Meeting XXIII: 10 September 2012
The first session of the International Auschwitz Council of the 2012-2018 term of office, chaired by Władysław Bartoszewski was held on 10 September 2012 at the office of the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk handed out the nominations to members of the Council. The head of the Polish government stressed that nothing will absolve the Polish authorities from a special determination to making the memory of Auschwitz-Birkenau a lasting and audible warning. He expressed his gratitude to members of the IAC for the time sacrificed and for their extraordinary benevolence, which, though rare in present times allows them to act selflessly and effectively. Prime Minister Tusk particularly thanked Władysław Bartoszewski, who among others, was the initiator of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. He wished members of the Council courage, determination and friends in their work - friends they certainly will not lack in Poland.
Władysław Bartoszewski recommended two deputy chairpersons; Prof. Barbara Engelking of the Centre for Holocaust Research Institute of Philosophy and Sociology and Avner Shalev, director of the Yad Vashem Institute. The IAC members chose Marek Zając as the secretary.
Subsequently, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Dr. Piotr Cywiński, presented a report on the activities of the Memorial Site in the past months following the last meeting of the Council.
He spoke in detail among others of the attendance, problems of some national exhibitions, conservation and educational projects, new publications, as well as the activities of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. He pointed to the alarming drop in the number of Polish school trips, apparently associated with changes in the history curriculum. The level of wages in the Museum is alarmingly low and the situation has been made worse due to freezing of the wage fund by the Ministry of Finance - also in terms of extra-budgetary resources, e.g. obtained from private sources. Concerned about this state of affairs, members of the Council adopted the following resolution:
The International Auschwitz Council under the Prime Minister observes with concern the situation prevailing at the Memorial Site and Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in conjunction with the wording of this year's Act on budget-dependent entities. The wage fund limit entered in the Act does not only encompass wages financed from the state budget subsidy, but also freezes funds that come from non-budgetary sources, private and fundraisings; which are obtained as part of various projects and have their sponsors. The Council calls on the Polish Minister of Finance, to ensure that future provisions of the law do not prevent employment, which is entirely financed from extra-budgetary sources.
Director Cywiński also presented the most important long-term projects implemented by the Museum: construction of a new visitors centre and plans for the adaptation of the Old Theatre into the seat of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust.
In the further course of the meeting, the Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Żuchowski spoke about work progress for a new commemoration project at the site of the extermination camp in Sobibor while Marek Zając reported on priority tasks facing the Council in the new term of office.
The IAC secretary mentioned among others, further efforts to extend the management scope of the Ministry of Culture to incorporate all Memorial Sites listed in the Act of 1999, the creation of new main exhibitions in the Sites, as well as organisation of the premises of the former extermination camp in Chełmno. He also stressed that it would be a shame and an unforgivable sin against the former prisoners should they fail to open the seat of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust at the Old Theatre building come January 2015.
Members of the Council also debated over the proposal of former French prisoners, which had already been discussed in the preceding term of office, i.e. to include new memorials and graphical items of the museum in Birkenau. The discussants agreed that authenticity must remain a priority in this Memorial Site while more thought should be given to the non-invasive inclusion of survivors accounts in the post-camp space. These issues will be continued at the next meeting of the Council.