27th Session of the International Auschwitz Council
The upcoming 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and funding of the establishment of the official seat of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust (ICEAH) and of the New Main Exhibition at the Memorial Site were the two main subjects of debates at the session of the International Auschwitz Council. It took place on 1 October in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland and was chaired by prof. Władysław Bartoszewski.
Although prof. Małgorzata Omilanowska, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, was not able to participate in the session personally due to the Sejm session related to the exposé of the new government, she sent a special letter to the members of IAC, in which she proposed her solutions to the particular problems related to the future of education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, including the issue of the transformation of the so-called Old Theatre building to the official seat of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, and the issue of the organisation of the New Main Exhibition at the Memorial Site.
“I would like to really thank Małgorzata Omilanowska and to express my respect for her. The issue of funding of the transformation of the Old Theatre to the official seat of ICEAH and the issue of the New Main Exhibition have been priorities of IAC for many years,” said Marek Zając, the secretary of IAC. “Declarations of the Minister made in the letter not only fill us with hope, but also guarantee that we will finally go forward,” emphasised Marek Zając.
“We live in times of denial and outrageous distortion of the facts about the concentration camp,” said dr Piotr M.A. Cywiński, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. “The education seems to be the only way the horrible truth about this largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp become the ground for deeper change of the awareness of especially future generations,” emphasised Mr Cywiński.
During the session, the director of the Museum summarised the activities of the Auschwitz Memorial over the last few months. They were mainly aimed at preparations for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. The Council learned about the stage of the preparations for one of the last anniversaries which will take place with such a large group of survivors present.
“Soon, however, it will not be the people who lived then but we – post-war generations – who will carry the burden of those horrible days and overwhelming conclusions arising from them,” said Piotr Cywiński in the interview published at 70.auschwitz.org – a special website dedicated to the anniversary. People may find there for example the “Map of World Remembrance” where visitors may find all events for commemoration related to 27 January 2015.
The closer end of the war generation allows to realise how important the role of education at the Memorial Site is . The Council learned about the stage of development of the educational projects, including volunteering and e-learning. Recently, at the website of the Museum there were published a few completely new lessons on, for example, the deportation of Jews from Hungary, and Sinti and Roma in Auschwitz.
Director Cywiński was also taking about the growing number of visitors (both youth and adults, but not only) at the Memorial Site. “We observe an increase in the number of children visitors as well. We think that visiting and learning about this particular place is not a good idea. However, we have to address this issue and, therefore, our educators prepare a special visit programme for them,” said Piotr Cywiński.
The director of the Museum discussed also the issues concerning the Perpetual Capital of Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. He hopes that before the 70th anniversary of the liberation, the Fund to secure funding of conservation works at the authentic remains of the camp will have been collected in full. The deficient amount of 18 million euro is to be provided by 18 individual donors – “18 Pillars of Remembrance”.
Piotr Cywiński also informed the members of the Council of the implementation of the project for placing fragments of Survivors’ accounts at the entire area of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. “This is a very valuable initiative as it allows visitors looking at a particular place to learn the story behind it,” he emphasised.