French distinctions awarded to the representatives of the Museum
On December 12th, the ceremony of awarding the insignia of the Order of Arts and Letters to the Director of the Auschwitz Museum Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński (Officer’s grade) and to Dorota Kuczyńska representing Museum Press Office (Knight’s grade), was held in the French Ambassador’s residence in Warsaw.
"This unique activity that you undertake in the service of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and memory of the Holocaust as well as your personal involvement that this activity requires on a daily basis constitute the reason for which today, I have the honour to award you with the Order of Arts and Letters”, said Frédéric Billet, Ambassador of France to Poland.
"Please let me thank you on behalf of former Prime Minister of France Jean Castex whom we had the honour to host on Poland during the commemoration event of the 77th anniversary of liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. This visit became possible thanks to your involvement and availability at the time when the pandemic used to complicate and to a large extent hinder the possible options, as the safety, in particular of all Auschwitz Survivors, constituted our utmost priority”, the Ambassador emphasized.
Director of the Auschwitz Museum Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, spent part of his studies in France. Since 2011, he has been a board member of the Maison d’Izieu Memorial. He has taken part in numerous conferences held in France and is the author of several papers published in this country.
While presenting the distinction, Ambassador Billet said: “You have taken on a difficult mission that in recent years has become even harder due to the ongoing animated debate over the question of memory. You have been able to develop the Museum’s mission with great patience and professionalism, putting the greatest emphasis on education”.
“You are the author and co-author of numerous publications in Polish and in French. I refer here in particular to your latest book, “Auschwitz. A Monograph on the Human” that I hope will be translated into French. As its author, you have a great and unique contribution to preserving the memory of those who had become the victims of Nazi barbarism. With your writing, you build the foundations of collective remembrance and contribute to the development of our common European history”, Ambassador Frédéric Billet added.
During the ceremony, Director Cywiński emphasized: “One can ask oneself a question concerning the link between Auschwitz and art as well as literature… However, we have to bear in mind that a human is capable both of great creations and of destruction and annihilation. For this reason, memory constitutes such an important part of our culture.
In 2019, Piotr Cywiński was awarded with the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest order of merit of the French state.
Dorota Kuczyńska has been involved in the activity of the Auschwitz Museum for 25 years. She guides at the Memorial in French, while at the Press Office, she has been coordinating the work of film crews shooting documentaries within historical site for five years now.
"I am very glad that your career has led you to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. For French delegations, you are an exceptionally competent guide providing the tours in the French language”, Ambassador Billet said.
"This distinction rewards my efforts in the field of memory and what is more, I have been awarded it by France, the country so close to my heart”, Dorota Kuczyńska said.
Dorota Kuczyńska thanked for the distinction and also referred to the significance of the work on memory for her: “Memory constitutes the link between the past and the present, but it also encourages us to look forward into the future, which is nowadays, unfortunately, so uncertain. But it is also the memory of those who shed their blood while defending our country, of those who sacrificed their lives so that we could now be who we are. Through remembrance, we honour their deeds and make them live among us”.
The Order of Arts and Letters (Fr. Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) is a French civil distinction established on May 2nd 1957 by the French Minister of Culture and approved in 1953 by President Charles de Gaulle after the reform of the system of French state distinctions.
This distinction is awarded for significant merits in the field of art and literature, as well as for the popularization of art and literature in France and worldwide.
France is one of the donor states of the Perpetual Fund of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, whose aim is to preserve the authenticity of the remnants of German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. French support amounted to EUR 5 million.