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Chronology of the City

1926 - Father Jan Skarba arrives to take up his duties as parish priest. Those who greet him include representatives of the Jewish community, led by the rabbi, who declares a wish to cooperate with the Catholics.

1929-1932 - Oswiecim is the seat of the local powiat government. When the powiat is liquidated, it falls under the administration of Bielsko.

1930 - the first issue of Glos Ziemi Oswiecimskiej (The Voice of the Land of Oswiecim) is published

1930 - the first issue of the bi-weekly Dziennik Urzedowy Powiatu Oswiecimskiego (Official Journal of the Oswiecim Powiat) is published.

1932 - local Jewish scouts organize a Jewish Scouts' Rally at the Oswiecim sports stadium.

1935 - on its fifth anniversary, the Oswiecim scout troop dedicates its flag in the new gimnazjum building.

September 1939 - the battle of Rajsko, approximately five km. from Oswiecim-the last border engagement fought in defense of Silesia by the Cracow Army.

September 1939 - the withdrawing Polish army demolishes the bridge on the river Sola linking the left- and right-bank halves of the city.

September 1939 - in the last days of the month, the Germans burn the synagogue (which is razed in 1941). October 1939 - some parts of Poland are annexed to the Third Reich, including Oswiecim and the rest of Bielsko powiat. The Germans remove all Jewish members from the town council.

Mid-November 1939 - the town council is dissolved and a new German administration, with a German mayor, installed.

1940 - Himmler orders that a concentration camp be opened in Oswiecim.

1940 - approximately 300 local Jewish forced laborers are engaged in putting the site of the future concentration camp in order.

June 14, 1941 - The first transport of Polish political prisoners arrives in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. This is the beginning of the great human tragedy that will play itself out in Oswiecim.

1940-1944 - the occupiers carry out many expulsions in nearby localities. German and Volksdeutsche settlers move in.

1940-1944 - the main square and downtown streets are rebuilt. 1941 - IG Farben makes construction plans; all Jews are expelled from Oswiecim (some are sent to Chrzanów and others to Sosnowiec).

October 1941 - construction of the first segment of Birkenau Concentration Camp begins.

1941-1944 - IG Farben Werk Auschwitz is built in nearby Dwory. Later, this will become the Polish Oswiecim chemical plant (since 1997: Dwory Chemical Corporation.)

1942 - Auschwitz III-Monowitz Concentration Camp is established.

1944 - Allied air raids on August 20, September 13, and December 18 and 26.

January 1945 - liquidation of the camp. In the final phase, the SS dynamite the Birkenau gas chambers and crematoria and set fire to the barracks where victims' property is stored. The chemical plant construction site in nearby Dwory is also evacuated.

January 19, 1945 - the last marching evacuation column leaves the camp.

January 27, 1945 - the Soviet army enters Oswiecim.

January 1945 - representatives of the Polish Central Petroleum Bureau arrive in Oswiecim; on February 1, they take over the IG Farben plant construction site in Dwory on behalf of the Polish government.

August 31, 1945 - the Polish authorities take renewed control of the chemical plant, which was occupied by the Soviet Army in mid-February.

February 1945 - the Polish government re-establishes Bielsko powiat, including Oswiecim, in its prewar boundaries, as part of Cracow voivodeship. 1945 - four factories are opened in Oswiecim over the course of the year.

1947 - the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum is established at the site of the concentration camp and death camp.

1948 - the Municipal Public Library is established.

1951 - Oswiecim powiat is established, including the cities of Kety, Oswiecim, Wilamowice, and Zator, as well as six rural collectives, each of which comprises several village assemblies.

1959 - the Powiat State Archive is established.

1962 - the first issue of the bi-weekly Oswiecimski Chemik is published, and the Chemical Factory House of Culture is opened (renamed Oswiecim Cultural Center in 1996)

1966 - Jerzy Gromkowski Powiat Hospital is opened.

1967 - the International Monument to the Victims of Fascism (defined as the International Monument to the Victims of the Auschwitz Camp) is unveiled on the site of the Birkenau camp.

1975 - the powiat level is eliminated in the national administrative redistricting scheme. Oswiecim powiat, minus Brzeszcze and the village of Jawiszowice, becomes part of the new Bielsko voivodeship.

1979 - the five-year-old office of City Chairman is replaced by the new office of President of the City of Oswiecim.

1979 - the Polish Pope John Paul II celebrates mass at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp during his pilgrimage to Poland.

1979 - UNESCO includes the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camp and death camp on the list of world heritage sites.

1985 - the city is decorated with the Grunwald Cross Second Class for aid to concentration camp prisoners and participation in the resistance movement by the residents.

1985 - The first To Love Mankind Amateur Film Festival (bi-annual) is held; in 1996, it becomes an international film festival.

1986 - the German Sign of Penance Operation and the local government open the international Youth Meeting House.

1988 - a reinforced concrete bridge of the river Sola is opened; in 1989, it is named the Jagiellonian bridge.

1992 - the first issue of the bi-weekly Glos Ziemi Oswiecimskiej (Voice of the Land of Oswiecim) is published.

August 1992 - the Dialogue and Prayer Center is opened.

August 1992 - folk groups from around the world perform at the first annual Beskid Cultural Week festival.


After the occupation of Poland by the Third Reich, the name of the city of Oswiecim was changed to Auschwitz by the Germans, and became the name of the camp as well.

Auschwitz functioned throughout its existence as a concentration camp, and over time became the largest such Nazi camp.

In the first period of the existence of the camp, it was primarily Poles who were sent here by the German occupation authorities. These were people regarded as particularly dangerous: the elite of the Polish people, their political, civic, and spiritual leaders, members of the intelligentsia, cultural and scientific figures, and also members of the resistance movement, officers, and so on.

Over time, the Nazis also began to send groups of prisoners from other occupied countries to Auschwitz.

Beginning in 1942, Jews whom the SS physicians classified as fit for labor were also registered in the camp. From among all the people deported to Auschwitz, approximately 400,000 people were registered and placed in the camp and its sub-camps (200,000 Jews, more than 140,000 Poles, about 20,000 Gypsies from various countries, more than 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and more than 10,000 prisoners of other nationalities).

Over 50% of the registered prisoners died as a result of starvation, labor that exceeded their physical capacity, the terror that raged in the camp, executions, the inhuman living conditions, disease and epidemics, punishment, torture, and criminal medical experiments.

Auschwitz has become a symbol of terror, genocide, and the Holocaust. It was established by the Nazis in 1940, in the suburbs of the city of Oswiecim which, like other parts of Poland, was occupied by the Germans during the Second World War. The name of the city of Oswiecim was changed to Auschwitz, which became the name of the camp as well.

Over the years, the camp was expanded and consisted of three main parts: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and Auschwitz III-Monowitz. It also had over 40 sub-camps. At first, Poles were imprisoned and died in the camp. Afterwards, Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsies, and people of other nationalities were also incarcerated there. Beginning in 1942, the camp became the site of the greatest mass murder in the history of humanity, which was committed against the European Jews as part of Hitler's plan for the complete destruction of that people.

The majority of the Jewish men, women and children deported to Auschwitz were sent to their deaths in the Birkenau gas chambers immediately after arrival. At the end of the war, in an effort to remove the traces of the crimes they had committed, the SS began dismantling and razing the gas chambers, crematoria, and other buildings, as well as burning documents.

Prisoners capable of marching were evacuated into the depths of the Reich. Those who remained behind in the camp were liberated by Red Army soldiers on January 27, 1945.

A July 2, 1947 act of the Polish parliament established the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the grounds of the two extant parts of the camp, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

More information about the city, past and present, can be found at the Oswiecim local government site.

Auschwitz - How Many Were Murdered?
Gassed on Registered Prisoners
Total Nationality Arrival Total Died Survived Deaths

Jews 890,000 205,000 95,000 110,000 985,000

Poles 10,000 137,000 64,000 73,000 74,000

Romany 2,000 2,000 21,000 2,000 21,000

Soviet POWs 3,000 12,000 12,000 ------- 15,000

Other 25,000 12,000 13,000 13,000

Totals 905,000 400,000 202,000 198,000 1,208,000

1992 - the modernized Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is unveiled.

1993 - Oswiecim and Kerpen (Germany) begin cooperating as sister cities. May

1994 - the Historical-Ethnographic Collection in the castle is opened. 1995 - a world congress of Cities of Peace is held in Oswiecim under the slogan Peace for the Future. 1995 - the city council sets September 3 aside as Oswiecim Municipal Day.

1996 - the Polish Council of Ministers approves the Strategic Government Oswiecim Plan.

1998 - The UN General Secretary awards the city the title of Messenger of Peace in recognition of its peace activities.

1998 - the Bielsko-Biala Jewish Community officially takes possession of the Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue at 3 Father Jan Skarba Square, where the Jewish Educational Center will be erected. 1999 - Oswiecim Powiat, with its seat in the city, is established as part of Malopolska voivodeship. Based on a study by Elzbieta Skalinska-Dindorf. Elzbieta Skalinska-Dindorf - historian and archivist. Organizer of the Powiat State Archive in Oswiecim.