MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Call for participants: "Shaping the memory about Auschwitz and the Holocaust 75 years after the liberation"

05-03-2020
We are pleased to announce the seminar for graduates of the ICEAH projects “Shaping the memory about Auschwitz and the Holocaust 75 years after the liberation” organized by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. It will take place on August 1-8, 2020. Application deadline is April 15, 2020. Results of the recruitment process will be announced till April 20, 2020.

An invitation for the conference "Challenges of education in an authentic memorial site. Activities of the ICEAH""

13-02-2020
Due to the 15th anniversary of its establishing the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust (ICEAH) invites to attend a conference “Challenges of education in an authentic memorial site. Activities of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust” that will take place on July 1-4, 2020 in a new building of the Centre.

New online lesson: Jews from the Litzmannstadt Ghetto in KL Auschwitz

13-01-2020
"Jews from the Lodz Ghetto in KL Auschwitz" is a new online lesson prepared by the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. Its author is Dr. Adam Sitarek, from the Center for Jewish Research at the University of Łódź. The lesson is available in Polish, English and Hebrew.

A new perspective for education at the Memorial. Adaptation work has been completed at the new seat of the Education Center.

04-10-2019
The project for the conversion of the historical building of the so-called Old Theatre into the new seat of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust was officially completed on 3 October after several years of efforts and more than two years of construction and conservation work.

“Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust at Authentic Memorial Sites...” - post-conference publication

27-09-2019
“Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust at Authentic Memorial Sites. Current Status and Future Prospects” is a new publication by the Auschwitz Museum. It is a summary of the international conference which was held in Oświęcim on 10-12 November 2018.
others news

Lectures

Introductory lectures for students or specialist lectures for students, Ph.D. students, academics from universities and the centres of history and research. Their purpose is to deepen the knowledge about the history of Auschwitz and present studies regarding specific issues. Lectures take place in the conference rooms of the MCEAH in the area of the Museum. They are given in the following languages: Polish, English and German (select a subject to find out details and language options).

Duration of lectures: 1.5 h

Cost: PLN 545 in foreign language.

Contact:
Visitor Services
Marta Ortman, Barbara Gębołyś-Warmbier, Katarzyna Bisaga
e-mail: study.visits@auschwitz.org
tel. (+48) 33 844 8096 lub (+48) 33 844 8101

Auschwitz Remains and the Commemoration of Auschwitz Victims...

The sparse vestiges of Auschwitz Concentration Camp that remain in existence outside the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, in the city of Oświęcim and the vicinity, include some barracks at the site of the Monowitz sub-camp and the school building in Brzeszcze-Budy where the Auschwitz women’s penal company was quartered. Monuments and memorial plaques also recall the victims, including two monuments to the Monowitz prisoners and a plaque set in the wall of the school building in Budy. Local churches contain works of art connected thematically with the martyrdom of the deportees to Auschwitz. It takes at least three hours to tour these places by car or van. It is also worth visiting two institutions that have arisen in connection with the tragedy of Auschwitz: the Jewish Center in downtown Oświęcim and the Franciscan monastery in Harmęże.

Form: Field presentation
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators.
Languages: Polish, English, German

Photo: A composition by Professor Americo Mazotta on the wall behind the altar at the church of St. Joseph the Worker in Oświęcim-Zasole, depicting the victims of Auschwitz ascending to heaven.

Labor by Nazi Concentration Camp Prisoners

The function of prisoner labor changed during the 12 years that the Nazi concentration camps were in existence. In the first years, labor was almost exclusively an instrument of terror towards the prisoners, while contributing to a lesser degree to the running of the camp administration and infrastructure. With the liquidation of unemployment in Germany in the second half of the 1930s, the possibility emerged of making greater use of prisoner labor in certain branches of the economy, such as building materials. In this connection, the SS set up its own companies, mostly at stone quarries, employing prisoners on a mass scale. As the war became prolonged in 1942, the necessity of using prisoners in the armaments industry arose. Earlier, in 1941, Auschwitz prisoners were employed mostly in agriculture, in operating and expanding the camp, and, to an increasing degree, in private companies in Silesia. A whole network of branch camps came into being at the coalmines, armaments factories, and chemical and other plants operated by these companies. The final part of the lecture is devoted to the economic bottom line and the killing function of labor as expressed in the decree on Vernichtung durch Arbeit (Destruction through Labor).

Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators.
Languages: Polish, English

 

Plundering the Property of Auschwitz Victims...

It is impossible to grasp the enormity of the crimes committed in Auschwitz without taking into account the fact that the SS, acting in the name of the Nazi German state, systematically plundered the property that the victims, mostly Jews, took with them when they were transported for alleged resettlement. These belongings were sorted and prepared for subsequent use in the numerous camp warehouses. Valuables and currency were deposited in the Reich Bank, and clothing of lesser quality was shipped to textile factories as raw material. Dental gold was extracted from the victims and sent to the SS Main Sanitation Office or the bank. Hair removed from the corpses of the victims was also used as raw material in textile factories. Numerous eyewitness accounts state that the ashes and bones of the human corpses burned in the crematoria were also used, after grinding with special mortars, as agricultural fertilizer.

Audiences: secondary-school and university students, teachers.
Languages: Polish, English


Photo: Auschwitz storage areas (“Kanada I”) for property plundered from the Jewish victims of mass killing.

Poles in Auschwitz

The first transport of political prisoners to Auschwitz consisted almost exclusively of Poles. It was for them that the camp was founded, and the majority of prisoners were Polish for the first two years. They died of starvation, brutal mistreatment, beating, and sickness, and were executed and killed in the gas chambers. They are customarily thought of as resistance fighters or the Polish elite, but many of them were in fact arrested at random during roundups on the city streets, or during various terror operations. Until the mass transports of Jews began arriving in 1942, Poles occupied the lowest rung in the prisoner hierarchy. Their treatment did not improve significantly later. It is estimated that around half of the 140 thousand Poles deported to Auschwitz were murdered. Those who survived until evacuation in late 1944 and at the beginning of 1945 were transferred to other German concentration camps. For the wartime Polish public, “Oświęcim” was a synonym for suffering and martyrdom. Many Polish families lost loved ones here.

Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators.
Languages: Polish, English

Illustration: A list of newly arrived prisoners in a transport from Warsaw on October 4, 1941. 

The Camp Hospitals in Auschwitz

In Auschwitz as in their other concentration camps, the Nazi Germans placed prisoners incapable of labor in so-called hospitals (rewirs) or infirmaries. For the SS, this was a convenient mechanism that facilitated both the exploitation of prisoners as slave laborers and the goal of mass killing. Beginning in 1941, prisoners who appeared unlikely to regain their health promptly were selected in the hospitals for lethal injection of phenol to the heart and, from the following year, for death in the gas chambers. Only in rare instances, through various forms of connivance, did the prisoners assigned to the hospitals as doctors and nurses manage to save some of their patients from death. This subject can only be understood by bearing in mind that the records produced in the hospital offices contained fictitious causes of death, as a way of concealing the truth.Audience: secondary-school and university students, teachers.

Language: Polish, English
 

The City of Oświęcim...

Shortly after the Wehrmacht took Oświęcim, the German architect Hans Stossberg began work on a project intended to change the face of the city and transform it on the Nazi pattern. Two important factors provided an impetus for such changes: the founding of Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the start of construction of the gigantic IG Farbenindustrie chemical plant in nearby Monowice. Stossberg’s plans called for Oświęcim to be transformed from a small Galician town into a large industrial center, populated exclusively by Germans. They would reside in spacious, modern districts embodying the most meticulous urban planning. All buildings bearing the stigma of the  “Polish-Jewish spirit” would be demolished. Shortages of materials and financial problems meant that most of these plans remained on the drawing board. However, they show what the Polish lands would have looked like if Nazi Germany had won the war.

Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators. 
Languages: Polish, English

Illustration: Plans for a district in the new German city of Auschwitz

The Death Marches (field trip with lecture)

The rulers of the Third Reich regarded and treated the prisoners in Auschwitz, like those in other concentration camps, as a particular kind of labor resource. As the eastern front drew near to Oświęcim in January 1945, the SS therefore evacuated more than 50 thousand prisoners westward, on foot, as part of the liquidation of the camp. The signs of these marches along various routes into the depths of the Reich—the “Death Marches”—include numerous graves where the SS shot prisoners, or where prisoners succumbed to exhaustion. Monuments and memorial markers recall their martyrdom. A visit to several of these sites is also an occasion for remembering the people of good will who took great risks to aid the prisoner evacuees. This program will require at least 4 hours of travel by car, van, or bus.

Form: field trip with lecture
Audiences: Museum guides, students at intermediate-school level or above, teachers, educators. 
Languages: Polish, English

Photo: Shevach Weiss, the ambassador of Israel, at the grave of “Death March” victims in Żory in June 2002. (Photo by Tomasz Górecki) 

The Deportation and Killing of Poles in Auschwitz...

The lecture covers the economic, political, and demographic aims of the German occupation of Poland, and the role of Auschwitz Concentration Camp in achieving them. The lecture focuses particularly on the expulsion of civilians, resettlement, denial of freedom, limitations on reproduction, economic discrimination, and killing as means for carrying out Nazi policy in occupied Poland. The second half of the lecture presents the process of deporting Poles to Auschwitz, the formal pretexts and actual reasons for imprisoning Poles there, the number of Polish victims in comparison to those of other ethnic backgrounds, the reasons for the death rate among Poles, and the role of Poles in the resistance movement structure.

Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators. 
Languages: Polish, English

The Expulsion of Polish and Jewish Civilians from Oświęcim...

In 1940-1941, the German occupation authorities expelled Polish and Jewish residents from the western districts of Oświęcim, that is, the barracks settlement and Zasole, which were located directly adjacent to Auschwitz Concentration Camp, and also from the villages of Broszkowice, Babice, Brzezinka, Rajsko, Pławy, Harmęże, Bór, and Budy, to the west of the city. These expulsions resulted from the creation of the so-called camp interest zone, which was set up in order to isolate the camp from the outside world and to carry out business activity to meet the needs of the SS. In 1941-1942, in turn, Jews were expelled from Oświęcim and the majority of the Poles were removed from the villages of Monowice and Dwory, to the east of the city, in connection with the construction of the IG Farben synthetic fuel plant. 

Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators. 
Languages: Polish, English

The History of the IG Farben Plant in Oświęcim

Before World War II, IG Farbenindustrie was the largest company in Europe. After 1933, the board of directors supported the Nazi party financially and played an important role in supplying the Wehrmacht with synthetic fuel and many other chemical products. In 1941, the company began building a gigantic synthetic rubber and fuel plant in Monowice near Oświęcim. In addition to 20 thousand conscript laborers, over 10 thousand Auschwitz prisoners, housed in a separate camp, were employed there. The numerous selections for the gas chambers and the high mortality rate resulted in large measure from the desire of plant management to achieve high productivity and rid themselves of “unsuitable” prisoners. The history of IG Farben is an important element in understanding the mechanisms through which German industry cooperated with the SS apparatus.

Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators. 
Languages: Polish, English

Illustration: Prisoners of Auschwitz III-Monowitz Concentration Camp marching off to labor at the IG Farben plant in Monowice.

The Orchestras in Auschwitz

Camp orchestras functioned in various parts of Auschwitz from 1941-1945. They served many advantageous functions for the camp administration, above all by improving marching discipline when the labor details left for work and returned. In Birkenau, the orchestras helped deceive the victims being led to the gas chambers. The orchestras gave concerts for the SS men and their families on Sundays and holidays, and played at dance evenings and social events. There were men’s orchestras in the Main Camp, Birkenau, Monowitz, and several sub-camps, including Jawischowitz and Fürstengrube. The sole women’s orchestra played at the women’s camp in Birkenau. The lecture, with multimedia presentation, presents the origins, functioning, and role of these orchestras in Auschwitz.

Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators. 
Languages: Polish, English

KL Auschwitz in the Nazi program of the Mass Murder of European Jews

For years, historians have been trying to explain precisely why Auschwitz became the center of the killing of Jews in World War II. When Auschwitz was opened in 1940, it was set up as one of many typical Nazi concentration camps. For almost two years, the majority of those imprisoned and killed there were Polish political prisoners; there were no huge crematoria or gas chambers at that time. Hardly any documents connected with the origins of the decision to change the function of the camp in 1942 are in existence. Commandant Rudolf Höss testified after the war that the decisive factors were the possibility of maintaining secrecy about the killing operation, and the existence of a large train station nearby. Neither of these reasons is sufficient, however. The smoke from the crematoria chimneys could be observed by some 30 thousand residents of the city and the nearby villages, including conscript laborers from almost all occupied Europe. Furthermore, as proved by the example of other death camps located near peripheral rail lines, a station as large as the one at Oświęcim was not necessary for delivering hundreds of thousands of prisoners. During this lecture, the speaker will present several alternative hypotheses, on the basis of previously unknown material and documents.
Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators. 
Languages: Polish, English

The Situation at the Auschwitz Site from Liberation...

Soviet soldiers liberated Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. They found approximately 7 thousand sick and exhausted prisoners there. Soviet soldiers and Polish Red Cross volunteers set up hospitals and helped the prisoners return to their homes. The grounds were under the control of the Red Army, which turned them over to the Polish authorities in early 1946. The Oświęcim-Brzezinka State Museum opened at the site a year and a half later, on June 14, 1947. The lecture presents the most important events that occurred at the site between January 1945 and June 1947, including aid to surviving prisoners, the functioning of camps for German POWs and civilians, the gradual loss of original camp furnishings and structures, and the actions, taken primarily by former prisoners, to secure the original camp premises and set up the Museum. 

Form: lecture, illustrated with documents and photos
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate- and secondary-school students, university students, teachers, educators. 
Languages: Polish, English
 

The Symbolism and Meaning of Auschwitz

The subject is the dynamics of the perception of Auschwitz in the national consciousness of Poles, Jews, and Roma as victims, and Germans as perpetrators. The lecture also considers the perception of Auschwitz by national groups not directly affected by persecution during World War II. Reflections on these issues would not be complete without an explication of the dissonance in the approach to Auschwitz by Christians and Jews within the context of religious symbolism.

The lecture is divided into two components: 

  • The factual component: the sources of the symbolism of Auschwitz (the historical background of the functions, nature, and specific traits of the camp and the meaning of Auschwitz in the contemporary world)
  • The heuristic component: the symbolism of Auschwitz in national consciousness (for Poles, as a reference point for Jewish memory, as a symbol of the Roma genocide, and as seen by the perpetrators), and the religious controversies stemming from differences in the concept and understanding by Jews and Christians of graves, cemeteries, and certain religious symbols.

The aim is to show the changes taking place in the symbolism of Auschwitz on the level of historical, political, emotional, religious, and philosophical reflection, and the way that this symbolism is encoded within the collective national memory of the peoples affected.

Form: lecture
Audiences: Museum guides, intermediate-school students and above, teachers, educators. 
Languages: Polish, English
 

 

Additional lectures

- Extermination of European Roma (Polish, English),

- Jehovah’s Witnesses in KL Auschwitz (Polish, English),

- The clergy in KL Auschwitz (Polish, English),

- The fate of the Roma, Soviet POWs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the clergy and prisoners of other nationalities in KL Auschwitz (Polish, English),

- SS men in KL Auschwitz (Polish, English),

- The extermination nature of the German occupation in Poland (Polish, English),

- The British in POW camps around Oświęcim (Auschwitz) during the II World War (Polish, English),

- The paradigm of Auschwitz and the Holocaust as a historical context of XX century genocide (Polish, English),

- KL Auschwitz crew (Polish, English),

- Deportations from Auschwitz to Nazi euthanasia centres in Germany and the role of doctors in the process (Polish, English),

- The Resistance Movement in KL Auschwitz (Polish, English),

- The Auschwitz experience in women’s literature of personal documents (Polish, English),

- The anthropology of memory - testimonies as a literary representation of history (Polish, English),

- The anthropology of memory - problems of presentation in museum narrative (Polish, English)

- Remains of extermination equipment in KL Auschwitz in light of archival documentation (Polish, Russian),

- The Sonderkommando in KL Auschwitz (Polish, Russian),

- Operation Reinhardt. The extermination of Jews in the General Government (Polish, Russian)

- New threads in research on the history of KL Auschwitz (Polish, Russian),

- Soviet prisoners of war in KL Auschwitz (Polish, English),

- Extermination of Hungarian Jews in KL Auschwitz (Polish, English),

- Liberation of the camp, organisation of help for prisoners, establishment of the State Museum in Oświęcim (1945-1949) (Polish, English),

- On both sides of the wire. Profiles of teachers - KL Auschwitz prisoners and teachers helping prisoners in the camp (Polish, English),

- Escapes of prisoners from KL Auschwitz (Polish, English),

- German occupation of Poland - political and racist assumptions of Nazi extermination policy (Polish, English),

- Living conditions in the camp (Polish, English),

- Gas chambers: - Bunker I and Bunker II in the light of preserved camp documents (German),

- The origins of the Holocaust in KL Auschwitz in the light of documents (German),

- The surrounding area of the camp and locations of the KL Auschwitz sub-camps: Harmęże, Budy, Jawiszowice. Międzybrodzie Bialskie as a holiday destination for the camp’s SS crew (German).