35th meeting of the International Auschwitz Council
Inaugural session of the fourth term of office of the International Auschwitz Council was held on July 26th at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw. Nominations were handed over to its members by the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki. The meeting was also attended by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and National Heritage Professor Piotr Gliński, Ph.D., as well as Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage Jarosław Sellin.
Among 25 members of IAC there are three Survivors of Auschwitz and the Holocaust: Ada Willenberg, Marian Turski and Stanisław Zalewski. Grzegorz Berendt, Ph.D. with habilitation degree, was appointed IAC President, while Dani Dayan and Albert Stankowski – Vice Presidents. IAC appointed its member Marek Zając Secretary of the Council. He served this function during previous terms of office of the Council as well.
In his speech Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki emphasized that the Auschwitz Museum constitutes one of the most important monuments of the tragic history of Poland, Europe and the world, assigned with a crucial role to play in building the future as it helps in understanding the causes that lead to such unique and dramatic crimes as those perpetrated in the camps established by the Germans.
"The responsibility for the Museum, its mission and preserving the memory of the victims of one of the biggest acts of genocide in the history of the world, constitutes the responsibility in front of the entire world. And this great responsibility also requires great involvement, great knowledge and power in testifying the truth. I undertake myself to assign the highest priority to this sacred site. The site that should constitute a warning for the entire mankind and today constitutes one of the most important sites on the map of the world”, Mateusz Morawiecki said.
"The Polish State makes huge efforts aimed not only at commemorating this cruel crime of the Holocaust, but also to preserve and care for cultural heritage of Polish Jews, as well as support the development, culture and life of the Jewish diaspora”, Prime Minister emphasized.
The following part of the session began with the speech by the new President of the Council, Grzegorz Berendt, Ph.D. with habilitation degree. Referring to the words uttered during the 75th anniversary of liberation of German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz by Survivor Marian Turski, he said: “We cannot remain indifferent towards the evil that is taking place and we need to act in advance. Our activity as IAC members, supporting the actions of governmental bodies, shall contribute not only to preserving the memory of the victims but also for the world that we live in not to repeat the errors of the past”, new President of the IAC said.
During the session, Museum Director Piotr M.A. Cywiński, Ph.D. summed up the most important events and activities undertaken at the Memorial within the last 4 years. He referred to the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of liberation, attended by numerous Survivors and heads of states. An important part of his speech was devoted to the pandemic, as it not only brought a dramatic decrease in attendance of the Memorial Site, but also had a direct effect on the breakdown of the budget of the institution. He talked about new exhibitions as well as conservation works conducted at an unprecedented scale and performed thanks to financial support from the Auschwitz Birkenau Foundation. He also emphasized the significance of new investment projects, such as the already completed seat of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust or the new Visitor Service Center, currently under construction.
"All these activities support education, so important not only for history teaching, but also for the experience of Auschwitz to sensitize us and ask us, contemporary citizens, disturbing questions on our current role, choices and attitudes”, Director Cywiński emphasized.
Next, IAC members took the floor. Marian Turski recalled many Survivors already absent among them and pointed out that the Council has established a specific connection between generations as well as it takes into consideration the perspectives of various environments; Ronald Lauder referred to the development of conservation activities in the early 1990s, to the necessity of continuous actions to be implemented in the area of Memory as well as mentioned the new educational film currently under preparation, which is supposed to constitute the response to growing anti-Semitism and denial. He also highlighted the great amount of hard work performed by Director Piotr Cywiński at the Memorial stating that he is looking forward to his further achievements; Christoph Heubner noticed that we live in the world which is becoming increasingly dangerous and one of defense mechanisms should consist in united efforts and the cooperation of the Museum with various institutions active in the area of education and Memory; Ada Willenberg referred to the issue connected with other Memorial Sites, especially Treblinka, as the history of her family is linked with this place.
Deputy Minister of Culture Jarosław Sellin noticed that the Council – as an advisory body – possesses great authority and even if its actions are concentrated in particular around the Auschwitz Memorial, its field of interests is much broader and refers to commemoration within such sites as: Bełżec, Kulmhof, Płaszów, Sobibór or Treblinka.
Dani Dayan, Director of the Yad Vashem Institute, referred to his recent visit at the Auschwitz Memorial on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the inauguration of the Museum. He emphasized how impressed he was by Museum staff and the way in which the institution coped in current difficult times. “I would like to express my appreciation towards Museum Director for his great work and I hope that it is going to continue”, Dani Dayan emphasized.
International Auschwitz Council is an opinion-giving and advisory body of the Prime Minister in the area of protection and management not only of former premises of the Auschwitz extermination camp, but also other Monuments of the Shoah. Its term of office lasts 6 years.
Members of the International Auschwitz Council:
- Grzegorz Berendt, Ph.D. with habilitation degree - President
- Dani Dayan – Vice President
- Albert Stankowski - Vice President
- Marek Zając - Secretary
- Colette Avital
- Zanet Battinou
- Michael Berenbaum
- Sara Bloomfield
- Piotr Cywiński, Ph.D.
- Jan Erik Dubbelman
- Rev. Paweł Gałuszka, Ph.D.
- András Heisler
- Christoph Heubner
- Artur Hofman
- Tomáš Kraus
- Roman Kwiatkowski
- Ronald Lauder
- Hannah Lessing
- Romani Rose
- Igor Shchupak
- Szalom Dow Ber Stambler
- Mateusz Szpytma
- Marian Turski
- Ada Willenberg
- Stanisław Zalewski