The Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oświęcim, the town where the Auschwitz concentration camp was built, has launched a fundraising campaign to rescue the house of Oświęcim’s last Jewish resident.
The Center, a Jewish study, prayer and educational center, plans to transform Szymon Kluger's home into a café that also will serve as a meeting place for local residents and visitors.
As part of its fundraising, the Center launched a Kickstarter campaign on April 8, to coincide with Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Before World War II, Oswiecim had a majority Jewish population.
Kluger died in 2000, the year the Auschwitz Jewish Center opened. His house is next to the Center, which includes a restored synagogue, a museum and educational facilities.
“According to the recent expert inspection, the retaining wall, which stabilizes our Synagogue, is in danger of landslide due to extreme erosion. Without support for this badly needed renovation, we could lose the Kluger House and the synagogue,” said the Center’s director, Tomasz Kuncewicz.
Kuncewicz said that the Center will establish a vegetarian café called Oshpitzin – the Yiddish name for Oswiecim -- in the Kluger House that will serve as “a place of intercultural dialogue for residents and guests from all over the world.” He added, “We want to respect the town's heritage by offering local products and promoting local artists in Cafe Oshpitzin. By reinforcing the Kluger House and its retaining wall, the synagogue’s future will also be secured, so that visitors to Auschwitz can continue to have a Jewish haven for reflection in the town.”
Since 2006, the Auschwitz Jewish Center has been an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York.