Before the Nazis erased centuries of Jewish life in Oswiecim, Poland, the town was called a ‚city of Israel,‘ with thriving Yiddish culture and one of Poland’s first factories
By Matt Lebovic | The Times of Israel
Although its name later became synonymous with the Holocaust, the Polish town Oswiecim — or Auschwitz, in German — once brimmed with Jewish culture. The rise and fall of the community’s buildings left behind evocative relics, a few dozen photographs, and many tales of the town’s special place in Polish-Jewish history.
Jews first settled in Oswiecim, west of Krakow, about 400 years ago. By the eve of the Holocaust, they comprised half the town’s population of 10,000 people. The community put up more than 20 synagogues, famous schools, and one of Poland’s first factories. Oswiecim was known as “not a bad place” to live for Jews; indeed, the Yiddish name for the town was Oshpitzin, which comes from the Aramaic word for guests.