The Auschwitz Jewish Center (AJC) in Oświęcim, operated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, is just two miles from the Auschwitz–Birkenau death camps. The only Jewish presence in the vicinity of Auschwitz, the Center opened its doors in September 2000 so that people from around the world could gather to learn, pray, and remember the victims of the Holocaust.
The Auschwitz Jewish Center, a proud member of the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust family, is comprised of three buildings: the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue; the adjoining Kornreich House, which once housed a Jewish family and today houses a Jewish Museum and educational programs; and the 100-year-old Kluger Family House, which belonged to the last Jewish resident of Oświęcim, Szymon Kluger, after WWII.
The Auschwitz Jewish Center offers programs for students from around the world. Students from the US may participate in the American Service Academies Program for future military officers, the Auschwitz Jewish Center Fellows Program for graduate students, the Human Rights Summer Program, and the Program for Students Abroad. The Center offers award-winning initiatives for Polish students and teachers, programs for Polish and European law enforcement, and public programs for visitors.
Before Auschwitz became the ultimate symbol of the Holocaust, it was an ordinary Polish town known as Oświęcim, where Jews made their home from the early 16th century until the Holocaust, when most of them were murdered. In the pre-war years, the majority of Oświęcim’s citizens were Jewish, and for generations they raised families here and contributed to a richly textured culture. The Holocaust suddenly ended the vibrant Jewish life of the town. Visitors to the Auschwitz Jewish Center’s Jewish Museum can connect with Oświęcim’s pre-war Jewish life through a visit to the Core Exhibition which features photographs, documents, archeological artifacts, and survivor testimony.
The Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue (the “Society for the Study of Mishnah”—the Jewish law/ legal code) is the only Jewish house of prayer in Oświęcim to survive the Holocaust. Built circa 1913, it functioned until the Nazi occupation, when it was turned into a munitions warehouse. After WWII it was reopened as a synagogue for a few years. Later, it was nationalized by the Communist regime and used as a carpet store until the collapse of communism. In 1998 the Synagogue was returned to the Bielsko-Biała Jewish community, becoming the first Jewish communal property to be returned to a Jewish community in Poland. It was then donated to the Auschwitz Jewish Center. The fully restored synagogue reopened to the public in 2000. Today, the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot has neither a rabbi nor a local congregation, but as the only Jewish house of worship near Auschwitz, it is available to visitors for prayer, reflection, b’nai mitzvot, and other celebrations.
The AJC also offers immersive study programs on the Holocaust, Jewish history and heritage, and diversity education—serving students from around the world.