The first university faculty created in partnership with the Auschwitz Memorial opened in Burgos, Spain
The founding act of the Faculty of Human Rights and Democratic Culture created by the National Institute of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Spain was signed at the University of Burgos on 22 September. It is the world's first university faculty to be co-created in partnership with the Auschwitz Memorial.
The agreement was signed in Burgos by: Dr. Manuel Pérez Mateos, v of the University of Burgos; Delfín Ortega Sánchez, Vice-Chancellor and Director of the new faculty; Eduardo de Ocampo, Secretary of the faculty; Enrique de Villamor y Soraluce, President of the National Institute of Auschwitz Birkenau in Spain and Honorary Consul of the Memorial in the country; and Auschwitz Museum Director Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, and the President of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Institute, Maria Ossolińska, head of the Diplomacy of Remembrance at the Auschwitz Museum.
Also present at the event were Magdalena Grabianowska, Counsellor-Minister of the Polish Embassy in Spain, and Ihor Ivachenko, First Secretary of the Ukrainian Embassy.
The Ministry of Universities of Spain supported the creation of the Department. Its mission is to provide comprehensive education and dialogue on the defence of human rights, prevention of genocide and all forms of hatred, anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance, and the promotion of democratic values.
‘The final stage on the road towards genocide is the process of dehumanisation of the victims of a given ideology. Therefore, research work, as well as teaching about fundamental human rights, is so important. It makes it possible to reveal and visualise the boundaries our communities must never cross,’ said Auschwitz Museum Director Piotr Cywiński.
The University of Burgos sees the establishment of the chair as an opportunity to develop education in Spain and beyond. It is intended to be a bridge in the dialogue between Spain, European and Latin American countries.
‘The rumblings of war, the peace that is breaking down in Europe, the barbarism that we are seeing again, justify even more intensely the creation of this Faculty of Human Rights. It is a great honour for the University of Burgos. The mission of the faculty is critical to raising students' awareness of the enormous importance of defending human and civil rights, broadly defined, in the contemporary world. The university partners with many other establishments in Europe and South America. Therefore, this initiative will undoubtedly be reflected in our international cooperation, said University Chancellor Manuel Pérez Mateos.
The National Institute of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Spain conducts educational activities for Spanish secondary school and university students. There are also plans for teachers’ training, support for scientific research projects and organisation of trips to the Auschwitz Memorial. The creation of the Burgos Chairs is an extremely valuable support for the Institute's activities in Spain.
‘It is the beginning of the immense work we must undertake given the times we live. Russia's war with Ukraine is currently underway at the gates of Europe. Often, when we talk about human rights and values of education, it seems as though it is something unnecessary. However, many are now questioning if we are doing all that is required. The faculty in Burgos will be a unique tool to educate ourselves about our universal values in a European context, for this dialogue must start from within. The building of the European spirit must begin with ourselves. Then, we will change the world for the better,’ said Enrique de Villamor y Soraluce.
One of the projects underway in Spain is the presentation of the exhibition 'German Nazi Death Camp Konzentrationslager Auschwitz'. The exhibition, prepared by the Museum and translated into Spanish, presents all the crucial issues on the history of Auschwitz, including the genesis of the Nazi movement and the specific elements of the German terror system introduced in occupied Poland. To date, the exhibition has visited Guernica, Logroño, Oña, Burgos and Gijon.
During his visit to Spain, the Museum Director also took part - together with the Polish Ambassador Anna Sroka - in the opening of the exhibition “Mom. I don't want war” in Guernica. The exhibition presents children's drawings depicting the tragedy of war: Polish children from the Second World War and Ukrainian children from Russia's ongoing war with Ukraine.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Institute undertakes international cooperation and offers, in close collaboration with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, numerous cultural, social and educational projects. The Institute aims to build and continually expand the network of people involved in diplomacy of remembrance at the Auschwitz Museum and to reach out to those who have never been to the Memorial. The Institute undertakes these activities in cooperation with institutions dealing with the Holocaust and extermination worldwide, educational and cultural institutions, associations, and individuals involved in the issue.
In conjunction with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Institute, the Museum is building a network of honorary ambassadors and consuls of the Memorial in various countries. Establishing local institutes is a further step that is extremely important for creating an ever more extensive network.
Spaniards have been among the most frequent visitors to the Memorial for years. Before the pandemic, over 100,000 people from Spain visited the Museum every year, and last year it was the second largest group of visitors after the Poles.