Response to the huge interest. About the history of Auschwitz in Russia
How do we preserve the memory of the victims of Auschwitz in times when the last witnesses are leaving us? What are the challenges facing educators at the Memorial Site? How do we use historical photos to teach about the history of the camp? These issues among others were addressed in lectures and meetings in Moscow, by the Director of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust Andrzej Kacorzyk and Paweł Sawicki of the Press Office of the Museum, who went to Russia at the invitation of the Polish Institute in Moscow.
'Russia is a very important place for us. Soviet prisoners of war are the fourth largest group of victims of Auschwitz camp, whose tragic fate is often unknown. This year we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of their deportation to Auschwitz. We should also remember about 27 January 1945 and the liberation of the camp by soldiers of the Red Army,' said Andrzej Kacorzyk.
'Among others through the Russian exhibition that was opened a few years ago, prepared in collaboration with the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, the Auschwitz Memorial is visited by increasingly more people from Russia. Last year, over 12 thousand persons visited the Memorial. I hope that through such meetings, accompanied by the interest of the Russian media, this number will grow,' added Andrzej Kacorzyk
The first Soviet prisoners of war were sent to Auschwitz in July and August 1941. In the beginning of September 1941, about 600 prisoners of war were brought to Auschwitz and murdered along with 250 sick Polish prisoners, in the basement of block 11 using Zyklon B. It was the first case of mass killing of people using gas at Auschwitz. In October 1941, in a secluded part of Auschwitz I, the SS authorities imprisoned about 10,000 prisoners.
The main task of the prisoners was the construction of a new camp on the fields of the displaced village of Brzezinka (Birkenau). A high mortality rate prevailed among the prisoners - each day on average, 60 men were killed - caused by executions, beatings, harassment, overwork, hunger and diseases. In March 1942, the 600 surviving prisoners were transferred to the newly created camp Birkenau (BIb). In the fall, most of them were deported to camps in the Interior of the Reich.
According to estimates, the Germans deported approximately 15,000 Soviet prisoners to Auschwitz. About three thousands of them were murdered shortly upon arrival. Twelve thousand prisoners were registered in the camp, out of which a further 11 thousand died.
During the lecture at the Polish Institute, Andrzej Kacorzyk spoke primarily about the activities and projects of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust in an authentic Memorial Site. While Paweł Sawicki showed the Russian audience, how they can learn about the history of Auschwitz in the virtual space – thanks to the website, virtual tour, or social networks.
'You can imagine how difficult it is to reach out to young generations today with the truth about the Holocaust, if during World War II, and after the war, many refused to accept this knowledge about the Holocaust. This is why evidence is important, tangible evidence in the form of photographs from "the Auschwitz album", or learning about the truth from people in daily contact with places of memory, such as employees of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. In Russia today, there is a huge interest in the subject of the Holocaust. We should respond to it,' said Dariusz Klechowski, Director of the Polish Institute in Moscow
The Museum representatives also took part in the opening of the exhibition "The Auschwitz Album" at the Lumiere Brothers Centre for Photography. The exhibition prepared by the Jewish Museum in Prague presents the story of Lili Jacob Album - about 200 black and white photographs taken by SS photographers in May 1944, in Birkenau, which document the process of annihilation of the Jews deported from Hungary. The exhibition shows all photos contained in this unique visual source.
During a special lecture to the gallery audience, Andrzej Kacorzyk talked about the most important events in the history of the Auschwitz concentration camp and how the camp, initially founded for Polish political prisoners become a great centre for the extermination of European Jews, and also a place where Soviet prisoners of war, the Roma people, as well as representatives of other nations and groups were murdered.
Paweł Sawicki on the other hand, presented his album, "Auschwitz-Birkenau. The place where you are standing...”, in which he compiled historical photos from the Auschwitz album with the same places on the site of todays Memorial. He also talked about what we can learn about the camp, about the process of extermination of the Jews, the victims and the perpetrators, by analyzing the photos from "the Auschwitz Album."
Thanks to the cooperation with the Polish Institute in Moscow, the Russian public in various cities had the opportunity to see a panel exhibition of the Museum "German Nazi Death Camp, the Konzentrationslager Auschwitz”. The historic exposition prepared by the Auschwitz Museum presents the most important issues in the history of the Nazi German extermination and concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, as well as the genesis of the Nazi movement and specific elements of the German terror in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Whereas at the premises of the former Auschwitz I camp, in block 14, visitors to the Memorial can see the exhibition "Tragedy, Valour, Liberation." It touches such topics as the tragedy of the Soviet prisoners of war, the policy of the German occupying forces towards civilians in the occupied territories of the USSR, the fate of USSR civilians deported from 1942 to Auschwitz, as well as the liberation of the camp by the Red Army on January 27, 1945.