Jewish Journal

Another new App guide—to Oshpitzin: pre-WW2 Oswiecim

by Ruth Ellen Gruber

July 14, 2012 | 2:54 am

The latest Jewish travel app for smartphones and tablets takes you to a place that no longer exists except in memory: Oshpitzin.

Oshpitzin was the Jewish name for Oswiecim, the small town in southern Poland where the Nazis built Auschwitz which had a majority Jewish population before the Holocaust—I’ve written a lot about the town and its difficulty in balancing its Holocaust identity with its pre-WW2 past, starting in the mid 1990s, when I dealt with the issue in the long chapter “Snowbound in Auschwitz” in my book Upon the Doorposts of Thy House: Jewish Life in East-Central Europe, Yesterday and Today, which was a sort of diary and meditation on nearly four days blocked in Oswiecim by a freak snowfall…..

Last year, the Auschwitz Jewish Center—a prayer, study and research center in Oswiecim—launched a project aimed at putting Oshpitzin back on the map. It started with a printed guidebook and followed on with an interactive web site, www.ospitzin.pl, that includes a map, pictures, history, testimonies and more.

Now, the Center as followed through with a smartphone App that can be used by armchair travelers as well as actual visitors to the town. It has an interactive map, videos, audio, photographs, etc.

Most of the sites the project—be it the guide book, the web site or the App—describes no longer exist. But it all entails a way to learn about the Jewish history (and general history) of a town that existed for hundreds of years before “Auschwtiz” changed its identity from a place of Jewish life into a place of Jewish murder.

As of now, the App is available in the iTunes store for IPhone and IPad—but it will soon be available on Android, too.

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The award-winning American writer Ruth Ellen Gruber has chronicled contemporary Jewish developments in Europe for more than two decades. As the author of National Geographic...

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