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OLESNICA (Ger. Oels), town in Silesia, Poland. The first mention of a synagogue dates from 1417. Five members of the local community were accused of desecration of the *Host in *Breslau in 1453. The Jews were expelled in 1492, but by 1521 seven families were again resident. Hebrew printing in Olesnica is mainly connected with the well-known 16th-century Jewish printer Ḥayyim *Schwarz, who, in 1530, produced the first Hebrew book printed by a Jew in Germany, a handsome Pentateuch (with the Five Scrolls and haftarot), of which only two copies have been preserved. In 1535 a violent storm destroyed the press, bringing financial ruin to Schwarz's successors – Samuel Ester and Eliakim Herliz – and to the many members of the community who were employed by them. In the same year the community also tried in vain to intercede on behalf of their persecuted brethren in Jaegerndorf. With the destruction of the press, the community gradually dispersed and the synagogue was converted to a church (consecrated in 1695). In 1758 24 Jews were again living in the town. A synagogue served 121 persons when it was consecrated in 1840 and 330 in 1880. By 1933 144 remained, but by 1939 the number had fallen as a result of Nazi persecution.


M. Brann, Geschichte der Juden in Schlesien (1917), 205, n. 8, passim; A. Grotte, "Synagogen," Kirchen in Schlesien (1930), 3–12; idem, Synagogenspuren in schlesischen Kirchen, 1 (1937), 12–20; FJW, 95; M. Brann, in: Jahresbericht des juedisch-theologischen Seminars (Breslau; 1910), 167–73; A.M. Habermann, in: KS, 33 (1957/8), 509.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.