Friday, January 28, 2005

Oswiecim, Poland

This week there has been a lot of news concerning the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, and I am pausing from recording our daily events in acknowledgement. My brother sent me this excerpt from our great-grandfather's memoirs about what Oswiecim, Poland was like before the Nazis transformed it beyond comprehension, and it made me stop and reflect on the magnitude of the loss.

An excerpt:

Oshpitzin! That is the Yiddish name of the famous Galician city Oswiecim, and until the end of the First World War it was the most important point that bordered on the two Upper Silesian towns of Myslowice and Katowice, a part of Germany at that time.

I recall many pleasant youthful memories when I remember the great love and respect with which my father would pronounce the word “Oshpitzin”, and he meant this with regard to the lively and many-faceted Jewish life that existed there, as well as the great influence that Oshpitzin had on other Jewish communities. There was something magical about the fact that the smaller towns around it, which could have possibly been independent in municipal terms, refused to become so, and they chose to remain a part of that cultural milieu in order to be able to say with pride that they were an integral part of that great Jewish municipality which was then called Oshpitzin County.

This is a special essay. Yakov's wonderful writing style is of another era, and it was well-translated, retaining its flowing manner from the original Yiddish. His description is of a lost world - that of the Eastern European Jewry of a unique time and place. The complete excerpt, along with many other accounts, is available at the link as part of the Oshpitsin database at, and was originally published by the Oshpitsin Society in 1977.

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