Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Oświęcim (pronounce: Oswiecim.ogg)(Yiddish, Oshpitizin) is a town in southern Poland with about 43,000 inhabitants (2001), situated some 60 km southwest of Krakow in the Lesser Poland Voivodship since 1999, previously in Bielsko-Biala Voivodship (1975-1998).
The city was first mentioned in 1117. In 1179 it was detached from the Krakauer senior province and attached to the duchy Oppeln.. Oświęcim was organized under German law (more precisely Lwowek law , which is a flavor of Magdeburg law) in 1270. Throughout history, Germans and Poles lived here together peacefully. From 1315 Oświęcim was the capital of an independent duchy. In 1327 the western part of Galicia duke Johann of Auschwitz formed the duchies Auschwitz (Oświęcim) and Zator into a vassal state attached to the kingdom of Bohemia. Later the area went again to the dukes from Te and Grossglogau. In the 14th century many people moved away. The interest of the Germans in Auschwitz shrank and in 1457 the Polish king Casimir IV bought the rights to Oświęcim which was attached afterwards the Woiwodschaft Krakau. Jews, invited by Polish kings to settle in the region, had already become the majority of the population in the 15th century. Oświęcim also became one of centres of Protestant culture in Poland. The Polish poet Łukasz Górnicki was born here in 1527.
The town was destroyed by Swedish troops in 1655. When Poland was divided in the late 18th century, Oświęcim became part of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria (an Austro-Hungarian province) in 1772 and was located close to the borders of Russia and Prussia. After World War I the town returned to Poland with that country's reemergence as an independent nation. On the eve of World War II the city had about 8,000 Jews in the City.
Poland was occupied by Germany in World War II, and in 1940 the Germans built the Auschwitz concentration camp by converting Polish military barracks. Later, across town, they also built the vast Auschwitz-II-Birkenau camp.
Between 1940 and 1945, roughly 1 million people, mostly Jews, died in the Auschwitz camps: see the articles on Auschwitz concentration camp, List of subcamps of Auschwitz, Holocaust and extermination camp for a detailed account.
After the war, the Polish government took possession of the Buna-Werke , a chemical factory owned by IG Farben which had previously used Auschwitz prisoners as slave laborers. The chemical industry became the main employer of Oświęcim; in later times service and trade were emphasized. The concentration camps became museums.
Members of Parliament (Sejm) elected from this constituency
- Bielan Adam, PiS
- Graś Paweł, PO
- Lisak Janusz, SLD-UP
- Murzyn Leszek, LPR
- Rydzoń Stanisław, SLD-UP
- Talaga Halina, SLD-UP
- Zieliński Leszek, PSL
The ice hockey team of Oświęcim was repeatedly Polish champion.
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