“Light of Remembrance”

“Light of Remembrance” award
“Light of...
Light of Remembrance
Light of...

The Light of Remembrance is a new award established and awarded by the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum for outstanding contribution to the education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. It is a tribute to those involved in maintaining and transferring the memory of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz.

The first laureate of the award was Professor Bartoszewski, who was honoured during a jubilee celebration of his 90th birthday. The ceremony, which took place in the halls of the Royal Castle in Warsaw, was attended by the Polish President Bronisław Komorowski, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, speakers of the Sejm and the Senate as well as many personalities from the world of culture and science. 

Krystyna Oleksy was the next laureate to receive the “Light of Remembrance” award, the now retired outgoing deputy director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum Department of Education and head of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. The statuette was presented during a farewell ceremony crowning her 37 years of work at the Memorial Site.

On 13 June 2013 in block 27 of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, a new national exhibition entitled “Shoah” was opened. The ceremony was attended by, among others, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski. The exhibition was prepared by the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem. During the solemn inauguration of the exhibition, the director of the Institute, Avner Shalev, was honoured with the “Light of Remembrance” award.

On 14 May 2017, during the conference in Izieu dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the trial of the Lyon Gestapo Chief, Klaus Barbie, “Light of Remembrance” was awarded to Serge Klarsfeld, a historian and lawyer, one of the major pillars of memory of the Jewish victims from France. As an astute researcher, he created and published a monumental list of about eleven thousand Jewish children who were deported to German Nazi death camps. For several years, he has hunted the murderers who went into hidding in Europe, Africa and South America. The author or co-author of several books, exibitions and educational events. 

Previous  ceremonies:
Light of Remembrance at the 90th birthday of Professor Bartoszewski
Light of Remembrance for Avner Shalev
Light of Remembrance for Serge Klarsfeld

Władysław Bartoszewski

90th birthday of Professor Władysław Bartoszewski celebrated at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Photo: Bartłomiej Zborowski/
90th birthday of...

Władysław Bartoszewski was born on February 19, 1922 in Warsaw. He is an unwavering advocate of Polish-German and Polish-Jewish dialogue. He holds the function of the chairman of the International Auschwitz Council by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom (ROPWiM). He is the founder of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, which was established in 2009.

Between September 1940 and April 1941, he was a prisoner in KL Auschwitz (prison number 4427). In 1942, he co-founded the “Żegota” Polish Council to Aid Jews. Between 1942 and 1944, he participated in the underground Catholic organisation, Front Odrodzenia Polski (FOP – Poland’s Revival Front). Between 1942 and 1945, he worked for the Department of Information, Office of Information and Propaganda of the Home Army Headquarters, and between 1943 and 1944, he was also employed in the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Delegation of the Government of the Republic of Poland in the Country (Prison Cell and Jewish Division). He participated in the Warsaw Uprising as a Home Army soldier. After the war, he belonged to the Polish People’s Party and was a co-editor of Gazeta Ludowa. He was held in communist prisons twice (between 1946 and 1948 and between 1949 and 1954), and in 1955, he was deemed unjustly persecuted.

Between 1972 and 1983, he held the function of secretary general of the Polish PEN Club. Between 1978 and 1981, he was a member of the underground Polish League for Independence. In 1980, he co-funded the Committee for the Defence of People Imprisoned for Their Beliefs, which was operated by the National Committee of the Independent and Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarity”. Between December 13, 1981 and April 28, 1982, he was held in the intern centre in Jaworze.

Between 1973 and 1985, he taught history at the Catholic University of Lublin. He also lectured at the university in Munich, where, between 1983 and 1984 and 1986 to 1988, he was a visiting professor at the Institute of Political Sciences of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Ludwig Maximilian University. He also lectured at universities in Eichstaett and in Augsburg. He wrote over 40 books; he is the author of over 1,500 studies and scientific papers, mainly devoted to the Nazi occupation, extermination of Jews, Polish and German and Polish and Jewish relations and the role of intellectuals in politics.

Between September 1990 and February 1995, he held the function of the ambassador of the Republic of Poland in Austria; between March 6 and December 22, 1955, he was the minister of foreign affairs. From 1997 until the end of term in 2002, he was a senator of the Republic of Poland. On July 1, 2000, he was appointed, once again, minister of foreign affairs; he held this function until the end of term of Jerzy Buzek’s government. Currently, he is the Secretary of State in the Chancellery of the President of the Council of Ministers, plenipotentiary for International Dialogue.

He has received numerous prestigious prizes and awards, including the highest distinction in Poland, i.e. the Medal of the White Eagle. In 2011, he was appointed by the President of the Republic of Poland, Bronisław Komorowski, a member of the Chapter of the Order of the White Eagle. He holds the function of the chancellor of the Medal. He was also distinguished by the Commander Cross of the League of Honour, the Vatican Medal of Saint Gregory the Great, the Order Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Austrian Cross of Honour in Science and Art (First Class).

He holds the title of doctor honoris causa in philosophy and humanities at four universities: in Warsaw, Wrocław, Marburg and the Jewish University in Baltimore. He is an honorary citizen of several Polish cities, as well as an honorary citizen of Israel. He was one of the first Poles to receive the title of “Just Among the Nations of the World”.

Krystyna Oleksy

Graduate of Polish philology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and post-graduate of Museology Studies. Professionally associated with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum for 37 years. Initially she worked in the scientific-educational department and later in the publication department. From 1990, deputy director of the Museum. She initiated the creation of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust (ICEAH) at the Museum, which she has led since its inception in 2005. Deputy director of the Museum in charge of education.

Initiator of the establishment of permanent cooperation with the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem for the training of Polish teachers and educators in Israel and Israelis in Poland. So far, these exchanges have been attended by over one thousand teachers and guides.

Co-author of the scenario of the permanent exhibition in the building of the so-called central sauna in Birkenau, presenting the world of European Jews before the Holocaust, and co-author of the album Before They Left... Photographs discovered in Auschwitz, which is a catalogue of the exhibition.

Member of the International Scientific Council of the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt am Main, International Advisory Board of Memorial Sites within the Topography of Terror in Berlin, International Commission of Experts of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial Site and the Museum in Żabikowo.


Avner Shalev

Fot. Paweł Sawicki
Fot. Paweł Sawicki

The Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate since 1993. Upon becoming Chairman, Shalev initiated a multi-year development plan aimed at equipping Yad Vashem with the necessary tools to address the challenges of Holocaust remembrance in the 21st century. As part of this plan Shalev placed education as a high priority at Yad Vashem, spearheading the establishment of the International School for Holocaust Studies, and created a new Museum Complex. Shalev serves as the chief curator of the new Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum, which opened in March 2005. During his tenure he also brought about the uploading of Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names onto the Internet, harnessing modern technology in the service of Holocaust remembrance and education. In 2003, Shalev accepted the Israel Prize on behalf of Yad Vashem, for recognition of Yad Vashem’s special contribution to the society and State of Israel. In 2007, Shalev was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Nicolas Sarkozy for his efforts on behalf of Holocaust awareness world-wide, and also accepted the Spanish Prince of Asturias Award for Concord on behalf of Yad Vashem.

Born in 1939 in Jerusalem, Shalev served in the Israel Defense Forces between 1956 and 1980, reaching the rank of brigadier general. Shalev was wounded in action on the Egyptian front during the Six-Day War. Between

1972 and 1974 he served as bureau chief for IDF Chief of Staff David Elazar. Other army positions held by Shalev included: head of the Information and Instruction Division of the General Staff; education officer at the IDF Officers School; chief education officer and head of the Education Corps, where he was editor-in-chief of the IDF Radio Station and the IDF weekly magazine; and senior lecturer at the IDF National Security College.

After retiring from military service, Shalev served as director general of the Culture Authority in the Ministry of Education and Culture, and chairman of the National Culture and Art Council. He was also a member of the directorate of various national museums and cultural institutions in Israel. In these positions he was responsible for formulating and directing national culture policy, and encouraging, supporting and overseeing the funding of all types of cultural and artistic activity in Israel. Shalev also introduced policies to raise the standards of Israel’s leading cultural institutions, and advanced and promoted new cultural programs-such as art and culture festivals throughout the country-in order to increase national cultural awareness and involvement. Another achievement in this period was to transform the Antiquities Division of the Ministry of Education into a national authority. Shalev was also instrumental in enhancing educational opportunities in regional areas by promoting the accreditation of local educational institutions and enabling their students to obtain recognized degrees.

Shalev studied modern history of the Middle East and geography and graduated from the IDF Command and Staff College and National Security College. Among his publications is To Bear Witness - Holocaust Remembrance at Yad Vashem (2005).