Orders of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Director of the Museum and the Director of the Education Center
The director of the Auschwitz Museum, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński and the director of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, Andrzej Kacorzyk were awarded the Orders of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The decorations were presented by the Secretary of State at the Chancellery of the Federal President Stephan Steinlein and the German Ambassador Dr. Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven at a special ceremony on 7 December at the Ambassador's residence under a strict sanitary regime.
'Piotr Cywiński and Andrzej Kacorzyk have contributed in a unique way to the commemoration of victims of Nazi crimes, reconciliation between nations and fostering peace. In recognition of these activities, President Frank Walter Steinmeier conferred on them the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany,' said Stephan Steinlein, who presented the recipients with handwritten letters from the German President.
'Director Piotr Cywiński, along with Władysław Bartoszewski, initiated the establishment of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation and is its President. Serving both functions, he has consistently worked to preserve the Memorial and open it to the whole world. In his work, he underlines the great importance of international dialogue. The fact that cooperation with the Germans is also sought in a place like Auschwitz is not an obvious matter and fills us with great gratitude,' he stressed.
'Andrzej Kacorzyk, Director of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, develops educational programmes that not only convey knowledge about what happened in a way that it permeates our consciousness but also demonstrate what Auschwitz means for the contemporary world and the young generation,' he added.
Ambassador Arndt Freytag von Loringhoven stressed that the honour is a recognition of achievements in German-Polish reconciliation: 'Through their work and tireless commitment, they contribute outstandingly to the culture of remembrance, making sure that the victims of Nazi crimes in Poland and around the world are never forgotten.'
'The unique coincidence of this recognition is the fact that the award ceremony takes place on the 50th anniversary of the famous gesture of the German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who knelt in front of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes during the wreath-laying ceremony," said Director Piotr Cywiński.
Minister Steinlein also referred to the event: '50 years ago, when Willi Brandt fell on his knees before the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, conscious of the enormous suffering experienced by the Polish people under the German Nazi regime as a result of German aggression and brutal warfare, occupation terror and genocide against the Jews.'
Director Cywiński also said that he was lucky to have come across two great masters of German-Polish reconciliation who had a profound influence on his understanding of the aims and essence of reconciliation: 'The first was Professor Władysław Bartoszewski, mentioned earlier, who showed me how the most difficult and painful history could be used as a foundation for a different future. The second was a close friend of my parents, Tadeusz Mazowiecki. I believe that recalling these two people here, and at this moment, is the fundamental key to understanding my various subsequent choices.'
While expressing his gratitude for the recognition, Andrzej Kacorzyk recalled one of his earliest experiences of working at the Memorial, participation in a meeting of German youth with two Auschwitz survivors, August Kowalczyk and Kazimierz Albin: 'Their camp experience is linked to the experience of escape and further activities in the resistance movement under the German occupation of Poland. Questions from young people. About revenge, guilt, punishment, the attitude of former prisoners, victims of Nazi hatred towards contemporary Germany and Germans.'
'Both witnesses clearly separate blame from accountability for today and tomorrow. They stress the importance of their audience's visit to Auschwitz and appreciate the courage to listen to the victims and confront such a unique chapter of history. They say that they, the young, are the hope for a world free from hatred. This lesson of understanding, listening and listening raptly, mutual respect for every human and open discussion is still ongoing,' stressed Andrzej Kacorzyk.
The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany is the only decoration awarded by the federal authorities of Germany. It was established in 1951 and is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the political, cultural or socio-economic fields.
The Federal Republic of Germany is the largest donor country to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation. The mission of the Foundation, established in 2009, is to preserve all authentic remains of Auschwitz-Birkenau. To this end, with the support of 38 countries and individuals, the Foundation creates and manages the Endowment Fund, and uses the resulting proceeds to finance the preservation of the Memorial Site. The initial support from Germany was EUR 60 million. This year, an agreement was signed to double that amount.