MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Address of the Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek on June 7, 2000

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the 29th of March, acting upon a motion submitted by Professor Władysław Bartoszewski, I appointed you members of the International Auschwitz Council, the continuation of a council once established by the former Minister of Culture and Art, Izabela Cywińska. I wish to most cordially thank all those who have been members of the council for nearly a decade for their enormous, unselfish effort and dedication, for helping to solve so many problems and for alleviating the tensions and conflicts arising along the way.

My decision to establish a new International Auschwitz Council within the structures of the government of the Republic of Poland, stemmed from a profound conviction of the weight and role it can and should have in the preservation and future development of not only the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site. Those efforts should also extend to the remaining death-camp sites which are under the special protection of a law, drawn up by my government and adopted by parliament in May 1999. I believe joint efforts to preserve for posterity the tragic heritage of the Hitlerite policy to exterminate the Polish nation and to annihilate the Jewish nation will serve to promote reconciliation and mutual understanding. I believe that growing co-operation among experts, scholars, people enjoying high public authority and confidence, will help overcome stereotypes and prejudice through common bearing witness to the truth about those terrible times.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was here, on Polish soil, that the extermination of Polish and European Jews and Romanies was carried out. It was here that horrifying death factories were built, and it is here that each young Jews from all over the world come each year to pay tribute to the ashes of their ancestors. We Poles, sons of a nation condemned to slavery by the Nazis, killed without hesitation for the slightest resistance to the occupiers, while honouring our own martyrs, have an obligation to preserve the memory of a nation condemned to death. The nation whose sons and daughters had lived with us for more than eight centuries. The remembrance of the culture they had built here and the Holocaust which had engulfed them cannot and should not divide us. Any rivalry among victims of Nazi barbarity would be an ironic mockery of history - and a posthumous victory of the Hitlerite butchers. Upon you, the members of the International Auschwitz Council, among others, rests the obligation to see to it that this never occurs. I trust you will be able to cope with all the challenges facing you in your difficult efforts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, allow me to invoke the words uttered on the 23rd of March this year by my great countryman, Pope John Paul II during his visit to Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Memorial Institute: 'I have come to Yad Vashem to pay tribute to millions of Jews who, stripped of everything, above all of human dignity, were murdered during the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories have remained. 'Here, as in Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overwhelmed by the heart-rending echo of so many wailing people. Men, women and children are crying out to us from the depths of the horrors they had experienced. How could we not have noticed that cry? Nobody is permitted to forget, overlook or diminish the scope of what had occurred.

'We wish to remember, but for a specific reason. So as to have the certainty that evil will never triumph the way it did in the case of millions of victims of Nazism.'

We are all addressees of that papal message, but you, the members of the International Auschwitz Council, are its addressees in a particular way. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you every success in dealing with the tasks you face.