Meeting XV: 24 January 2008
The International Auschwitz Council convened on January 24 at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland. The Council approved a report on the year 2007 by Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, who also informed the body about the evolution of plans and the schedule for overhauling the main exhibition, the progress of conservation, research, and educational work, and modifications to the Museum structure.
The Council expressed great interest in the record number of 1.22 million visitors to the Memorial in 2007. This gave the Museum the highest attendance figures of any cultural institution in Poland.
A crucial discussion point was the impasse in the approval of the local spatial utilization (zoning) plan for the grounds of the Holocaust Memorial in Oświęcim (the site of the Auschwitz I camp) and its buffer zone. The Council unanimously approved a resolution clarifying who can decide on commercial activity on the grounds of the Holocaust Memorial, and on what basis, in the light of the legal regulations in force in Poland at present.
“The International Auschwitz Council reiterates emphatically that the Museum—which has exercised care over the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial since 1947—has the unquestioned right, and even the responsibility, to organize the traffic of visitors on the grounds of the Holocaust Memorial. To this end, the Museum enters into contracts with various entities that carry out these tasks on the grounds of the site of the camp. The law of 1999 specified that these are tasks defined as ‘essential.’ The decision as to what should be regarded as ‘essential’ in Auschwitz-Birkenau belongs to the relevant organs of the Polish government, with the voivod of Małopolska foremost.
“The International Auschwitz Council is responsible for overall protection, and is always ready to analyse individual cases and issue appropriate judgements. It is inadmissible for any institution, governmental organ, or individual engaged in commercial activity in the vicinity of the Holocaust Memorial to bring any sort of pressure to bear on the Museum in regard to these questions. Any attempt to interpret a 1996 judgement of the International Council of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum as stating that commercial activity connected with services to visitors should be in private hands—beyond the supervision of the voivod of Małopolska and the Museum—is absolutely fallacious.”
The members of the Council emphasized the excellent cooperation between the Museum and the local government within the rural commune of Brzezinka, and the positive contacts with other local government bodies and institutions in the Land of Oświęcim.
Premier Donald Tusk sent a message to the Council that events connected with the air disaster in Mirosławiec prevented him from attending the session. Minister Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka of the Chancellery of the president; Jan Borkowski, secretary of state in the ministry of foreign affairs; Tomasz Merta, undersecretary of state in the ministry of culture and national heritage, and His Excellency David Peleg, ambassador of Israel in Poland, attended the session. Also in attendance, as is traditional, were Piotr Kućka, chairman of Oświęcim municipal council; Agata Dybczak, sołtys of the village of Brzezinka; and Józef Kała, starosta of Oświęcim powiat.