EU funds helped in preserving the authenticity of the Auschwitz Memorial
The project "Preserving Authenticity - Nine Tasks for the Years 2012-2015" at the Auschwitz Memorial has been completed. The project was financed with a grant from the European Commission within the framework of the programme "Europe for Citizens".
These tasks were associated with improving the conditions for the storage and safeguarding of the archival holdings and historical objects dating from when the camp was in operation, the conservation of original buildings, documents, and collections, the purchase of specialist conservation and research equipment, investigations to make the realization of conservation work possible, and the enhancement of the digital system for storing information about the victims. The project was summed up at a meeting held on October 22 at the Auschwitz Museum.
“The historical space and the extant material testimony—the grounds, buildings, ruins, objects, and documents—are unique bearers of remembrance. They narrate the history of Auschwitz and the stories of individual people—the victims of the camp—and bring this history and these stories closer to the new generations. The vestiges preserved to this day are often the only witness to the victims’ existence. At a time when the last former prisoners are departing, we must do everything to preserve the material remnants of the Auschwitz tragedy,” the deputy director of the Museum Rafał Pióro wrote in a folder prepared on the completion of the project.
The Auschwitz Museum director Dr Piotr M.A. Cywiński stressed the symbolical importance of the financial support from the European Commission. “The Shoah and everything symbolized most fully by Auschwitz lay at the foundations of the enormous postwar effort to build a new, different Europe—a Europe of greater solidarity, sensitivity, and community. It is impossible to create a future without preserving the memory of the tragedies that led to the conviction that Europe must be re-imagined,” he wrote.
“With more than a million and a half people—mostly young Europeans—traveling to learn about Auschwitz every year, we can spare no effort to offer them the fullest possible knowledge. The things they learn shape a different, better future for Europe.,” we read.
The representative of the European Commission responsible for the programme “Europe for Citizens” Pavel Tychtl who was present during the summary of the project, stressed that the grant was not only a reflection of Auschwitz as a unique place in the history of Europe, but also its contemporary significance to mankind. 'Events that occurred here were consequences of certain sentiments and political movements that we still find today: xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism. They still exist and therefore, I believe that our support demonstrates the importance that people as well as institutions such as the European Commission should apply to this place - he said.
'The results of this project show the determination of many people, as well as their enthusiasm and the real passion for the subject. We would all agree that the money contributed has been spent very well and very wisely; however, we know that a lot is still to be done here and in many others places. What we saw today, and during our visits to the Memorial while working with the team throughout the entire project is very encouraging,' he added.
The project “Preserving Authenticity - Nine Tasks for the Years 2012-2015” was implemented thanks to grants from the European Commission as part of the programme “Europe for Citizens. Action 4: Active European Remembrance.” Funding by the European Commission amounted to a total of 4 million euros.
“Preserving Authenticity - Nine Tasks for the Years 2012-2015”:
Strengthening the structure of the Archives building
The scope of work conducted in the historic block 24 of the former Auschwitz I camp, which houses the Museum Archives covered: structural reinforcement of the basement ceilings, ground floor, first floor and roof truss elements. This procedure involved placing steel beams in prepared holes under the ceiling. These beams, by significantly reducing the spread of ceiling slabs, relieve the existing reinforced concrete ceiling ribs. The internal installation was also modernized during the project. The work allowed for securing the historic building as well as improving the storage conditions of valuable archive materials kept in the building.
The introduction of a modern system of fixed fire extinguishing systems in three storage buildings has significantly improved the storage safety of original post-camp objects. An automatic firefighting system protects the collections and archive materials against potential spread and effects of fire. The selected extinguishing agent is composed of natural components of the Earth's atmosphere. It is characterized by the lack of negative effects on the environment, but its main advantage is the absence of destructive impact on historic facilities in the event of a fire extinguishing action.
The conservation of two wooden barracks on the premises of the former camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau
We have performed a comprehensive conservation of two wooden barracks - residential and sanitary at the section, so-called male quarantine in Birkenau. All elements were subjected among others to cleaning from dust and re-impregnation, carried out during the previous conservation, gluing of cracked elements as well as reinforcement. Conservation was also performed on historic decoration paintings discovered on wall panels, whitewash and inscriptions as well as original markings on construction elements. The work was carried out with extreme care to preserve the monumental substance, in accordance with the principles - of minimum interference, reversibility of the methods and measures applied as well as the distinctiveness of materials used, from the original elements.
Modernization of the warehouses for suitcases
While designing new storage facilities for more than 1,800 suitcases located in the former camp buildings at Auschwitz I, the problems of restoration, size of suitcases and available storage space were all taken into account. Historic objects were placed in a specially designed cabinet. The suitcases are arranged to rest on the largest surface, due to which they shall not be subject to deformation. A new lighting and fire extinguishing system safe for the buildings have been installed in all storage rooms. The air-conditioning system has also been disinfected and the floors modernized.
Expansion of the system for long-term data storage and Digital Repository
The digital data storage system was developed as part of the project. Additional disk arrays were purchased and the IT system supporting the database was developed. With the creation of the master structure of the database, an Auschwitz-Victims-Memory-Index was also created in which the so-called metadata of deportees and camp prisoners are grouped. An access server has also been purchased for searching and presentation of digital objects. The primary goal of the research project - Digital repository is to secure archive documents through their complete digitalization.
New equipment in the conservation workshop
The multitude and diversity of the former camp buildings constitute serious challenges for conservation. Their protection does not only require knowledge and experience of specialists but also adequate technical facilities. As part of the project to equip the conservation workshop, the following among others was purchased; a climate chamber for testing the aging of various materials used in conservation, portable spectrophotometer for colour measurement, XRF X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, ultrasonic washer, scales and dryer, laboratory refrigerator and specialist laboratory table. The laboratory microscopes have also been equipped with essential sub-assemblies among others UV lamp and polarization. An additional new professional digital camera, specialized lens for infrared pictures and photo printer will serve for documenting conservation works.
Modernization of display cabinets
Original historic items presented to visitors to the Memorial Site must be properly protected. Exhibition is only possible in spaces that provide the most favourable conditions. Under the project, we modernized the display cabinets in which glasses and tallits - personal belongings of the camp victims are presented. During the work, focus was primarily on changing the already existing barriers protecting the original items from the influence of climatic conditions inside the exhibition hall. Security has also been upgraded against potential theft and fire outbreak.
Conservation of suitcases, tallits and archive materials as well as digitalization of archive records
12 tallits and 40 suitcases belonging to Jews deported by Germans to Auschwitz for extermination were subjected to conservation. Other items that underwent conservation include among others, 40 volumes of records containing death cards of nearly 69,000 prisoners of Auschwitz and over 17,000 other documents. These include among others; personal files of prisoners (Personalbogen), a general ledger (Hauptbuch) SS-Hygiene Institute, inventory register, prison hospital register (HKB) block 20 in Auschwitz I, book of numbers (Nummerbuch), accoutrements register of the SS military crew, various files of the administration department, Personal files of SS men, sickness cards of prisoners, transport lists, letters on the transfer of prisoners, X-ray books, as well as records of the dental station, letters on the employment of prisoners and documents of the Central Construction Board (Zentralbauleitung). During the conservation works, 90,000 scans were also performed.
Analysis of the premises, buildings and infrastructure at section BI of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau
Among other works conducted, include archaeological, geological and hydrogeological survey of the premises as well as deformation analysis of selected objects based on terrestrial laser scanning. Based on their results, maps of the site were updated taking into account the subterranean and historic elements of the camp infrastructure, which will ensure their safety during all the necessary fieldwork. Archive documents and construction projects for the network were also verified in terms of the degree of their implementation. The soil and water conditions as well as the arrangement and land development plan of the area during the operation of the camp were also identified.