Expert meeting in Berlin on the standards of functioning of memorial sites
“The outstanding universal value of Auschwitz. The historical identity of Europe and the border of pars pro toto,” was the motto of the expert meeting held on 7 April 2017 at the House of Wannsee Conference in Berlin. It was attended by representatives of UNESCO, International Auschwitz Council, Yad Vashem Institute, Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Witold Pilecki Center for Totalitarian Studies and Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, among others.
The main topic of the discuss was the functioning prospects of memorial sites located on the grounds of former German Nazi concentration and extermination camps in terms of the criteria of the Outstanding Universal Value of the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the fact that the “German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz Birkenau” is the only former camp on the List.
During the meeting, the participants talked about good practices in the area of education, management and conservation, as well as work of the archives, among others. The result of the meeting is the so-called Wannsee Memorandum, which acknowledges the unique role of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial as a representative place of commemoration for similar post-camp memorial sites, but also poses certain significant challenges to other sites of similar character.
The memorandum contains recommendations on the principles of preserving authenticity, integrity of artifacts and archival collections within a particular memorial site, conducting conservation works, international cooperation, including the creation of truly international advisory bodies made up of experts from various disciplines, as well as development of educational activities and conducting scientific research both on the fate of victims of these sites and perpetrators of the crime, among others.
In the opinion of the participating experts, such management standards should be adopted in the largest memorial sites on the grounds of former German Nazi concentration and extermination camps located in the entire European area that during world war II was occupied by the Third Reich.
TEXT OF THE MEMORANDUM
Those convened at the Council of Experts in Berlin-Wannsee on 7 April 2017,
taking into consideration that it is the mission of UNESCO, expressed in the Preamble to its Constitution by the Organization’s founding countries in 1945, to “construct the defences of peace in the minds of men”, in order to prevent a reoccurrence of the tragic events of the Second World War,
recognizing the exceptional significance of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, established by Nazi Germany on the territory of occupied Poland, initially for Poles and Soviet prisoners, which in the years 1942-1944 became the primary and most important center
for the extermination of European Jews,
recalling to mind the fundamental reason for the inclusion of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979, this being to symbolically encompass all other former extermination camps and centers from the Second World War established by the Third Reich,
being aware that the restriction of the inscription in the UNESCO World Heritage List only to Auschwitz-Birkenau, recognized as a representative for other post camp Memorials, does not exempt from reflection on preservation and methods of revealing the truth on the most terrifying crimes of the 20th century, particularly the unique in the history of mankind crime of the Holocaust,
hereby recommend for other sites of that type, former concentration camps and extermination centres located beyond the borders of Poland, to accept the following standards of management:
- emulation of practices developed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, expressing extremely significant for UNESCO principles of authenticity, integrity of artefacts and archival collections, and international cooperation;
- development of educational forms with respect for the truth and based on international dialogue and cooperation;
- collecting artefacts that belonged to the Victims (name tags, shoes, suitcases etc.) and archival documentation (documents, photographs, films, maps) and storing in situ
- establishing preservation laboratories in situ
- conducting archaeological research on the basis of international cooperation and under rabbinical supervision
- functioning of an advisory and opinionative body patterned after the International Auschwitz Council;
- performing solid research on the Victims as well as perpetrators
- the obligation to include – in the permanent exhibitions, information materials as well as on the internet websites clear information regarding the citizenship and nationality of the Victims
Recognition of the abovementioned practices of the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial as universal, fully reflects the symbolic significance of this site, which was emphasized by its entry in the World Heritage List. It is also a precondition for remembrance, which should stand as a warning and a lesson for the future generations.