June 14th – National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of German Nazi Concentration Camps and Extermination Camps
On June 14th 1940, the transport from the prison in Tarnów amounting to 728 Poles arrived to Auschwitz. Among the prisoners, who were brought to the camp, there were soldiers participating in the September Campaign, members of underground resistance organizations, secondary school students and higher education students, as well as a small group of Polish Jews. This date marks the beginning of the functioning of the camp. According to the decision of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland, June 14th is the National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of German Nazi Concentration Camps and Extermination Camps.
Among the participants of the event commemorating the 78th anniversary of the first transport of Poles to Auschwitz which took place in Oświęcim and Harmęże there were Auschwitz survivors Zdzisława Włodarczyk and Ryszard Machulik, representatives of Polish state authorities: Deputy Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szydło as well as Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage Jarosław Sellin, representatives of the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland and of the Senate as well as members of parliament, representatives of the diplomatic corpse, local authorities as well as institutions and associations co-organizing the commemoration, directors and employees of the Auschwitz Museum as well as all those who wanted to commemorate the events from June 14th 1940.
Commemoration began at the St. Maximilian Center in Harmęże, where the exhibition by former Auschwitz prisoner number 432 Marian Kołodziej is presented. Holy Mass was also celebrated there by Bishop Ordinary Roman Pindel of the Bielsko-Żywiec diocese.
“Before the first transport left Tarnów and headed towards Auschwitz, the propaganda machine of Hitler’s Germany had already been referring to Poland, the Poles and alleged threats that the nation had constituted, in particular for the German minority. Long before, the lists including the names of insurrectionists, intelligentsia and priest had been being prepared in order to begin the planned extermination of those who could have constituted any form of resistance towards the invader. Before the construction of camps began, social and national groups had been qualified as opponents of the new order, first in publications, mass gatherings and even treatises”, said bishop Pindel.
After the Mass, the visitors saw the exhibition of Marian Kołodziej’s works. The names of all prisoners from the first transport were read.
In Harmęże, Deputy Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szydło, Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage Jarosław Sellin as well as representatives of the Oświęcim County authorities signed the agreement concerning the establishment of the museum dedicated to Poles helping Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners.
Next, wreaths were laid under the board commemorating the arrival of the first transport situated on the building of former Tobacco Monopoly, in the vicinity of today’s grounds of the Auschwitz Museum. This is the place where, on June 14th 1940, prisoners were incarcerated by the SS men for the quarantine period. Today, the building constitutes the seat of The Witold Pilecki Vocational State School of Higher Education (PWSZ).
Main part of commemorative events took place within former Auschwitz I camp. National anthem of the Republic of Poland was played in front of Block 11 and next the delegations laid candles under the Death Wall in the courtyard of the Block, thus commemorating all victims of German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz.
The commemoration finished with ceremonial opening of the new exhibition of the Museum devoted to resistance movement in KL Auschwitz. It is situated in two originally preserved halls on the ground floor of Block 11.
The organizers of commemorative events were Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and:
• St. Maximilian Center in Harmęże
• Jewish Center in Oświęcim
• Foundation for the Memory of Auschwitz-Birkenau Victims
• Foundation of Memory Sites near Auschwitz-Birkenau
• Foundation Monument-Hospice for the Town of Oświęcim
• Faith and Truth Foundation
• Department of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) in Kraków
• Kraków Foundation Center for Information, Meeting, Dialogue, Education and Prayer in Oświęcim
• Bielsko-Żywiec Diocesan Curia
• International Youth Meeting Center in Oświęcim
• Witold Pilecki University of Applied Sciences (PWSZ) in Oświęcim
• Province of the St. Anthony of Padua and Blessed Jakub Strzemię of the Order of Friars
• Auschwitz Memento Association
• Roma Association in Poland
• Society for the Protection of Oświęcim (TOnO)
• Oświęcim commune
• the town of Oświęcim
• the town of Tarnów
• Oświęcim County Office