Director of the Auschwitz Museum Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński awarded with the Legion of Honour
Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, Director of the Auschwitz Museum, was bestowed the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit. The ceremony took place on January 17th at the Embassy of France in Warsaw.
While bestowing the award Pierre Lévy, the Ambassador of France in Poland, said: “You are a humanist whose voice is heard in France. You face difficult discussions concerning the issue of memory. You work tirelessly in favor of preserving the authenticity of testimony of the place to which growing numbers of visitors come every year. Last survivors are leaving us. Your mission has now become increasingly demanding, as the history is slowly fading away, when oblivion, ignorance, indifference or negation may prevail. Let us prevent the appearance of the intellectual void, where the evil hides”.
“Awarding you with the Legion of Honour has noble and beautiful significance. The French Republic fully identifies with your commitment. The fight against racism, antisemitism and xenophobia occupies a central place among the values that France follows, together with the fight for human rights and for Europe”, he emphasized
In the special letter addressed to the participants of the ceremony of consigning the insignia of the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour Jarosław Sellin, Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage, wrote: “Piotr Cywiński not only made it possible for two million people to visit the Museum every year. He has also created the place considered by international experts as a model, respecting highest commemoration standards, expressing the rules of authenticity, preserving the integrality of artifacts and archive collections as well as international cooperation, according to best practices of UNESCO, which in 1979 inscribed Auschwitz-Birkenau on world heritage list”.
“Also thanks to the effort of Director Piotr Cywiński as well as the late Minister Tomasz Merta, in June 2007 UNESCO confirmed the wording of the Museum’s official name, matching the historical truth: Auschwitz-Birkenau. German Nazi concentration and extermination camp”, wrote Minister Sellin
In his thank-you speech, Director Piotr Cywiński said: “The fact that this is a French order of merit is very important for me as France received me together with my family very friendly in the hard period of the 1980s, when the face of Europe was changing and the communism declining. Observing the collapse of communism from the perspective of such journals as Le Figaro or Le Monde constituted for me, a teenager at that time, a very important lesson, which I strongly appreciate after all those years”.
“This afternoon, France suggests us to add to the three fundamental values of the Republic: liberty, equality and fraternity, two principles of the Legion: honour and homeland. This suggestion matches current hard times”, he added.
Serge Klarsfeld, Vice President of Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah together with his wife Beate wrote that they were pleased that "outstanding merits of Piotr Cywiński were appreciated by France". Avner Shalev, Yad Vashem Director, emphasized that this distinction constitutes „the confirmation of deserved international status of the committed, talented and efficient leader in the field of the memory of Holocaust”, while Sara Bloomfield, Director of the Holocaust Museum in Washington emphasized that this award constitutes “a huge and fully deserved honour”
Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński spent part of his studies in France. Since 2011 he is the Member of the Board of the Maison d'Izieu Memorial. He took part in many conferences in France and is the author of several publications published in this country.
In 2018, over 69 thousand visitors came from France to the Auschwitz Memorial. France is also one of the state-donators of the Perpetual Capital of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, the purpose of which is to preserve the authenticity of the remnants of German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. French support amounted to 5 million euros.
The Order of the Legion of Honour constitutes the highest French award of merit, established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte and awarded for merits to France, among others in the field of military activity, culture and science. Among the Poles awarded with the Legion of Honour there are for example Jacek Kuroń, Janina Ochojska, Andrzej Wajda, Andrzej Seweryn and Marek Edelman. In 2012 Jerzy Wróblewski, former long-term director of the Auschwitz Museum, became the Cavalier of the Legion of Honour. The order’s motto is Honneur et Patrie – Honour and Homeland.
Piotr Cywiński, Director of the Museum, was already awarded with numerous state distinctions. In 2006 he received from President Lech Kaczyński the Gold Cross of Merit, in 2008 Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta and in 2010, Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.
In 2012 he was also awarded with the Knight’s Cross of the Belgian Order of the Crown, in 2013 - Knight’s Cross of the Monaco’s Order of Saint-Charles, while in 2014 the Officer’s Cross of the Greek Order of the Phoenix. In 2015 he was bestowed the Knight’s Cross of the French Order of Academic Palms.