Meeting XXXVI: 23-24 November 2022
The 36th session of the International Auschwitz Council under the Polish Prime Minister was held at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim on 23 and 24 November 2022 at the headquarters of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. The session was chaired by Prof. Grzegorz Berendt.
Before the start of the meeting, the IAC members saw the construction of the new Visitor Services Center and the museum's hostel, designed primarily for Memorial volunteers and study groups. The investment is funded by the EU, the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and supported by Ronald S. Lauder and Joel and Ulrika Citron. The work will be completed next year.
Next, members of the Council were presented with preservation work at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site (financed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation) and the Conservation Laboratories in the buildings of the former Auschwitz I camp (Stammlager).
Guests on the first day of the meeting included deputy ministers for culture and national heritage Przemysław Giżyński and education and science Dariusz Piontkowski, Israeli ambassador to Poland Yacov Livne, and the mayor of Oświęcim Janusz Chwierut, as well as representatives of the provincial governor and local government officials from the Oświęcim area. At the start of the meeting, the two ministers, acting on behalf of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, presented the acts of nomination to the Council members absent during the first meeting: Romani Rose and Jan Erik Dubbelman.
The Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, presented a report on the activities of the Memorial over the past years and outlined the most critical challenges. He discussed, among other things, the attendance and budget issues that plunged due to the pandemic - and today, the situation is made more difficult by Russian aggression against Ukraine. However, a considerable effort was undertaken to retain the Museum's experienced staff. Notwithstanding these difficulties, key investments are being implemented - the Visitor Services Center mentioned earlier, the museum's hostel and car park, and the new main and the new Polish exhibitions. Just before the pandemic, the conversion of the so-called Old Theatre into the modern headquarters of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust was finalised. The museum's cinema has recently been refurbished. Work on a globally unique educational project - a guided remote tour with a physical presence at the Memorial - is also reaching its final stages.
The aim of the educational initiatives, diversified in terms of content and method, and the strong presence of the Memorial on social media, is, as Director Cywiński emphasised, not only to impart knowledge and shape attitudes characterised by empathy but also to trigger in visitors to the Memorial a moral concern about their choices made here and now. This is particularly relevant given the war in Ukraine, the numerous drastic violations of human rights worldwide and the rise of populism, antisemitism and other forms of racism, aggression or exclusion.
On the second day of the meeting, the Director of the Treblinka Museum, Dr. Edward Kopówka, presented a report on the activities of the Memorial covering the site of the former German Nazi extermination and labour camp (1941-1944). At the request of the presidium, the Council members supported the idea of an educational project aimed at schoolchildren from Warsaw and the Mazovian Voivodeship, which would combine a visit to the Ringelblum Archive exhibition at the Jewish Historical Institute with a visit to Treblinka.
A report was also presented by Monika Bednarek, who directs the activities of the KL Plaszow Museum in Cracow (within the organisation). At the end of the session, the IAC members visited the site of this former German Nazi labour and concentration camp (1942-1945).