29th session of the International Auschwitz Council
Ongoing major conservation works and investment projects related to the education and service of visitors were some of the topics on the agenda of the International Auschwitz Council. The 29th session of the IAC, which was held on October 12 in the Chancellery of the Polish Prime Minister in Warsaw, was chaired by Prof. Barbara Engelking.
During the session, the director of the Museum dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński summed up the activities of the Auschwitz Memorial, undertaken since the last IAC meeting. A significant subject of his presentation concerned the most important works related to the conservation and protection of the authenticity of the Memorial. Director Cywiński mentioned among others, the completed conservation works of the Archives building, the historic Block 24 of the former Auschwitz I camp, conservation of post-camp textiles, as well as the planned project to prepare a catalogue of all inscriptions and markings on original suitcases brought by Jews deported for extermination, which are in the Collections of the Museum.
In the presentation, the director also spoke of the conservation of the brick barracks of the former concentration camp of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, which was launched a few weeks ago. It had been preceded by very detailed studies to provide data for the development of a detailed programme for the conservation of these unique buildings. The project, which is now in its crucial stage, is realized as part of the Master Plan for Preservation - a multi-annual conservation programme at the Auschwitz Memorial funded by the Auschwitz Birkenau Foundation.
The Foundation currently has approx. 90 mln euros in its bank accounts, contributed by 35 countries. For three years, the long-term conservation works at the Auschwitz Memorial have been financed with profits from the Endowment Fund managed by the Foundation. In 2014, it amounted to 4.6 million PLN, while the estimate for 2015 is 6.4 million PLN allocated for conservation works.
Work will soon continue, for the protection of the ruins of a gas chamber and crematorium III, on the site of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. 'A few years ago, thanks to the support of the Ronald Lauder Foundation financial we managed to stabilize the ground near the underground remains of the gas chambers. The continuation of this project will include safety conservation of the undressing room,' said Piotr Cywiński.
At the meeting, the participants also discussed ongoing major investment projects related to the creation of a new Visitor Service Centre and the headquarters of the International Centre for education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, educational projects, and publishing plans. A new guidebook to the Memorial, currently under translation into several languages will be released soon. In addition, the Italian, French and German translations of the book “Auschwitz from A to Z. An Illustrated history of the camp“ will soon be published.
The growing attendance at the Memorial was also discussed during the session. Thanks to the introduction of the on-line booking system and control of the number of persons entering the historical site, increasingly more people are visiting in the mornings and afternoons. The large turnout therefore thus not cause congestion around the exhibitions.
During the meeting, the future of the grounds of the former German concentration camp in Płaszów was also discussed. A report was presented on the legal situation of the memorial sites created on the grounds of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp. The most important activities and challenges in the Stutthof, Majdanek, Bełżec, Treblinka, Kulmhof and Gross-Rosen memorial sites were also summed up.