MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Tear it down and plow it under?

A year later, articles by Jerzy Putrament and Kazimierz Koźniewski sparked a new controversy. Both authors suggested limiting the functioning of the Museum, and the second of them even proposed that it be “torn down and plowed under.”

It is difficult at present to identify the reasons for the publication of these texts. It is possible that they reflected the changing attitudes of part of a society that was fatigued by the constant recalling of the war and the suffering of Poles—and thus, the very issues that the Museum dealt with.

It is also possible that the authors were expressing opinions held by certain members of the communist leadership, who intended to liquidate or at least severely limit the functioning of the Museum and to use its grounds and buildings for industrial, agricultural, and housing purposes.

The suggestions made in the two articles, and especially Koźniewski’s proposal to “tear [the Museum] down and plow it under,” won the support of some readers, although this support was usually expressed in anonymous letters. On the other hand, these views also met with emphatic rejection, especially from ex-prisoners.

It seems reasonable to assume that it was the latter responses that prompted decision–makers to distance themselves from the plans to “tear down” the Museum and “plow it under.” It is also probable that another factor was the usefulness of the Museum in the Cold War propaganda struggle. From 1949 onwards, after all, it was used as a weapon in the “struggle for peace” against “Anglo-American imperialism.”