30 years involvement of Volkswagen AG at the Auschwitz Memorial
An exhibition titled “Eine deutliche Spur” (Visible traces) was inaugurated in Berlin on the occasion of 30 years of cooperation between the Auschwitz Museum, Volkswagen Group and the International Auschwitz Committee.
The ceremonial inauguration of the exposition, which took place on 29 November 2017 was attended by Sigmar Gabriel Vice-Chancellor and German Minister of Foreign, CEO of Volkswagen Group Matthias Müller, Vice-Chairperson of the International Auschwitz Committee Christoph Heubner, deputy director of the Auschwitz Museum Andrzej Kacorzyk, representatives of the International Youth Meeting Centre and students of Volkswagen vocational schools.
In addition to historical photos, the exhibition presents young people from Germany and Poland assisting during conservation works at the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau and during meetings with witnesses of history - former prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp.
- As a society, but also as an enterprise, we must take a serious approach to our responsibility for democracy and freedom. I am saying this at a time when populism and nationalistic thinking are contravening the foundations of a united Europe. In the future, Volkswagen will continue to support the preservation of memory and its work at the Museum in collaboration with the International Auschwitz Committee - said, Matthias Müller.
- Today, we the survivors of Auschwitz are filled with sincere gratitude. The 30 years of Volkswagen’s involvement in the Memorial is a historical value, which is not only crucial to the Polish-German dialogue in difficult political times. Therefore, we are particularly grateful for the numerous meetings and discussions with German trainees and Polish students of the vocational schools. These young people have become our ambassadors. They are involved in the international agreement, building tolerance and democracy. They carry our history into the future. They preserve a place for future generations that more than any other testifies to the madness of anti-Semitism, and racial hatred, unmeasured human suffering and mass murder - Marian Turski, said.
In a letter addressed to those present at the ceremonial opening, the director of the Auschwitz Museum, Piotr M.A. Cywiński, PhD wrote: “Hundreds of volunteers from Volkswagen schools support our work by performing a number of tasks including; tidying up the premises of the former camp, maintaining infrastructure at the conservation workshops, preparing buildings for conservation works, and other technical areas of our Museum. It suffices to say that more than 20 thousand pieces of shoes belonging to victims have been secured by your students in recent years, and several other buildings have been prepared for conservation works. These visits perfectly combine voluntary work with lectures, guided tours and historical reflections, which makes them a formation tool that becomes embedded in the awareness of your future employees. I believe, that in this way a truly clever and well-thought ethos of your company is sculpted, capable of uniquely transforming the dramatic past into positive thinking about the future, on a global scale."
For 30 years, we have developed a deep cooperation in this area that has no analogy in time between companies rooted in the history of the Third Reich and any other institution of memory about the victims. I firmly believe that the result of these efforts is equally well perceived by people at VW and by us, museums of memory. And with all certainty, I see day after day how it serves hundreds of thousands and millions of visitors to the grounds of the former camp” - director Cywiński wrote.
Since 1987, over 3,000 young Germans and Poles, students of the Volkswagen vocational schools have been helping the Auschwitz Memorial. Together, they help in preserving the authenticity of the Auschwitz Memorial: remove weeds, assist in installing barbed wire to the post-camp fence, support specialists of the Memorial in the conservation of shoes belonging to the camp, among others.
Thanks to the partnership with Volkswagen and the International Auschwitz Committee, it was possible to organise several significant international educational events, renovate of lecture halls as well as release several important publications, including a collection of ten books with memories of Auschwitz survivors prepared on the 70th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
Transport vehicles donated by the Volkswagen Group supports our conservators, and buses transport hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the world between the former Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau camps.
The exhibition will be presented in Berlin until 8 December 2017.