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OPPELN:

City in Prussian Silesia. Although the first explicit reference to Jews at Oppeln belongs to the fourteenth century, and the Jews' street is not mentioned until a century later, they doubtless settled there at an earlier date; for Oppeln, the principal city of the duchy of Oppeln, was an important commercial center, the great highways from Hungary and Little Poland to Breslau crossing the Oder at that point. In 1557 the community was a small one, numbering only seventeen taxpayers. The existence of a synagogue at that time is attested by documents, but there is no reference to a cemetery. Abraham of Oppeln, who became influential at Breslau about the middle of the fifteenth century, was martyred there in 1453, during the persecution caused by the charge of host desecration (comp. Brann, "Gesch. der Juden in Schlesien," in "Jahresbericht des Jüdisch-Theologischen Seminars," p. xliv., Breslau, 1901). In the Silesian diet of 1557, Ferdinand I., as Duke of Oppeln, proposed that the Jews be expelled; the estates concurred, and in 1565 all Jews were forced to leave the city and the territory of Oppeln.

Jews are not mentioned again as living in Oppeln until Silesia had come under Prussian rule (1742). The community numbered five families in 1813; 98 individuals in 1816; 200 in 1825; 404 in 1840; and 590 in 1861. The dead were buried at Zülz until 1822, when a cemetery was obtained, while services were conducted for many years in rented quarters. A synagogue was begun in 1840 and was dedicated in 1842 by Abraham Geiger; the large synagogue now (1904) in use was dedicated in the summer of 1897. The first rabbi, Dr. Solomon Cohn, was chosen in 1847. His successor, Dr. Adolph Wiener (1853-95), an advocate of Reform, was closely identified with the history of the Jews of Oppeln; the freedom of the city was bestowed upon him on his eightieth birthday. It was due to his efforts that the community, the first to use the modern ritual, became the champion of religious progress in Upper Silesia. Dr. Hermann Vogelstein officiated from1895 to the beginning of 1897, his successor being the present incumbent, Dr. Leo Bäck. The total population of Oppeln is 30,200, of whom 750 are Jews. The community of Gogolin, numbering about 50 persons, is associated with that of Oppeln.

Bibliography:
  • Idzikowski, Gesch. der Stadt Oppeln.
D. L. Ba.
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