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Tourist Information Centre in Oświęcim
Tourist Information Centre in Oświęcim
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History of the town

The settlement on the castle hill in Oświęcim, there was already in the eleventh century, however, in the documents the town's name appears only at the end of the twelfth century, when extensive castellany had already existed here. Around 1272 Oświęcim received municipal rights - confirmed by Mieszko I, Duke of Cieszyn on September3, 1291. In remembrance of this event every year in September there are organized The Days of Oświęcim.

Since the end of the thirteenth century, Oświęcim was an important point on the salt route - it held the privilege to trade from Wieliczka salt of the highest quality and had even its own salt measure called "bałwany oświęcimskie". The town had also the judicial privilege, the right to store and trade in lead, the right to collect the toll on the Soła river and the Vistula river and the maintenance of customs chambers. Oswiecim  also was known for trade in fish, which were supplied, even to the royal court in Krakow.
In 1457 the Duchy of Oświęcim was incorporated into the Polish Crown. When half a century later, a huge fire destroyed majority of the town and the castle, King Alexander Jagiellończyk exempted the town from paying the taxes for 15 years and ordered to rebuild  the castle with the fortification  and the system of donjons and  to  repair  the town walls. These works were finished in 1534.The oldest part of the castle and a part of the defensive wall with the bastion on the east wall of the tower defense come from that period. XVI th century was very prosperous for Oświęcim town. Within the town walls there was a parish church with a cemetery, market, town hall and Dominican  church. Outside, in the area of today's Mikołajska str., there was a hospital - a poorhouse with a wooden church of St. Nicholas and cemetery.

The period of prosperity of the residents was finished together with the capturing  of the town by the Swedes in 1655. Only twenty of five hundred houses and six from two hundred craftsmen were remained there. The salt storehouse ceased to function, the castle and the church of St. Nicholas were  in  ruin. In 1676, the town was inhabited by only 114 people. For nearly 200 years Oswiecim could not  recover from the collapse after "The Swedish Deluge" and disasters that followed immediately afterwards.
In 1772 the Duchy of Oświęcim, as a result of first partition of Poland, was included in Austrian territory as a part of Galicia. Ten years later, by imperial decree on cassation the orders, the Dominican monastery in Oświęcim was abolished. Also the parish cemetery was closed down and it was founded a new one - outside the town.

The crucial period for Oświęcim was half of the nineteenth century, when it became an important railway junction on the route Kraków - Vienna. Until the World War II in Oświecim were founded and worked  many  factories, including The Factory of Roofing Paper, The Tannery, The Factory of Vodka  and Liquors of Jakub Haberfeld, The Factory of Fertilizers, The Factory of Canned Fish  "Ostryga" and "Atlantic", The Agricultural Machine Factory "Potęga - Oświęcim", The United  Factory of  Machines and Cars "Prague - Oświęcim". There were assembled - originally on the Czech chassis - three types of cars "Prague-Oświęcim":  the Piccolo, the Alpha and the Grand. In total, they produced about 1.700 units, which were famous for very durable design and reliable workmanship. "Prague - Oświęcim"  drove   the famous tenor Jan Kiepura, Loda Halama - cabaret actress and a great painter Wojciech Kossak. To this day is preserved only one of copy of the "Prague - Oświęcim " - model Piccolo, which is in the Motor Museum in Otrębusy near Warsaw.

In the nineteenth century several  floods and fires took place in Oświęcim. They caused much destruction, but on the other hand they initiated the building development of the town in the second half of nineteen century and early twentieth century, according to the latest European architectural trends.
In 1910 The District Office was founded and it had its offices in the rebuilt castle. After  regaining the independence in 1918,  the castle also housed the offices of mayor of the Oswiecim political district.

Since the beginning of World War II, Oswiecim was within the limits of the Third Reich and wore German name Auschwitz. On the outskirts of the town the Germans set up a concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau - a place of mass destruction of people from all over Europe. They started the rebuilding of the town and the building of the I.G Farben Factory in Dwory. During the occupation the residents of the town, even though they were subjected to cruel persecution by the Nazi authorities, risking their lives helped the inmates of the camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. On January 27, 1945, Oświęcim was liberated from Nazi occupation.

Immediately after the war, in 1945, in Oświęcim began to work four factories. Life in the town  slowly returned to normal. In 1947 at the site of the former camp, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim was founded .
In 1951 the County of Oświęcim was established, which was part of the Voivodeship of Kraków. In 1975, as a result of the administrative reform, County of Oświęcim stopped its existence and it was incorporated into the new Voivodeship of Bielsko. Since 1999, Oswiecim is the capital of the district again, and like a few centuries back - again belongs to Voivodeship of Malopolska with the capital in Krakow.

The turbulent history of Oświęcim, the fairytales and legends circulating among the inhabitants lived to see the editions of the books. Among them are worth mentioning:
  - "Kronika Oświęcimia" (The Chronicle of Oświęcim) by Elżbieta Skalińska-Dindorf,
  - "Opowieści spod zamkowej góry" by Jan Ptaszkowski - a collection of fairytales, legends and unusual stories about interesting persons and events connected
      with the past.
- "Zabytki Oświęcimia" - a folder about the monuments of the town
- "Oświęcim i ziemia oświęcimska" - the tourist guide

  • @http://mosir.oswiecim.pl
  • @http://oswiecim.pl
  • @http://www.muzeum-zamek.pl/
  • @http://ajcf.pl/
  • @http://www.auschwitz.org.pl/
  • @http://ock.org.pl
  • @http://mbp-oswiecim.pl/