OSWIECIM, Poland -- This small town, where the former Auschwitz
concentration camp is located, reopened its only remaining
The restored Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot, a modest, early 20th
century synagogue, was used as a munitions dump by the Nazis -- 11
other synagogues in town were destroyed -- and later as a carpet
showroom by Poland's Communist regime.
The Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation, based in New York, led the
$1 million reconstruction of the synagogue and created a cultural
center next door to it. Called the Auschwitz Jewish Center, it
illustrates the life of the town's former Jewish community, which
numbered 7,000 until the German invasion of Poland in 1939.
In addition to a permanent exhibition on pre-war Polish Jewish
life, facilities of the cultural center include a 15-minute film,
based on testimonies recorded by Steven Spielberg for his Survivors
of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, and a family history room,
with genealogy resources developed in partnership with the Web site
JewishGen: The Home of Jewish Genealogy, which can be found at www.jewishgen.org.
Within the first six weeks of its official opening, more than
3,000 people visited the Auschwitz Jewish Center, which is less
than two miles from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, according to
Nadine Greenfield, director for Poland of the Auschwitz Jewish
Center Foundation in New York.
Approximately 1,000 visitors per week are expected in spring and
summer, she added.
Greenfield said the synagogue and cultural center have been
visited by Jewish youth groups from America and is included on
Jewish heritage itineraries from tour operators such as New York's
Isram World of Travel.
Exhibits are in English, and the synagogue and cultural center
take at least 45 minutes to an hour to visit, Greenfield said.
Admission is free.
For additional information, contact the Auschwitz Jewish Center
Foundation at (212) 575-1050; by fax at (212) 575-1051, or by
e-mail at [email protected].org. The Web site address is www.ajcf.org.