82nd anniversary of deportation of the first Poles to KL Auschwitz – National Remembrance Day
14 June 1940 is considered the date when German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz began its functioning. On that day, the Germans deported from the prison in Tarnów to the Auschwitz camp the group of 728 Poles. Among them were soldiers of the September 1939 campaign, members of underground independence groups, high-school and university students, and a small group of Polish Jews. They received numbers 31 to 758.
Events commemorating the 82nd anniversary of this event took place under the National Patronage of Andrzej Duda, the President of Poland. Upon the decision of the Polish Sejm, 14 June is commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camps.
A visual symbol of commemorative events was constituted by the original boxing glove that Tadeusz Pietrzykowski, prisoner of the first transport from 14 June (no. 77), used to wear while fighting at Auschwitz, and a secret message sent by him from the camp to his family.
13 Auschwitz Survivors took part in the events commemorating the anniversary at the Memorial, together with the representatives of state and self-government authorities, the diplomatic corps, clergy, delegations of organizers, members of numerous institutions and community organizations as well as all those who intended to honour the memory of the victims of German Nazis.
In his letter addressed to the participants of commemorative event Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture and National Heritage Prof. Piotr Gliński wrote: “Today we express the words of our utmost honour to all victims of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau, in particular to camp prisoners present during today’s events as witnesses of history sharing dramatic testimony of their lives, as well as to their families, descendants and relatives”.
'I would also like to thank the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, custodian of the Memorial, for its persistent efforts in securing and making available the proofs of German crimes perpetrated within the KL Auschwitz camp complex. Numerous Museum staff members today honour the members of their own families who experienced the suffering and martyrdom in this camp. This year, the Museum celebrates a great anniversary of 75 years of its activity consisting in titanic work on preserving the memory of this place, storing this painful heritage and making it publicly available', Prof. Piotr Gliński wrote.
The letter by Elżbieta Witek, Marshal of the Sejm was also read during the commemorative events: "On 14 June 1940, a cruel Nazi extermination machine was launched, born out of hatred and desire to rule the world. It took millions of lives, becoming the source of unimaginable pain and suffering, trampling dignity and choking hope. Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp became the site where the Nazi made the attempts to finally annihilate the Jewish nation, exterminate Poles, Roma and the representatives of other nations. The enormity of tragedy that took place here, extending beyond the borders of perception and understanding, continues to raise questions on preserving the values and on the essence of humanity.
In his speech Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, Director of the Auschwitz Museum, addressed Auschwitz Survivors present during the ceremony: 'By expressing my words of thanks for the participation of so many of you I would like, on behalf of the entire Museum staff, to pay homage to all those who perished here, who were tortured, but I also refer to all those who, after WW2, tried to save the peace using different methods. Even in the toughest communist times. May we be able to appreciate peace'.
'We are standing here together with those who lived their nearly entire lives under the pillory of the words “Never Again”. And we see what is happening beyond our eastern border, in Ukraine. Half a year ago, we all used to think that in Europe, the war on such scale is impossible. Dozens of thousands or more civilian victims. May this anniversary make us realize deep implications of lessons from the tragic past which, however, after WW2 formed the foundations of post-war reality, the time when we managed to live safely without the threat of war', Piotr Cywiński emphasized.
National anthem was played in front of Block 11 and under the Death Wall in the courtyard of Block 11 and the participants of commemorative events laid wreaths and candles in order to commemorate all victims of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz.
Wreaths were also laid under the plaque devoted to the first transport on the building of the former Polish Tobacco Monopoly, in the vicinity of the current Auschwitz Memorial site. This is where on 14 June 1940, the SS men placed the prisoners for the period of quarantine, and today, it is the seat of the Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki State University of Małopolska in Oświęcim.
Official ceremony finished with the Holy Mass celebrated at Saint Maximilian’s Center in Harmęże, where the exhibition by Marian Kołodziej, former prisoner of the first transport number 423 entitled “Negatives of Memory. Labyrinths” is presented. The Mass was led by Bishop Ordinary Roman Pindel of the Bielsko-Żywiec diocese.
'We have gathered in this very special church, not far away from the Auschwitz camp on 14 June in order to commemorate the first transport of prisoners from Tarnów. It is also the date when we commemorate the National Day of Remembrance for the Victims of German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camps. For years, we have been referring here to specific elements of this event that is considered a starting point for the operations of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in 1940. It is good that here, in the shadow of Auschwitz-Birkenau, but also in many other places in Poland, we remember. We do remember as expressed in the text to be found at the entrance to the famous cemetery of the distinguished in Zakopane: motherland is the soil and graves. Nations that lose memory, lose life', Bishop Pindel said.
One of the events accompanying the commemoration was the inauguration of the exhibition “Stolen Memory” created by Arolsen Archives displayed in front of the entrance to the Memorial until 30 June as well as the conference devoted to the fate of Polish foresters involved during WW2 in the activities of the resistance movement and the history of first transports of Poles to German Nazi camp Auschwitz. The agenda also included a discussion panel with the participation of the families of camp Survivors.
Organizers of commemorative events:
• Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
• Saint Maximilian’s Center in Harmęże
•Jewish Center in Oświęcim
• Bielsko-Żywiec Diocese
• Movart Foundation
• The Memorial Foundation for the Victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau
• Foundation of Memory Sites near Auschwitz-Birkenau
• Foundation-Memorial Hospice for the City of Oświęcim
• Oświęcim Municipality
• Cracow Foundation Center for Information, Meetings, Dialogue, Education and Prayer in Oświęcim
• Cavalry Captain Witold Pilecki State University of Małopolska in Oświęcim
• The City of Oświęcim
• The City of Tarnów
• International Youth Meeting Center in Oświęcim
• The Remembrance Museum of Land of Oświęcim Residents
• Castle Museum in Oświęcim
• Department of the Institute of National Remembrance in Cracow
• Province of Saint Anthony and Blessed Jakub Strzemię of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual Franciscans
• Oświęcim County Office
• Auschwitz Memento Association
• Roma Association in Poland
• Society for the Care of Oświęcim
• Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression