Remains of Mikveh Destroyed in Holocaust Discovered Near Auschwitz

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland. (Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

Remnants of a mikveh that was used until the outbreak of World War II were found last week in Oświęcim, Poland, near the site where the Auschwitz concentration camp operated. The remains of the mikveh, whose construction dates back to the 18th century, were discovered in excavations carried out in a parking lot near the place where the city’s shul stood, before it was destroyed by the Germans.

The local Jewish community in Auschwitz was founded in the 16th century. In 1939, just before the outbreak of the Holocaust, the community numbered about 8,200 people – half of the residents of the entire city – and its members were served by dozens of shuls, yeshivos, Talmudei Torah, shtiebelach and a girls school. During the Holocaust, the community was destroyed when almost all the Jews of the city were murdered, Hy”d. In 2000, the last known Jew to live there passed away.

Dr. Arthur Schindler, historian and curator of the museum, said that he found a reference to the mikveh in Auschwitz in a story from the 18th century, centered on the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, zy”a, who at the end of a visit to the city spent the night in the mikveh building. In the excavations carried out last week, the mikveh was found, with wall tiles dating to the beginning of the 20th century, floor tiles and a window.

“The remains of the mikveh that were discovered are a valuable memory of the Jewish past of Auschwitz,” said Tomasz Koncevich, director of the Jewish Center in the city, which includes the museum, a shul and other Jewish sites. The items found at the excavation site will be transferred to the Jewish Museum, which operates in the city and displays many items documenting Jewish life in the local community before the Holocaust.

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