17th session of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Council
The 17th session of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Council took place at the Memorial on 2 September. The Foundation’s primary mission is to finance the preservation of the authentic remains of the Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi concentration and extermination camp. In the past year, the Foundation donated a record amount of over PLN 22 million for conservation works at the Memorial.
In opening the meeting, the chairman of the Council, Marek Zając, noted that today, from the perspective of the past years, one can see how important the decision to establish the Foundation has proven to be: It was the only chance to save the Memorial. Many doubted the project’s feasibility, but thanks to the commitment of Władysław Bartoszewski, director Piotr Cywiński, members of the International Auschwitz Council and various others, the task was successful.
'Over the years, the Council has done a remarkable job, bringing us to where we are today. It is a great credit to the Foundation team and the entire conservation team at the Museum. These are people who perform difficult and vital work. It guarantees that we are up to the task entrusted to us,' said Marek Zając.
In his speech, the director of the Auschwitz Museum and the president of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, Piotr M. A. Cywiński, PhD, stressed that although the pandemic outbreak threatened the Museum's financial liquidity, the only work that was not interrupted was conservation work. 'With continued funding from the Foundation, work was not in any danger of being halted. Moreover, during the difficult period of the pandemic, it was possible to retain some full-time positions at the Memorial thanks to the creation of an additional conservation programme,' Piotr Cywiński stated.
'The Covid pandemic also impacted the educational activities the Foundation is increasingly committed to. We have initiated talks with Israeli companies Appsflyer and Diskin on how to reach people via the Internet, and soon, a dedicated platform for online guided tours will be operational. It could be a revolutionary solution because we would be able to spread knowledge about Auschwitz to places from where a trip to the Memorial is difficult or practically impossible,' he added.
The project will also be made possible by the support of the Orange company, which has provided stable and fast wireless internet access throughout the Memorial.
'It must also be emphasised very strongly that the funds for educational activities do not come from the proceeds of the Perpetual Fund, which are earmarked exclusively for the preservation of the Memorial,' said Piotr Cywiński.
The year 2021 was a record year for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. The Perpetual Fund increased by more than PLN 142 million, primarily thanks to the final portion of the German donation and increased donations from Sweden, Italy, Turkey, Ireland and Portugal. A total of $190,000 was added to the Perpetual Fund through the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation in New York, which largely derived from donors that make up the so-called Pillar of Remembrance from Philadelphia.
Last year, the amount allocated for conservation work was also record-breaking: PLN 22.3 million. 'As many as 15 projects are currently being implemented simultaneously. - Perhaps in 2022, the amount will exceed PLN 25 million. Many projects are in the primary implementation phase. Brick buildings, wooden barracks and drainage ditches at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site are being restored. Technical facilities for conservationists are also being built near the former camp. Ongoing projects include the conservation of historical objects and archival documents,' said Agnieszka Tanistra-Różanowska, head of the Master Plan for Preservation.
'Given the situation in Ukraine, in March 2022, we decided to launch a special scholarship project at the Memorial for professional development in the conservation of objects of martyrdom, intended for conservators from Ukraine,' added Sylwia Teofiluk, Director of Conservation Projects at the Foundation.
The Endowment Fund created and managed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation has already been supported by nearly 40 countries. Currently, the Endowment Fund stands at approx. EUR 177 million out of the targeted EUR 180 million. Proceeds from the invested Capital are transferred to the preservation of the Auschwitz Memorial.
During the meeting, the Council approved the substantive report on the work of the Foundation for 2021 and the annual action and financial plans. The members of the Foundation Council also approved the Foundation's financial statements for 2021, which, according to the independent audit carried out by KPMG, once again raised no objections and presented a fair and transparent picture of expenditure and cash flow. The financial statements comply in all respects with the legal regulations.