Print | A A A | Report a bug | 39 383 503 chars | 94876 photos | 877 video | 118 audio | 1885 towns

Oleśnica (woj. dolnośląskie)

Polska / dolnośląskie

Synagogues, prayer houses and others Cemeteries Sites of martyrdom Judaica in museums Andere


Province:dolnośląskie / inne (before 1939)
County:oleśnicki / Oels (before 1939)
Community:Oleśnica / Oels (before 1939)
Other names:Oels
Olesnitz [j. niemiecki]; Oleśnica
Olesznica [j.polski]
51.2126° N / 17.3881° E
51°12'45" N / 17°23'17" E


Tamara Włodarczyk

Oleśnica is a town situated on the left side of the Oleśnica River (a tributary of Widawa), on the Silesian Lowlands, at an altitude of 150 meters.

According to data from 30 June 2004, the town has a population of 36,968 people.




Tamara Włodarczyk

A Jewish community existed in Oleśnica as early as the beginning of the 14th century. The first mention of Jews in the town dates back to 1329 when Konrad I confirmed the right to bring them to his duchy. The first Jew in Oleśnica known by name was Michael (Michał), and is mentioned in writings in 1398. Those Jews who settled in Oleśnica were mainly wealthy ones connected with the duchies of Oleśnica.

A self-dependent Jewish gmina was set up in 1398 and remained active until 1453 with the support of Duke Konrad II. The first synagogue was built in 1417. In the Middle Ages, Jews lived in the neighborhood of the synagogue; they also owned a ritual butchery and had a separate gate in the town walls. The location of a Jewish cemetery in those times is not known.

In 1453 the Jews of Oleśnica were accused of the desecration of sacramental bread, which resulted in all of them being expelled from the town. A lack of an official prohibition of settlement of Jews, however, made their return to town possible. At the beginning of the 16th century, Henry I the Podiebrad confirmed their right of residence in Oleśnica.

A Jewish gmina was formed in Oleśnica again at the beginning of the 16th century. At this time the town became a center of Jewish printing. Special credit is to be given to Chaim Schwarz from Prague (also known as Chaim ben Dawid Sachor), who together with his partner – Dawid ben Jonathan – set up a printing house in Oleśnica and in 1530 printed the Five Books of Moses – the oldest noted printings of Oleśnica and the first Hebrew printing in Silesia, Czech and Germany. His printing house was probably located in the lean-to house of the synagogue. Another Jewish printer working in Oleśnica in the 16th century was Samuel Helicz (Halicz) from the area of Kraków, who in 1534 printed in Oleśnica a Hebrew prayer book and probably a new edition of the Five Books of Moses.

In 1553 many houses and a synagogue tower were destroyed by a hurricane. Jews, as suspected crime perpetrators, were again expelled from Oleśnica. The synagogue then served as a warehouse and a town arsenal. In order to make it possible to bring in cannons, a wide entrance was cut through a porch and another one in an eastern wall. The exile period was not long, as in 1555-1575, a Jewish gmina operate


Local history

Tamara Włodarczyk

Railway station and four streets. | unknown

The settlement was probably set up in the 12th century and named Olesznica after alder trees (olcha, olszyna) growing in the marshy area and by the river. The name was later changed to a Germanised Oels, Öls. In 1255, the Duke of Breslau, Henry III the White, incorporated the trade settlement or perhaps the pre-incorporated town based on the Środa Śląska Law. In 1310 the town already had a coat of arms, which was one of the oldest in Silesia.

The creation of the Duchy of Oleśnica, possession of which was taken over in 1321 by the founder of the local Piast dynasty, the Duke Konrad I of Oleśnica, stirred the town's development. During the reign of the Piast dynasty the town built defensive walls with a moat, churches and a synagogue, as well as the Oleśnica Castle.

After the death of the last of the Piast dynasty in 1495, Oleśnica and the duchy was taken over by the Podiebrad dynasty, who were descendants of the Czech King George. This was a period of the town's greatest development.

In 1529 the first Jewish printing house in Silesia and Germany was set up in Oleśnica. In 1538 the Duchy of Oleśnica converted to Protestantism. In the 16th century both education and musical life were dynamically developing.

After the death of the last Podiebrad in 1647, the duchy and Oleśnica were inherited by the Silesian Dukes of Württemberg, who took care not only of the town's restoration and economic growth after the destructions it had suffered during the Thirteen Years' War, but also of development of science and revival of cultural traditions. In 1670, a Comedy House was built, which was the first theatre in Oleśnica and one of the first in Silesia.

Many leading figures of cultural life, including one of the most eminent Silesian poets – Johann Scheffler (known as Angelus Silesius), were connected with the ducal court. After 1792 the history of Oleśnica is linked with the dukes of the Brunswick dynasty. During the reign of the first of them – Friderick August – an old horse riding hall was turned into a theatre, where professional actors and singers were employed. Friderick August also took care of economic matters, renovation of churches and he built broadwalks around the castle and in the town. After his death, in 1805, the duchy was inherited by Frederick William, who died in 1815


Support a city

Support a city

With your financial contribution towards the development of a town description, a photo documentation or other activities, you will be awarded a donation certificate.

Support a city



Genealogical Indexes

Jewish Records Indexing
5,000,000 Jewish Records Available Online!


Resources for Jewish Family History

People who like this city: