US State Department Honors 75 years of the Auschwitz Museum. National Leadership Award of USHMM for the director of the Memorial
On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Memorial at the site of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp, the US State Department organized a special ceremony that recognized the singular role the historic site has played in preserving Holocaust memory.
During the event in Washington D.C. held on 13 July, the Auschwitz Museum director Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywinski has been honored with a National Leadership Award from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM).
The ceremony was attended by Auschwitz survivors Irene Weiss and Ruth Cohen. Also present were Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; Ellen Germain, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues at the Department of State; ambassadors and representatives of the diplomatic corps; Stuart E. Eizenstat, the USHMM Council Chairman, and Sara J. Bloomfield, the USHMM Director. Other guests included Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Antisemitism; Lee A. Feinstein, former U.S. ambassador to Poland; Leah Pisar, daughter of Samuel Pisar, co-founder of Project Alladin.
The National Leadership Award of USHMM recognizes outstanding partners who have significantly advanced the museum’s mission.
“The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum plays a unique role in Holocaust memory and education. It is the site of a watershed event in human history, an iconic symbol of the world over human evil. And our most potent reminder of the dangers of unchecked antisemitism and hatred, Holocaust ignorance, distortion and denial, which are sadly intensifying,” said the USHMM Council Chairman Stuart E. Eizenstat.
“We are deeply grateful to Poland for its decision to establish the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, as well as its longstanding support for the institution. We applaud Dr. Cywiński’s stellar leadership of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and his singular contributions to advancing the cause of Holocaust memory and education in Europe and worldwide.”
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum was established through the efforts of survivors in 1947. It commemorates all victims of the German Nazi camp, where some 1 million Jews, 70 thousand Poles, 21 thousand Sinti and Roma, 14 thousand Soviet POWs and 12 thousand people of different nationalities and groups were murdered. The grounds cover 191 hectares, of which 20 are at Auschwitz I and 171 at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Today, the Museum includes among others the collections, archives as well as conservation, research and educational center.
Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Poland to the United States Adam Krzywosądzki spoke on behalf of Ambassador Marek Magierowski: “For the past 16 years, under the leadership of director Cywiński, the Museum has broadened the scope of its commemorative efforts and its outreach to wider audiences, and the director himself is widely recognized for his energy, professionalism, and impartiality. As a Pole, I am proud to observe the profound respect with which various interlocutors from different countries refer to the Museum, rightly treating it as one of the most important Holocaust memorial institutions in the world.”
“I stand here today to affirm once more that Poland will continue to preserve the memory of those who perished during the Holocaust. May we all recognize this common duty and instill the urgency of this great task in the future generations of Americans and Poles alike,” he added.
“More than a million people were murdered at Auschwitz, most of them Jews,” said the State Department’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Ellen Germain. “Auschwitz stands as testimony to the depths of evil to which humanity can descend, and so we can’t overstate its importance as a place of commemoration and education. For 75 years, since just after the end of World War II, Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum has taken on that dual role of honoring the victims and preserving their history. Under Dr. Cywiński’s leadership, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has supported accurate history and education about the Holocaust and has guarded against Holocaust distortion and denial. The United States is proud to work with such people and institutions.”
While receiving the award, Director Piotr Cywinski said: “The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was created just after the war by survivors of this infamous concentration camp and extermination center,” said Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński. “Seventy-five years later, with the survivors diminishing in number, it is our responsibility to determine the role of this memory in individual and collective lives. If we place the memory of the Holocaust only in the history books, it means that we have failed to understand the universal truth about humanity it reveals.”
“In today's world, our culture, legal, political, and diplomatic evolution, as well as our understanding of ethics and social norms cannot be comprehended without understanding the very essence of the planned dehumanization, exclusion, antisemitism, and racism of Auschwitz and the entire German Third Reich,” Piotr Cywiński added.
Sara J. Bloomfield emphasized that the USHMM has been partnering with the Auschwitz Memorial and other important historic sites across Poland for over 3 decades now and these partnerships have been incredibly important for the work of the institution she leads: “Auschwitz, being the most important iconic symbol of the Holocaust and place where systematic murder of the Jews took place has a special relationship with the Museum. We partner in so many ways – in education, in conservation, in memorialization. In the last several years it has been very vital to that partnership to work with Piotr Cywiński. His leadership and vision which has preserved this site and preserved what happened here but also made it relevant and meaningful to new generations worldwide is a singular contribution to our mission.”
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that recognized Piotr Cywiński with the National Leadership Award is the US national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust dedicated to ensuring the permanence of Holocaust memory, understanding, and relevance.