16th Session of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Council
The 16th session of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Council, tasked with financing the preservation of the authentic remains of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, was held in Warsaw on 28 September.
Given the prevailing coronavirus pandemic, the meeting was held in hybrid form.
At the beginning of the session, the chair of the Council, Marek Zając, said: 'I would like to thank the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and its entire staff for the enormous effort expended during the pandemic to preserve the social capital of the Memorial, despite the complicated situation.
'Thanks to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, it was possible to preserve jobs at the Museum during the pandemic. We understood that the establishment of the Foundation was a valuable idea. In such difficult times, we were able to expand the scope of conservation work and preserve jobs,' he stressed.
Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz Museum and president of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, spoke about the Museum’s predicament due to the pandemic: '60 per cent of our budget is related to attendance. The number of visitors in 2020 has decreased more than fourfold - from 2.3 million in 2019 to 0.5 million. However, conservation was in no way in danger,' he said.
'The preservation of authenticity was the primary reason for the establishment of the foundation, but for some time now, we have been increasingly involved in education, which is currently undergoing a transformation within the Museum. The use of new technologies in education has greatly accelerated. We are constantly looking for new ways to reach people, and our message is evolving. While commemorating the victims and teaching about the history of Auschwitz, we are placing increasing emphasis on arousing moral responsibility in people today,' he added.
Summing up the activities of the Foundation, the director-general, Wojciech Soczewica, said: 'At the moment, we are taking increasingly strong measures to support the Museum’s activities in the field of education in the broadest sense. The cooperation forged between the Foundation, the Museum and companies operating in the area of new technologies focus on creating new educational paths using the latest solutions.'
The use of new technologies requires a modern infrastructure. A letter of intent has recently been signed between Orange, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to create a modern infrastructure that provides fast and efficient Internet access: 5G/4G, fibre optic, and wireless connectivity throughout the Memorial.
It will provide enormous support for the project implemented by the Museum, the Foundation and the Israeli company AppsFlyer. 'The project will include innovative tools that provide millions of people with access to education through virtual tours, among others. Consequently, the Memorial and its heritage will become accessible to all, including those who would not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in such an experience. Education through the use of new technologies will also be supported by a donation of PLN 1.5 million from Taiwan.
The session also summarised the conservation work carried out at the Auschwitz Memorial in recent months. The conservation of one of the wooden prisoner barracks at Auschwitz II-Birkenau site has been completed. Work is ongoing on preserving the brick buildings, including the kitchen, latrine, and residential barracks. Preparations are also underway for the conservation of one of the bathhouses.
Historic pavements, which are very well preserved, have been unearthed during conservation works. The drainage ditches are also being repaired, and archaeological work has led to the discovery of new objects that are being thoroughly investigated.
'Thanks to conservation and archaeological work, we are learning increasingly more about historic buildings. The knowledge weacquire continues to broaden our understanding of how the concentration camp was established,' said Agnieszka Tanistra-Różanowska, head of the Museum’s Master Plan for Preservation.
Significant support for conservation work will be the reconstruction and utilisation of the historical buildings of the so-called “small potato warehouses”, located in the immediate vicinity of the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp, where modern technical facilities for the Master Plan for Preservation are to be established.
The planned expenditure on preservation work in 2021 is over PLN 21 million.
The Perpetual Fund created and managed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation has already been supported by nearly 40 countries. The Foundation’s goal is to raise at least €176 million. The profits from the invested Fund are transferred for the preservation of the Auschwitz Memorial.
The Foundation Council is a decision-making, control, and opinion-forming body for the entire work of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, and its members are among others people working to preserve the memory of German Nazi crimes - historians and diplomats.
During the meeting, the substantive report on the work of the Foundation for 2020 was approved, including its annual activity and financial plans. The members of the Foundation Council also approved the Foundation’s financial statements for 2020, which, according to the independent audit conducted by KPMG, are once again unquestionable and present a fair and transparent picture of expenditure and cash flow. The financial statements comply in all respects with the legal regulations.