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Bunker of Memory

Fragments of tombstones destroyed by the Germans have been used in the newest project realized by the Oshpitzin Jewish Museum in Oświęcim. This is another initiative to commemorate the Jewish residents of Oświęcim, this time carried out on the site of the historic Jewish cemetery. The innovative element of the project is the use of a bunker built by the Germans, on the walls of which an installation has been created, consisting of preserved parts of matzevot.

Since 2000, The Jewish Museum in Oświęcim has taken care of the historic graveyard which belongs to the Jewish Community in Bielsko-Biała. Today, the cemetery is a place that educates about the multicultural heritage of the town, explains director Tomasz Kuncewicz.

He adds that in addition to the preserved circa 1,000 historic tombstones or their fragments, the cemetery also contains remnants of the tragic period of World War II. These include military facilities, mainly bunkers, made by the Germans. One of them has just gained a new function, which also has a great symbolic value. Together with the support of the Town of Oświęcim and private donors: David Goldman, the Matzevah Foundation and the local company Susuł and Strama, a project called “Bunker of Memory” is being realized.

It aims to commemorate Jewish residents of Oświęcim and educate about the history and culture of the local Jewish community. The project includes an installation composed of fragments of matzevot found within and outside the cemetery and placed on the walls of the German bunker, as well as an educational path that explains the meaning of the tombstone symbols and a map.

As explained by the museum’s historian Dr. Artur Szyndler – it is also worth mentioning that, while working on the project, we managed to discover and acquire several unique fragments of matzevot. Among them are: a fragment of Abraham’s tombstone, dating back to the 18th century, a tombstone with the symbol of a lion, found in the neighboring village of Zaborze, and part of the tombstone plaque of Józef Thieberg (1855-1916), a town councilman and chairman of the Israelite Religious Community in Oświęcim (1910-1916). The plaque was discovered during the dismantling of one of the monuments from the 1950s, in the Catholic cemetery in the vicinity of Oświęcim – the village of Bielany. 

This project will continue in 2024.

Be a part of this unique remembrance and educational initiative by donating here.

Thank you!