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Auschwitz-Birkenau on the World Heritage List

Date of inscription: 1979
Criterion: (6)
Oświęcim County, Lesser Poland (Małopolska)
Location: N50 4 0 E19 21 0
Ref.: 31


AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 on the basis of criterion 6.
The Committee decided to “restrict the inscription of other sites of a similar nature.” As in the case of other sites inscribed in the early stage of the existence of the List, the Committee did not accept the Statement of Significance. Certain elements having significance for the place were missing from the inscription itself, but the majority of them were included in the zone of silence and the buffer zone, a map of which—although it was never implemented—makes up an integral part of the nominating motion submitted by the Polish government and accepted by the World Heritage Committee.

The goal of the World Heritage Convention is to protect the Exceptional Universal Value of each World Heritage site, and this goal should be strongly emphasized. At its 31st session in 2007, the World Heritage Committee approved the following Statement of Significance (31 COM 8B.8):

“Based on the Statement of Significance, [it] further approves the name change to the following: Auschwitz Birkenau as title and German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945) as subtitle.”


Auschwitz-Birkenau was the principal and most notorious of the six concentration and extermination camps established by Nazi Germany to implement its Final Solution policy which had as its aim the mass murder of the Jewish people in Europe. Built in Poland under Nazi German occupation initially as a concentration camp for Poles and later for Soviet prisoners of war, it soon became a prison for a number of other nationalities. Between the years 1942-1944 it became the main mass extermination camp where Jews were tortured and killed for their so-called racial origins. In addition to the mass murder of well over a million Jewish men, women and children, and tens of thousands of Polish victims, Auschwitz also served as a camp for the racial murder of thousands of Roma and Sinti and prisoners of several European nationalities.

The Nazi policy of spoliation, degradation and extermination of the Jews was rooted in a racist and anti-Semitic ideology propagated by the Third Reich.Appeals to all States Parties to send web-links of their educational and information material to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in order to enhance understanding of its significance in the collective memory of humanity as a sign of warning of the many threats and consequences of extreme ideologies and the denial of human dignity

Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest of the concentration camp complexes created by the Nazi German regime and was the one which combined extermination with forced labour. At the centre of a huge landscape of human exploitation and suffering, the remains of the two camps of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau, as well as its Protective Zone were placed on the World Heritage List as evidence of this inhumane, cruel and methodical effort to deny human dignity to groups considered inferior, leading to their systematic murder. The camps are a vivid testimony to the murderous nature of the anti-Semitic and racist Nazi policy that brought about the annihilation of more than 1.2 million people in the crematoria, 90% of whom were Jews.

The fortified walls, barbed wire, railway sidings, platforms, barracks, gallows, gas chambers and crematoria at Auschwitz-Birkenau show clearly how the Holocaust, as well as the Nazi German policy of mass murder and forced labour took place. The collections at the site preserve the evidence of those who were premeditatedly murdered, as well as presenting the systematic mechanism by which this was done. The personal items in the collections are testimony to the lives of the victims before they were brought to the extermination camps, as well as to the cynical use of their possessions and remains. The site and its landscape has high levels of authenticity and integrity since the original evidence has been carefully conserved without any unnecessary restoration.

Criterion (vi) - be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal value

Auschwitz - Birkenau, monument to the deliberate genocide of the Jews by the Nazi regime (Germany 1933-1945) and to the deaths of countless others bears irrefutable evidence to one of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated against humanity. It is also a monument to the strength of the human spirit which in appalling conditions of adversity resisted the efforts of the German Nazi regime to suppress freedom and free thought and to wipe out whole races. The site is a key place of memory for the whole of humankind for the holocaust, racist policies and barbarism; it is a place of our collective memory of this dark chapter in the history of humanity, of transmission to younger generations and a sign of warning of the many threats and tragic consequences of extreme ideologies and denial of human dignity.

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