Meeting XXVIII: 1-2 June 2015
On 1 and 2 June 2015, the 28th session of the International Auschwitz Council under the Prime Minister of Poland was held at the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim. The session was presided over by Prof. Barbara Engelking. The session was preceded by a minute silence in honour of late Professor Władysław Bartoszewski a former prisoner of Auschwitz and long-standing chairman of the Council.
Prof. Engelking also welcomed two new members of the IAC: former prisoner and writer Halina Birenbaum and Prof. Dariusz Stola, historian and director of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews – POLIN
On the first day of the session, the Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński summed up the activities of the Memorial Site and work of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation in the past months since the previous meeting of the Council. Attendance once again turned out to be a very important issue of the session. A record number of more than 1.5 million visitors was noted last year at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Given these circumstances, not only does the new online reservation system for visits work perfectly, but has become a necessity, providing continuous and safe movement around the Memorial Site.
Director Cywiński also summed up the January commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, attended by nearly 300 former prisoners from all over the world and 52 delegations representing states and supranational organizations. Direct broadcast on 250 television stations was watched by over half a billion people while news articles devoted to the anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Holocaust was read by over 1 billion people. Thus, we seized the opportunity and conveyed the messages of the former prisoners to a worldwide audience.
The second topic of the session was the state of work on the new main exhibition of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Director Cywiński discussed in detail the project, consisting of three parts. The first talks about the perpetrators, showing the camp as an institution planned and constantly adapted to their murderous purposes. The second part concerns the Holocaust and the third - portrays the experience of concentration camp prisoners. Director Cywiński thanked the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Prof. Małgorzata Omilanowska for the declaration to finance the entire long-term work on the new main exhibition. The total cost - resulting primarily from the necessary construction and conservation work in blocks dedicated to the exhibition - is approx. PLN 100 mln.
On the same day, members of the Council participated in a ceremony, naming the Hall of the International Youth Centre in Oświęcim after Władysław Bartoszewski.
On the second day of the meeting, the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Piotr Żuchowski presented the implementation state of the memorial project at the premises of the former death camp in Sobibor. It is in many respects a unique project - international in nature; its participants are Poland, Israel, the Netherlands and Slovakia. Thanks to years of archaeological works, carried out on a scale never before seen in other Memorial Sites, we managed to re-create on the entire premises the last route of the Victims - from the railway ramp, the so-called Himmelfahrtstrasse, to the gas chambers and mass graves. Members of the Council acknowledged the Sobibor project as a model for other Memorials Sites on the grounds of former death camps.
At the end of the meeting, the secretary of the Council Marek Zajac presented a report on the state of the Memorial Site in Płaszów at the premises of the forced labour and concentration camp, which operated in the years 1942-1945. Members of the Council agreed that the IAC will engage in bringing this historic Place to order and worthily commemorate the Victims.