Last month, a construction project in the southern Polish town of Oświęcim—whose German name, Auschwitz, was given to the nearby death camp—uncovered a four-century-old wooden mikveh, or Jewish ritual bath. Shiryn Ghermezian reports:
“As far as we know, this is the only mikveh of its kind in Europe, in the world most likely,” Tomek Kuncewicz, director of the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation’s Jewish Museum in Oświęcim, told the Algemeiner. . . . “The experts we talked to from Poland [and] from other places said they have never heard of such a discovery, ever. So it definitely seems that it’s one-of-a-kind.”
He added that the mikveh, made of oak, is roughly 400 years old and is the “oldest piece of evidence” of a once-thriving Jewish community in Oświęcim.
The mikveh was found a month after another Jewish ritual bath—made of concrete and tile and probably from the 19th century—was discovered in January above the wooden mikveh. Both were . . . found near the Great Synagogue Memorial Park, which is located on the site where the town’s main synagogue once stood before it was destroyed during World War II.
Before World War II, there were about 8,000 Jewish residents in Oświęcim—roughly 50 to 60 percent of the town’s total population—but most of them were killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and after the war only about 200 Jews returned to the town, Kuncewicz said. He added that in subsequent years there was an effort to revive the Jewish community in Oświęcim but gradually most Jewish residents left, mainly for Israel. The last Jewish resident of Oświęcim, the Holocaust survivor Szymon Kluger, died in 2000.
Read more on Algemeiner: https://www.algemeiner.com/2023/03/10/one-of-a-kind-historic-wooden-mikvah-excavated-near-site-of-auschwitz-concentration-camp/