Oświęcim, Poland History

Even if the history of the town of Oświęcim is mainly connected with the establishment of the Auschwitz concentration camp complex, it is by no means limited to this cruel and sad chapter, but begins a good 800 years before this time. Oświęcim was first mentioned in a document in 1179. At that time, Mieszko Plątonogi, the Opole duke and lord of Ratibor, was given the Oświęcim castellany by his uncle, the Kraków prince Kazimierz Sprawiedliwy (the righteous).

It is not known exactly when Oświęcim was founded. However, it is clear from the written records that the establishment and further development coincided with the time when the Polish state slowly began to develop. At the turn of the 12th and 13th centuries, Oświęcim owned a (wooden) parish church. This was later destroyed by the Tatars who invaded Silesia in 1241. The castle and the surroundings of Oświęcim were devastated under the Tatar Baidar.

According to physicscat, Oświęcim has had city ​​rights since 1272. This privilege was it by the new Duke of Opole Władysław I. awarded. After the Duchy of Opole had been divided (1281-1282), the Oświęcim district came to the newly created Duchy of Teschen. The Dukes of Teschen confirmed the town charter in 1291 and extended them through a court and economic privilege. The Duchy of Teschen was also divided between 1315 and 1317. The new Duchy of Oświęcim, independent of Poland and Bohemia, was established with the capital of the same name. Duke Władysław became the owner of the city. But already in 1327 the Oświęcimer Duke Jan laid the Bohemian King John of Luxembourgtowards the oath of allegiance, which established the long influence of the Bohemian crown from then on.

With the year 1445 came the division of the Duchy of Oświęcim into the Oświęcimer, the Leedener (Zator) and the Toster (Toszek) Duchy. Duke Jan IV became master of the Duchy of Oświęcim. But he was supposed to sell it to the Polish king Kazimierz Jagiellończyk in 1457. From now on, Jews also received permission to settle permanently on the territory of the duchy, which they were previously forbidden. But as early as 1563 King Siegmund August forbade further Jews to move to Oświęcim. Jews were also not allowed to buy or build houses on the market.

In 1503 there was a devastating fire in Oświęcim, as a result of which a large part of the city and the castle were destroyed. However, a town hall could be built in Oświęcim as early as the middle of the 16th century, as the townspeople had become rich through the trade in salt.

In 1564 King Siegmund August issued an incorporation privilege. In it, the duchies of Oświęcim and Leeden (Zator) were recognized by him as an integral part of the Polish crown. For administrative reasons, both duchies became part of the Krakow Voivodeship as the district of Silesia. However, they retained their title as duchies. The official language now became Polish.

The Jews of Oświęcim were allowed by King Władysław IV Vaasa in 1663 to live in the city and to purchase property both inside and outside the city. They were also allowed to maintain a cemetery and a synagogue (the first wooden synagogue was built in 1588).

The economic decline of Oświęcim began with the Swedish Wars. Swedish troops captured the city in 1655. Although these could be driven out again just a few weeks later, the Swedes set fire to Oświęcim two months after the defeat, thereby also destroying the city’s castle. Another fire raged in 1711 and destroyed the entire market area as well as the synagogue.

In 1772, after the first partition of Poland (between Prussia, Russia and Austria), the Oświęcim-Leeden area, including Oświęcim, became part of the Austrian Empire. From now on it was to be called Auschwitz. It belonged to the new Habsburg Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. In the meantime, the Austrian Emperor Franz II confirmed all previous privileges in 1793. In 1818 the area around Oświęcim was added to the German federal territory, as the city was part of Silesia for a long time. The attack by the Germans on Auschwitz that took place during the Austro-Prussian War What happened in 1866 was repulsed.

In 1863 there was another fire in the town. The sad result was the destruction of two thirds of the city. Among the destroyed buildings were the town hall, two synagogues, the upper part of the tower of the parish church and the hospital. A new town hall was built between 1872 and 1875. In the first years of the 20th century, the new synagogue was built in Oświęcim.

In the second half of the 19th century, Oświęcim became an important railway junction. At that time, three railway lines were already converging in the city.

Until 1918, the Austrian Emperor always carried the title of Duke of Auschwitz, when Oswięcim became Polish again after the First World War. In 1917 a new barracks settlement was built on a site in Zasole. It was called New Town or Oświęcim III. This area was then to be transformed into the Auschwitz concentration camp by the German National Socialists from 1940.

With the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the Second World War began and the darkest capital in the history of Oświęcim was opened. After the Polish army had to withdraw from Oświęcim and its surroundings, the German Wehrmacht marched into Oświęcim and renamed the city again Auschwitz. At the same time, the market square became Adolf Hitler-Platz. Auschwitz had been part of the German Reich since October 1939.

In 1940 Heinrich Himmler officially issued the order to establish the Auschwitz concentration camp. The first transport to this camp took place on June 14, 1940. The deportees were Polish political prisoners. Just one year later, all Jews from Oświęcim were forcibly evacuated and brought to Chrzanów and Sosnowiec. This relocation was connected with the preparation of a building for IG Farben, which took place between 1941 and 1944. The IG Farben plant in Dwory near Auschwitz was later to form the basis for the Polish chemical factory Oświęcim (since 1997 the company Chemiczna Dwory AG).

In October 1941 the construction ofAuschwitz II Birkenau. It had been ordered by Heinrich Himmler in March of that year as part of an expansion of the warehouse. It was supposed to accommodate 150,000 Soviet prisoners of war. Auschwitz-Birkenau was de facto an extermination camp from 1942, because it was there that the factory mass killings with the poison gas Zyklon B took place. Auschwitz III-Monowitz, a forced labor camp, was also established in 1942. In the course of the approach of the Red Army in January 1945, the Auschwitz camp was blown up by the National Socialists. On January 19, the last group of inmates was evacuated from the camp before the Red Army could move into Oświęcim on January 27, 1945.
There was only one Jewish returnees from Oświęcim.Shimshon Klieger died in 2000 and was buried in the local Jewish cemetery.

In 1947 the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was opened on the site of the former concentration and extermination camp. This territory was visited in 1979 by Pope John Paul II, who also celebrated a Holy Mass there. In the same year UNESCO put the territory of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz on the list of world cultural heritage.

In 1951 the Oświęcim District was created. In addition to the actual city, the district also included the cities of Kęty, Wilamowice and Zator, as well as six large municipalities. In 1975, in the course of the Polish administrative reform, the districts were abolished as administrative units in the form of the voivodships.

In 1985 the city of Oświęcim was awarded the Grunwald Cross, 2nd class. It was a tribute to the help that the residents of Oświęcim gave to the prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The city was also honored for its participation in the resistance movement. In 1998 it was the UN Secretary General who gave Oświęcim the title of Messenger of Peace (= peace advocate).

Oświęcim, Poland History