Unearthed postcard sheds light on prewar Jewish life in Poland’s Oswiecim

(JTA) – Construction workers near the sole surviving synagogue in Oswiecim turned up a postcard that sheds light on prewar Jewish life in the Polish town.

Oswiecim, the site of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, had a majority Jewish population before World War II.

The postcard, stained and crumpled, came to light this week during construction work to shore up a retaining wall of the Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot synagogue.

A lawyer in Paris named Georges Lewinsky sent the postcard on July 17, 1935 to a Jewish client in Oswiecim named Mendel Hoenig, apparently to confirm a business deal.

The synagogue, long used as a carpet warehouse, was restored and reconsecrated in 2000 to form part of the Auschwitz Jewish Center — a museum, synagogue and education center that highlights the richness of even everyday Jewish life destroyed in the Holocaust.

Lewinsky’s typewritten message documented a banal business transaction and  included his bill.

“Dear Sir,” he wrote to Hoenig, “I received your letter of July 12 and immediately I got in touch with Mr. Huault to whom I presented your offer. Mr. Huault will send you directly the order and the advance payment. The cost of my intermediary services would be 16 francs. With best regards.”

“As far as we know,” Tomasz Kuncewicz, director of the Auschwitz Jewish Center, told JTA, ” Mendel Hoenig was a local businessman who dealt in items like bristle for brushes.”

Kuncewicz said the postcard would be displayed as an exhibit in the center’s museum of prewar Jewish life.

Other finds during construction have included pages from a Yiddish language Haggadah.

 

 

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