29, 1939, and its remains were demolished. At the time of the Nazi invasion, more than half the population of Oświęcim was Jewish. The community was over 400 years old and there were then more than 20 synagogues in the city. Oświęcim has an old Jewish cemetery open to visitors.
The last native Jew of Oświęcim died in 2000. Szymon Kluger (January 19, 1925 – May 26, 2000), son of Symcha Kluger and Fryda Weiss, was born in Oświęcim and was the last resident Jew there; the only survivor of the Holocaust to return to the town after World War II. His death in 2000 brought to an end the old Jewish community of Oświęcim.
World War II
During World War II, Kluger was deported to the Ghetto in Bendsburg (Będzin) and to one of the Blechhammer forced labor camps in 1942, and he was marked with the number 179539. (During this time, his parents were taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died). From Blechhammer he was brought to the KZ Groß-Rosen; later to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was a forced laborer in aircraft construction.
In April 1945 Szymon Kluger was rescued by the American Army near Halberstadt. Through the help of the Swedish Red Cross and the UNRRA, he came to Sweden in July. Until 1946 he was in hospitals in Malmö and Kalmar. He attended a technical school in Uppsala, Sweden, and learned a profession as a mechanic and electrician. Kluger worked with Radio Svenska AB as a piece worker.
Return to Auschwitz
In 1962, Szymon Kluger returned to Poland and started work at the Oświęcim chemical factory, living in a hotel for workers on Wyspiański Street. He eventually returned to his parental home next to the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue, where he lived alone and was known as the "last Jew in Oświęcim," often introducing himself to people by showing the tattoo on his arm. Soon after moving there, he retired due to bad health and remained there until his death in 2000.
The Kluger house
At present, a lone Jewish woman from Belgium lives near the camp, dedicating her life to memorializing the Shoah.
Presently at the Synagogue, there is an Auschwitz Jewish Center, a museum and a cultural center, focused on Jewish heritage, reconciliation through art and intercultural dialogue.
- International Youth Meeting Center in Oświęcim/Auschwitz. A Center opened in 1986 that fosters dialogue between Germans and Poles, Christians and Jews. The Center can accommodate overnight stays by youth groups.
- "Synagogue Near Auschwitz Restored to Jews". The New York Times. March 12, 1998.
- The Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue history; at ajcf.org
- "Synagogue Reopens Near Auschwitz After 60 Years". New York Times News Service. 18 February 2001.
- Museum of Jewish Heritage; at www.mjhnyc.org
- Video presentation; at ajcf.org
- Krafczyk, Eva (25 January 2005). "Die Last der Vergangenheit" [The Burden of the Past]. Stern (in German). Retrieved 11 February 2013.
- Mandell, Hinda (August 19, 2009). "Bargain Shopping in the Shadow of Auschwitz: Letter from Oswiecim". Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
- "Auschwitz Jewish Home Faces Demolition". Israeli National News. 2008-04-30. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
- "Café Oshpitzin Community Recognition". Auschwitz Jewish Center. August 19, 2013.
- "Kluger House". Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation. 2008. Archived from the original on 2010-03-25.
Kluger's siblings (Moishe Kluger and Bronia Kluger Rosenblatt) donated their family house to the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation after Kluger's death and shortly before the inauguration of the Auschwitz Jewish Center in 2000. Szymon, Moishe, and Bronia (the only members of the family who survived the Holocaust) had lived together in the house with their six siblings, their parents and both grandparents. The three-floor building was owned by Bernard Teichmann, the maternal grandfather, who also had a business in Germany. Until Adolf Hitler's decision to close all Jewish companies, Bernhard Teichmann commuted regularly to Germany.
- Cresswell, Peterjon (2009). Frommer's Krakow Day by Day: 20 Smart Ways to See the City. John Wiley. pp. 150–151.
- "Jedyna Żydówka, która mieszka w Auschwitz." Gazeta.pl, 18 March 2007. See rough translation by Google: "The only Jewish woman who lives in Auschwitz." Google translate
- Lucyna Filip; Jews in Oswiecim 1918–1941; Oswiecim; 2005.
- Official Website, at www.ajcf.pl (Polish)
- Official English Language Website, at ajcf.org
- Kluger family house on oshpitzin.pl