Auschwitz Museum in the International Google Project
Two virtual exhibitions prepared by the Auschwitz Memorial Site may be viewed as a part of the Google Cultural Institute Internet platform launched on October 10, 2012. The official inauguration of the project in Poland took place in the Kubicki Arcades at the Royal Castle in Warsaw in the presence of Bogdan Zdrojewski, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz Museum.
The purpose of the project, which currently brings together 17 institutions from around the world, is the presentation of various aspects of 20th century history with the use of digitised archive materials: documents, letters, manuscripts, photos, film materials and accounts of witnesses of events.
Bogdan Zdrojewski, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, emphasised that this Internet project may help a lot in popularising the history of Auschwitz around the world. “Very often, we come across people who disbelieve that such places as Auschwitz-Birkenau could have existed. On the one hand, this arouses our immediate objection – how can this be doubted? And on the other, how to make people believe that such a place could have been created. People who live in Argentine, Chile, Japan or in Southern Africa will not be able to reach the most important documents and history that build knowledge about the drama of many people, as well as the knowledge about this place and the evidence of crimes collected there, in any other way than via the Internet,” said the Minister.
The Auschwitz Museum prepared two exhibitions for the opening. “Tragic Love at Auschwitz” is about the escape of two prisoners from the camp who fell in love: Mala Zimetbaum and Edek Galiński, a Jewish girl and a Pole whose love, as said by former prisoner René Raindorf, became the symbol of good triumphing over evil and the human winning over the bestial.
The second exhibition entitled “Before They Perished” is devoted to Jews deported to the Auschwitz Camp from Zagłębie Dąbrowskie between May 1942 and August 1943. Their history can be told today thanks to almost 2,500 preserved family photographs, which, after liberation, were found in the area of the camp in one suitcase. Thanks to them, we are able to take a look at the pre-war life of Polish Jews from Będzin, Sosnowiec and the neighbouring towns. Almost all of them died in gas chambers in Auschwitz.
Both exhibitions were prepared on the basis of photographs and scans of documents prepared by specialists from the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. More exhibitions will be prepared in the future.
According to Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński, the Museum’s director, the presented stories – some of the very few stories of specific people related to Auschwitz – may bring the drama of people from the previous century closer to us. “The 20th century was the darkest period in the history of Europe. Everything that is related to organised contempt and hatred, which characterised Nazi Germany, is today fully symbolised by Auschwitz. Without Auschwitz, one cannot understand the 20th century. Without Auschwitz it is not possible to comprehend today’s image of Europe. In general, it is very difficult to explore humanity without reference to the Holocaust and the functioning of the crematoria in Auschwitz,” he said. “History helps us understand the present, but also create a tomorrow in a wiser manner. We all need the memory of Auschwitz – even our children and grandchildren. Nothing is won forever,” added Cywiński.
The second Polish partner of the project, apart from the Auschwitz Memorial Site, the Museum of Poland’s History, prepared an exhibition entitled: “Jan Karski, the Hero of Humanity”. It presents the story of a man who made an attempt at providing the allied forces with information about the tragic events of the Holocaust. The exhibitions prepared by the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem are also devoted to Auschwitz.
Other exhibitions of the Google Cultural Institute refer to the history of Apartheid, the landing of the allied forces in Normandy, the crowning of the British queen Elizabeth II or the Dolce Vita period in Germany. All exhibitions are multimedia and allow for advanced searching of historic materials, i.e. with respect to a given country, person, event or date or enlarging photos to very large sizes. Some of the presented materials are available on the Internet for the first time.