Meeting XXIV: June 17-18, 2013
The traditional session of the Council started with the report of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Director, Piotr Cywiński, Ph.D. The Director reported , among other things, the still increasing number of visitors (in spite of a significant drop in the number of Polish school groups), restoration plans and works, budget issues, educational and publishing priorities. A large part of the speech was devoted to the necessary and large projects: global preservation plan financed from the resources in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, adaptation of the building of the Old Theatre for the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, and the erection of the new desk centre from the side of the former bus station.
The Council Members were particularly worried about the limit imposed on the Memorial concerning payrolls covered by the extra-budgetary sources and its catastrophic results on the future of the Museum. The Council has passed unanimously the following resolution:
The International Auschwitz Council under a ruling of the Prime Minister of Poland has noticed anxiously the legislative obstacles which stand in the way of efficiently using extra-budgetary sources by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. There is no justification especially for personal and impersonal of the payroll fund disregarding the provenance of the payer. The budget-dependent act in its current status blocks using wide range of financing sources – private, EC, or institutional ones from all over the world. Such regulations in the near future are going to paralyse institutions and cancel any key projects. This situation has lingered for a few years now, is embarrassing, and may end up in an international scandal. It is also quite paradoxical that these funds have been raised successfully by Polish administration and diplomacy for years now. This is why the Council pleads the Prime Minister to cancel the limits on the part of funds coming from the extra-budgetary sources. The Council waits for propositions of specific solutions for the budget act (or an analogical act) for 2014.
The Council also continued the discussion initiated by former French prisoners about placing the voices of the rescued in the post-camp areas. Bearing in mind that the main priority is preserving the authenticity of the Memorial, the Council accedes to introduce these relations both of the former main camp, and the Birkenau camp. The Council has passed unanimously the following resolution:
The International Auschwitz Council recommends introducing the voices of the rescued – former prisoners into the post-camp area through non-invasive IT solutions (such as QR codes, GPS, smartphones).
The specific locations and selection of relations will be established by a workforce appointed by the Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
The first day of the meeting had another particularly important point in the agenda, that is the information from Director Cywiński about the script on the new main exhibition, detailed schedule of works for this exposition (planned till 2022), and an estimate about the costs. It is vital and urgent to get an exact declaration from the Polish authorities concerning financing of the entire endeavour.
The Council Members have also witnessed a report on the Kulmhof Memorial in Chełmno on the Ner River (west-central Poland) tied to the plans of the Greater Poland local authorities to hand the former death camp into the hands of the Martyrological Museum in Żabikowo. The area needs to be immediately cleaned and secured, especially in the face of the incoming 70th anniversary of removal of the ghetto in Łódź. The Council has passed unanimously the following resolution:
The International Auschwitz Council accedes to the proposal of temporary supervision over the Martyrological Museum in Żabikowo to the Kulmhof Memorial in Chełmno on the Ner River.
However, the Council strongly emphasizes that:
1. This solution is only temporary. The following year marks the 70th anniversary of removal of the ghetto in Łódź – a starting point for most prisoners transported then to Chełmno. By then the deadlines for handing over the direct responsibility for the area of the former Kulmhof death camp over to the Minister in charge of Culture and National Heritage.
2. It is also vital to create an international council for the Kulmhof Memorial.
3. Due to the history of the camp, it is necessary to draw up a plan of cooperation between the Kulmhof Memorial with institutions and organizations from Łódź dealing with heritage and history of the Łódź ghetto.
4. If this temporal solution is to be accepted, the Marshal of the Wielkopolska Province needs to declare available sources for the Kulmhof Memorial both for its current support and its activity in the amount enabling efficient work and an estimable appearance of the cemetery. Furthermore, the Council stresses the fact that the sources dedicated to the Kulmhof Memorial should be clearly allotted from the budget of the Martyrological Museum in Żabikowo.
5. The new management is expected to fully change the current situation, starting with a presentation on priority changes, security solutions, area management, educational functions, and personal resources.
The Council addressed the Minister of Culture and National Heritage to decidedly increase his involvement in the current problems of the Kulmhof Memorial, which means a quick proposal of legislative modifications aiming at taking responsibility for all Memorials stated under the Act of 1999 on protecting all the areas of former Nazi death camps.
The second day of the meeting started with a visit to the new Jewish exhibition in block 27 of the main camp, created by the Yad Vashem Authority. The Council Members have expressed their greatest admiration about the exposition. The next point of the agenda was a report by Dariusz Pawłoś, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for "Polish-German Reconciliation," concerning a new commemoration in Sobibór, and plans related to the approaching 70th anniversary of the creation of the Sobibór extermination camp. The next speaker was Janusz Barszcz, the Director of the Gross-Rosen Museum in Rogoźnica, who presented the current state of the Memorial. Together with Piotr Koral, the President of the "Gross-Rosen Quarry" Foundation, he presented the premises of the second part of the project entitled "Stone Hell," a monumental commemoration venue in the former quarry, where many prisoners of Gross-Rosen died.