"This responsibility will never end" - the German foreign minister Heiko Maas at the Auschwitz Memorial
The German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas visited the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum on 20 August 2018. He was welcomed by Andrzej Kacorzyk, deputy director of the Museum and head of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, who in the course of the visit familiarised the guest with the history of the camp and the contemporary challenges of the Memorial. He was accompanied by a former Auschwitz prisoner Marian Turski.
Heiko Maas laid a wreath and paid tribute to all the victims of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp at the Execution Wall in the courtyard of Block 11, where the Germans executed approximately 5,500 people, mostly Poles, prisoners detained in the camp prison and the so-called political prisoners sentenced to death by the Gestapo summary court.
"Hell on earth - this German creation was named Auschwitz. Full of sadness and shame, we bow our heads to women, men and children, millions of whom died here and elsewhere from the hands of the National Socialists. Germany's responsibility to defend the inviolability of human dignity comes from the will of the victims, everywhere and every day. This responsibility will never end," minister Heiko Maas wrote in the Museum’s commemorative book.
The delegation visited a fragment of the Museum exhibition, including Block 4 that contains basic information on persons deported to Auschwitz: Jews, Poles, the Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and representatives of other nationalities, as well as the description of the process of extermination of Jews. It also contains, among others photographs documenting the arrival of Jews from Hungary in May 1944, a model of gas chamber and crematorium II from Birkenau, empty cans of Zyklon B, as well as human hair of the murdered victims. In Block 5, the visitors saw personal objects of victims that were found in storage rooms after the liberation of the camp. These include shoes, suitcases, prosthesis, glasses, brushes, kitchen utensils, among others. The delegation also visited the building of the first gas chamber and Crematorium in Auschwitz I.
They also saw the temporary exhibition “Order and extermination” dedicated to the role of the police in Nazi Germany. It consists of 9 boards describing the role of the police upon the assumption of power by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party in January 1933, the development of its structure and key persons responsible for the functioning of the police, among others. The exhibition was prepared by the German Police Academy in Münster, commissioned by the Conference of Interior Ministers of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal States.
In the second part of the visit, the guests went to the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. They walked along the unloading ramp where the SS doctors performed the selection of the Jews and also saw the ruins of the gas chamber and crematorium II. Heiko Maas laid a candle at the monument commemorating victims of the camp.
The German Minister of Foreign Affairs could also see the ongoing conservation of two brick prisoners’ barracks. The project is financed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. Germany is one of the countries that supported the Perpetual Fund to finance conservation works and preserve all the authentic remains of the former Nazi Germany concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. The federal budget and the German Länders have supported the Foundation with 60 million Euro.