Loaned historical barrack returned to Poland
Half of the original prisoners' wooden barracks from the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II—Birkenau returned to Poland after more than two decades of being loaned to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington. This historical object arrived by sea to the port of Gdynia.
The Birkenau barrack was one of the most important objects on exhibition in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington which opened in 1993. After the completion of a long—term loan agreement, the Museum was trying to secure an extension of the loan. But this was not possible due to a new law introduced in Poland in the meantime. According to the Law on the protection and care for the historic monuments authentic historical objects can not be loaned abroad for more than five years.
According to the director of the Auschwitz Memorial dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński respect the principles of loan process builds a solid foundation for mutual institutional trust. “We loan historic objects from Auschwitz to many Holocaust museums around the world. Conditions of loan must be respected, just in order to be able to continue this loan program,” director Cywiński said.
He also stressed that the return of the barracks tops the long period of dialogue between countries and institutions: “The Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski actively engaged in discussions concerning the return of the barrack in its decisive phase. This shows most fully the Polish determination to play the role of guardian of the authenticity and integrity of the world's largest Memorial”, he said.
“Working closely with our Polish partners, we have reached an agreement that ensures these vitally important artifacts will be preserved and used to educate future generations,” said U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Director, Sara J. Bloomfield.
Ultimately the fragment of the barrack will return to the former Auschwitz II—Birkenau camp site. There, all the time stands the second half of the structure, which has recently undergone extensive conservation process. “For over 20 years the wooden barracks was presented on the exhibition in Washington — that is inside of the building, where it was not exposed to outside elements. Therefore, now it will have to be a subject of adaptation, which means it will have to remain under controlled conditions similar to the outside environment. Only then it will undergo the conservation process and will be returned to its original place. We estimate that it could take up to three years” — said Rafał Pioro, deputy director of the Museum responsible for conservation.
The fragment of a wooden barracks comes from the BIIb sector of the former Auschwitz II—Birkenau camp. There Germans established there the so—called Terezin Family Camp for Jews deported from the Theresienstadt ghetto in Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. In total they brought from there to Auschwitz about 46,000 Jews: about 20,000 were placed in the Family Camp, and the other part was murdered in the gas chambers immediately or placed in other parts of the camp.
Barrack no. 30 at the BIIb sector of the Auschwtiz II—Birkenau camp is the only remaining wooden barrack built before September 1943 at this camp sector (Familienlager Theresienstadt). Together with barracks 28 and 32 it housed the camp hospital for men and women. According to the testimony of a survivor, doctor Alfred Milk from Prague, in barrack no. 30 there were two wards of the hospital: women and children internist ward (the east section) and infectious diseases ward. An original wall painting made by prisoners of the camp remained at one of the original brick chimneys of the barrack.