"It is an honour to be part of your work"
The International Auschwitz Committee and the Volkswagen Group are among the honoured donors supporting education at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
Two plaques depicting donors who support the educational mission of the Auschwitz Memorial were unveiled at the headquarters of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust on 24 March.
'The Volkswagen Group has become part of this history over the many years of our cooperation. I cannot think of any other company, even among those that have had difficult moments in their history, that so clearly understands how to approach history, how to deal with it, how to work on the heritage of those times, and how to combine memory with the identity of the company,' said Dr. Piotr Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz Museum.
'This partnership began long before I became the director; however, I saw from the very onset that it was not just a one-off activity but a very profound understanding of how to confront critical moments in history and link them to the company's activities, not just now, but also in the future,' he added.
'It seems to me that it is the first time in Europe that remembrance can be the source of entirely new thinking about ourselves. The cooperation between the Memorial and the Volkswagen Group is the largest project of its kind in post-war Europe. For this reason, I would like to thank those present here today and all the volunteers who supported us – stressed Cywiński.
The Auschwitz Museum, Volkswagen and IAC have been cooperating for over three decades, with joint educational visits to the Memorial by groups of German and Polish young people and students from Volkswagen vocational schools constituting a vital element of this cooperation.
Thanks to the partnership with Volkswagen and the International Auschwitz Committee, it was possible to organize several significant international educational events at the Memorial, renovate the lecture halls and 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.
'One of the most poignant feelings I have whenever I am here, is that you are following in the emotional footsteps of the survivors, taking action to preserve this place for the world. It is a huge challenge when we see everything around us collapsing. The preservation of this place, particularly in these times, assumes even greater importance. There is no standing by and remaining silent,' said IAC vice-president Christoph Heubner.
'Educating and providing a vision for a new world is a way of making a difference. It is an honour for us to do this together with Volkswagen, thanks to which young people visit this place,' he stressed.
'It is necessary to change the way we think about the company's identity, precisely by not forgetting what happened and what it was part of,' Heubner added.
Cars donated by the Volkswagen concern support the Memorial's conservators, and minibuses help the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, among other things, in transporting former prisoners attending educational events at the Memorial.
'I would like to thank you above all for accepting our company to be a small part of this endeavour, especially a company like Volkswagen, whose history is linked to the Nazi regime. We have come a long way to achieving this partnership. I think our main objective will be to support the Museum in all possible areas. Young people who work for the Memorial are of particular importance to us. Over the years, this place has become particularly important to me. In light of the history of this place, our problems seem small,' said Gunnar Kilian, a member of the Volkswagen board.
'Referring to current events, I suppose we are all shocked that a war could break out again in Europe. It is an honour for us to be part of this vital undertaking, and we shall do all within our power to support the Memorial in the future,' Kilian added.