Meeting XVII: 15-16 June 2009
The International Auschwitz Council convened by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland was in session in Oświęcim on June 15-16, 2009. Prof. Władysław Bartoszewski chaired the session. The members of the Council returned once again to the issue of the seven Roma portraits painted by Dina Gottlieb-Babbitt . The Council emphatically reiterated its previous determination that the transfer of the originals to Mrs. Gottlieb-Babbitt, as she demands, is out of the question.
Members of the Council stressed that, in this and all similar cases, the overriding consideration is the authenticity and completeness of the Memorial, with all its movable and non-movable property. The portraits in question were painted in the camp, on orders from Dr. Josef Mengele, as documentation for his pseudoscientific racist research. Today, they are among the very few remaining vestiges of the murdered Roma, and cannot be replaced by any copies. Respect for this principle makes it possible to avoid any sort of doubts that could be cynically exploited in the future by deniers. It must be stressed once again that the International Auschwitz Council has already expressed its position on these paintings . On a motion by Rabbi Andrew Baker, the issue was voted on once again.
The Council expressed its satisfaction at news of the ruling on the localization of the investment for the public good in the form of the remodeling of the so-called Old Theater for the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. It urged the Government of the Republic of Poland to grant the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum the required financial support to begin and carry out the construction and investment in the building.
Tomasz Merta, Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage, was a guest at the meeting and presented information about new legislation on Memorial Sites. The legislation, which will soon be submitted to parliament, makes a precise definition of such concepts as “commemoration” and “Memorial Site.” Deputy Minister Merta expressed his conviction that the new legislation will come into force on January 1, 2010.
Members of the Council acquainted themselves with the report by the Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, on the work of the Museum in the months since the last session, and the procedures for establishing the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, the role of which will be to service the Perpetual Fund for the conservation of the authenticity of the Memorial. Members of the Council attached great hope to the creation of the Foundation and expressed their expectation that support from many countries will make it possible to establish the Fund quickly.
Other guests at the Council session were the heads of institutions located at the sites of other death camps: Lech Stefaniak (Kulmhof), Marek Bem (Sobibor), and Edward Kopówka (Treblinka), who informed the Council about the state of affairs at those three sites.
The next session of the International Auschwitz Council is scheduled for November 17, 2009, in Warsaw.