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I SSN 1899- 4407

PEOPLE

CULTURE

OŚWIĘCIM

HISTORY

MEMORY AND COMMEMORATION IN THE ERA OF WEB 2.0 AUSCHWITZ/BUCHENWALD 2011 no. 28

April 2011


Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

EDITORIAL BOARD:

Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine

Editor: Paweł Sawicki Editorial secretary: Agnieszka Juskowiak-Sawicka Editorial board: Bartosz Bartyzel Wiktor Boberek Jarek Mensfelt Olga Onyszkiewicz Jadwiga Pinderska-Lech Artur Szyndler Columnist: Mirosław Ganobis Design and layout: Agnieszka Matuła, Grafikon Translations: David R. Kennedy Proofreading: Beata Kłos Cover: Paweł Sawicki Miejsce Pamięci Buchenwald Photographer: Paweł Sawicki

EDITORIAL This month, once again, we handed over the pages of this monthly to the young participants of the international project Memory and Commemoration in the Era of Web 2.0. In the February issue we published articles that came to be during workshops held in Oświęcim. The second part of the project was held in March at the former Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany. The group effort, in the form of an article, written under the supervision of the chief editor of Oś, can be found on the following pages.

The International Youth Meeting Center, as every year, presented the awards to its Good Spirits. This year’s ceremony took place under the symbol of the seashell. In the Center, full of the ocean-themed scenery, consisting of the various intricately shaped and colored calcium carbonate wonders of nature, the donors and friends of the IYMC came together. As to who received an award, you learn from the extensive report about the ceremony. Before the War, where did the Chief Rabbi of Oświęcim live? Down which

A GALLERY OF THE 20TH CENTURY

The aroma of the hours, in the mirror of spring The post-winter earth is selfish.

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Easter… The joy of the victory of faith and springtime. A time of hope for the greenery and flowers. Two in one: a religious theme and that of the spring climate. And in all this, for me, a warm and tender Easter is “more important and

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum www.auschwitz.org.pl

PARTNERS:

Paweł Sawicki Editor-in-chief os@auschwitz.org.pl

IMPRESSION

aster in the spring. This year, it is especially a late spring event. Lent. Holy Week. Tomb of the Lord. The Liturgy—first the sad and mournful, then the Resurrection, and the joyful procession. In our city, in the old parish, an evening procession, at the Salesian Church—and then an Easter Sunday morning.

PUBLISHER:

streets did the Jewish inhabitants of Oświęcim walk? These and many other questions are answered in the newest project carried out by the Jewish Center in Oświęcim—Oshpitzin. This is already the 36th edition of Oś in Polish, which means it is our third birthday. We would like to thank you very much for being with us.

better” than the winter-cold of Christmas! In the part of the article, a poem with springtime and Easter themes.

The day grows in intensity, a touch of light The greenery has awoken in the fields. The trees and maidens sparkle, Among the rapidly feathering birds, And the wind —Shepard of the grassland in the sky Herds the clouds into enclosures of rain. And the holidays are coming, a Lenten mood, With nostalgia eating the biting horseradish, And jumping onto the outdoor table A bright sugary Holiday hare!

Andrzej Winogrodzki

Jewish Center www.ajcf.pl

Center for Dialogue and Prayer Foundation www.centrum-dialogu.oswiecim.pl

International Youth Meeting Center www.mdsm.pl

IN COOPERATION WITH: Kasztelania www.kasztelania.pl State Higher Vocational School ol in Oświęcim

Editorial address: „Oś – Oświęcim, Ludzie, Historia, Kultura” Państwowe Muzeum Auschwitz-Birkenau ul. Więźniów Oświęcimia 20 32-603 Oświęcim e-mail: os@auschwitz.org.pl

Photo: kasztelania.pl

www.pwsz-oswiecim.pl

The Salesian Church in 1914. Photo from Mirosław Ganobis’s collection

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Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

LAST MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE MUSEUM IN THIS TERM

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he last meeting of the Council of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in its four-year term of office was held. Council members unanimously approved a report on the activities of the Museum in 2010 and plans for next year. He talked about the biggest current projects and plans for the current year. Among the topics discussed were a steady increase in the number of visitors to the Memorial and the related project to create a new Visitors Service Center. Another important area of discussion was the

restoration work and activities related to the creation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Perpetual Fund, intended to fund them long term. The next item on the agenda was a speech by Krystyna Oleksy, director of the International Center for Educa-

MEMBERS OF THE MUSEUM COUNCIL Kazimierz Albin Alicja Bartuś Andrzej Bibrzycki Prof. Tomasz Gąsowski Prof. Jan Kantyka Prof. Edward Kosakowski Prof. Stanisław Krajewski Piotr Kućka Jerzy Wróblewski, Chairman tion about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, who spoke about the projects carried out by the ICEAH. Council members raised concerns about the real threat to the development of the Center for Education due to lack of funds for the adaptation of the so-called Old Theater building for the future headquarters of the ICEAH. The Museum tries to raise the money needed in the fourth stage of the Oświęcim Strategic Government Program,

Photo: Bartosz Bartyzel

One of the main subjects of the meeting was the budgetary situation of the Memorial, deteriorating year by year. At the beginning of the meeting the director of the Museum, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, familiarized the Council with the work of the institution last year.

The Museum Council meeting

but still is not quite certain whether this strategic investment will be included in the OSGP. The Museum Council is a consultative body appointed by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage under the Law on museums. It exercises supervision over the statutory activities of institutions and gives its opinion on future plans of action. 2bart

A GIFT FROM VOLKSWAGEN TO THE MUSEUM

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he Auschwitz Memorial has received a Caravelle T5 car from Volkswagen. This valuable support for the work of the Museum was made possible thanks to the help of the International Auschwitz Committee and the personal involvement of its deputy chairman, Christoph Heubner. It is also a continuation of many years of cooperation with Volkswagen AG.

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all know, is really very serious help,” noted Cywiński. Emphasizing the uniqueness of over twenty years of collaboration between the Memorial and the Volkswagen company, including inter alia visits of youth groups that help with maintaining the Memorial and at the same time learn about its history. Director Cywiński, addressing high school students of the VW school, insisted: “For us, your help is support for different sections of our hard work. I also believe that a deeper knowledge of this place will help you to settle different things in your minds. It is really good that VW has made this its policy, its clear will. Thank you for your presence and for your willingness to help. Each little bit of help contributes to securing the future of this Place. We do this in part in

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memory of the victims, and in part for future generations.” “Our twenty years of cooperation means a lot for Volkswagen,” said the representative of the VW company, Ines Doberanzke. “Young people who come here, take some-

thing back with them. Later they come back, and bring their family and friends. Youth work is a symbol, but also practical help. We also thank you heartily for your cooperation and for what the Museum does for us. Without

this, our project would not be what it is today. Therefore, all the more I am glad that today we can give this car to the Museum,” emphasized Ines Doberanzke.

Photo: Bartosz Bartyzel

“We would like to pass on the keys to the car,” Christoph Heubner said during the ceremony of turning over the car. “Here it will be able to be used to care for former prisoners and the needs of the International Center for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust,” added Heubner. “I would like to thank you for this gesture,” said Piotr M. A. Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz Museum. “Of course the needs are enormous and this support is of the essence. You have to remember that we are an institution, away from big university centers, away from the airport. Arrivals of former prisoners, various experts and invited guests require logistical assistance. As this Place is growing and its importance in the world increases, this support, in the budgetary situation we

Students of the VW School at the Memorial Site

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2bart


Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

THE FIRST TRANSPORT OF POLISH WOMEN

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n the morning of April 27, 1942, the Germans brought to Auschwitz the first transport of Polish women from Montelupi Prison in Kraków. Most of the women from this transport were earlier arrested in Kraków for underground activities. A few hours later to Auschwitz, another transport of Polish women from Tarnów arrived. Previously, on March 19, 1942, a transport of 144 women was brought to Auschwitz from the prison in Mysłowice. According to accounts by former prisoners Władyslaw Siwek and Wiesław Kielar, all were shot at the Death Wall. Below we publish a selection of prisoner testimonies from those brought in the first transport from Kraków. kammer, where I worked in sorting and disinfecting clothing that remained after the transports were gassed.

TERESA WICIŃSKA camp number 6817

LUDWINA MAKUCH camp number 6828 Statements Fond, vol. 83, pp. 138-139 … they loaded about 70 women (I was among them) into an enclosed vehicle and we were taken away. Almost all of us were convinced that we were going to the concentration camp in Oświęcim [Auschwitz]. We had heard about this camp before. Some of the women in the transport were deluding themselves that we were not being taken to Auschwitz, because there was no camp for women there. Most of us, however, viewed this with skepticism.

It turned out that our suspicions were unfortunately accurate. We were driven out of the vehicle. We found ourselves inside the Auschwitz camp. ... That, what we saw, shook us to the core. One prisoner from our transport, a Silesian woman named Julia Habryka said, “Girls, here we’re not even going to make it a day.”

JÓZEFA KIWAŁA camp number 6792 Statements Fond, vol. 14, p. 66 This was the first transport of Polish political prisoners. SS-Aufseherin Drexler received the transport, and then the prisoners were escorted to block 2, where they were robbed of their personal items, registered, and given numbers. ... In the evening another transport of Polish women from Tarnów arrived, from which Stenia Starostka was selected to be the block elder, and subsequently she became the Lagerälteste.

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Statements Fond, vol. 43, pp. 46-47 KRYSTYNA WITEK (NEE) Shortly after arrival we had our belongings taken away, our personal details were written down, we CYANKIEWICZ, camp number 6820 were put though the camp’s disinfection as well as bath, and we were assigned some camp clothes— Statements Fond, vol. 51, p. 3 striped uniforms and wooden clogs. Hygienic conditions at the time were horrifying. The insects proliferated to the unparalleled amounts, esLUDWINA MAKUCH pecially the terrible plague of fleas. Sleep was somecamp number 6828 thing impossible. When we stood at roll call, fleas immediately jumped onto the body. In a short time, so many of them glued themselves onto us, that our Statements Fond, vol. 83, pp. 138-139 The baths took place in block 3 or 4. Today I do legs looked black from far away. ... Almost all Polnot remember exactly. After that, we were issued ish women worked outside, most often employed in striped uniforms and wooden clogs, and were herd- heavy labor. We walked a distance of up to 9 km ed to block number 8. I inhabited the ground floor. in the direction of the old riverbed of the Vistula. At that time, there already were the three-level We were employed in agricultural works, digging bunk beds. Initially, we slept one to a straw-filled drainage ditches, and the dismantling of the houses mattress, because there were still so few of us. ... of those who had been evicted. Later, a transport arrived from Tarnów. The block elder was a Polish woman from Silesia. Her name was Lidia.

TERESA WICIŃSKA camp number 6817 Statements Fond, vol. 43, pp. 46-47 After all the initial steps, which I described above, were done, I was placed in block 8. We slept on three-level bunks and sanitary situation, in comparison to that later experienced at Birkenau, was good. While imprisoned at the Main Camp, for a short period of time I worked at Buna.

JANINA TOLLIK camp number 6804

Statements Fond, vol. 57, p. 66 In the beginning, they took us to carry out agricultural and earth works to Babice, and later to Budy. For a relatively long time, I went to work in Pławy and Harmęże. Large fishponds were found there. The Statements Fond, vol. 83, pp. 138-139 prisoners worked there pulling weeds, cleaning the Upon arrival at the camp we were not put through ponds as well as its banks. This work was very heavy any kind of quarantine. Already on the second or and was carried out in the mud and water. third day, we were sent to work. Initially, we were working at digging ditches outside the camp. From the camp to the place of labor it was about a 10 km march towards Brzeszcze. Later, we were put to work cleaning the construction site of a factory, probably Buna. We had to cut bushes, pull weeds, and perform various other jobs.

LUDWINA MAKUCH camp number 6828

TERESA WICIŃSKA camp number 6817 Statements Fond, vol. 43, pp. 46-47 August 6, 1942, all women were transferred from the Main Camp to the women’s camp at Birkenau. I remember that it was a sweltering day. We marched on foot, in rows of five. We were put into the brick barracks. I was assigned to a barrack standing near the kitchen—I do not remember the number. We were horrified by the conditions that we experienced there. A shortage of water—one well for the whole camp; around the barracks, endless, slippery mud; barracks overfilled with female prisoners, the bunk-bed compartments filled with damp straw. ... At Birkenau, I started working in the camp kitchen. After a month, I was transferred to the Effekten-

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During the summer I was employed in haymaking on the banks of the old Vistula riverbed. On June 24, 1942, as part of so-called collective responsibility—that related to prisoner’s escape—I was put into the penal company (Strafkompanie – SK) which, at that time, was in a school building in Budy. The time I spent in the SK was very difficult for me. ... This is where—in the penal company—that I began sketching scenes of camp life. I created a series of sketches and paintings of landscapes, which surround the sad environs around Oświęcim. I wanted to imprint these images in my memory. ajs

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Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

REMEMBRANCE AND THE MEDIA

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ow can today’s media help in maintaining the memory of the historical events of the Second World War? How can images, text, and sound be used to speak about places such as Auschwitz and Buchenwald? And, in what way can you use the accounts of eyewitness of those times today?

These are just some of the questions that young participants involved in the international project Memory and

Commemoration in the Era of Web 2.0 asked themselves. The event took place this year, first at the Auschwitz

Memorial Site, and later at the former Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Participants worked in four teams dealing

with the text, audio, video, and Internet. The groups’ work was led by Oś Editor in Chief, Paweł Sawicki. In the

February issue we first published the work done by the participants. Now it is time for further articles.

SOMETHING MORE THAN REMEMBERANCE: ACTION!

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Also passionate were the four leaders of the workshop, dealing with: the text, audio, video and Internet—they gave their time to work with a group of “amateurs” in this extraordinary project. Leading the text preparation group was Paweł Sawicki, whom I asked what he thought of those under his care. Answering my “silly” question, he replied: “If we take into account that all participants are, first of all, beginners as well as quite busy in their daily lives, it is a major achievement that they have come to the seminar. They decided to spend a few days to visit Auschwitz and Buchenwald, to spend time with survivors, to work on the project. This is already a success, and everything that is created during the project, is a kind of added value.” At the end he added: “Everyone has personally proven that they can add their little piece

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events do not occupy an appropriate place in the collective memory,” he added. Paweł also spoke about the fact that a journalist should understand how individuals as well as European politics cope with the subject of the Holocaust. We also talked about the difficulties. For the young leader of the video group, Adam Symonowicz, the problem was the language barrier. “I had some problems interacting with some members of the group, because English is not my strong point,” he said. But at the very end all spoke one language, the language of creativity. You can check it out and enjoy the great results of work of the group that created the excellent films. Which video was the most important for the group? Adam replied in the following manner: “The text preparation and auto the puzzle for some greater dio groups are, of course, no good—their experience, their less important than we are. point of view, their personal What made us different was perspective.” the fact that we could actually Indeed, each of the participants had a chance to realize their ideas, but also to learn about and share their insights with the witnesses. Each person had a slightly different motivation in doing this project. And what were the motivations of leaders: is it the work, or rather the pleasure? “On one hand this was a professional undertaking. I am a journalist, and I teach media and at the same time I was able to run this kind of workshop. But the subject matter of this meeting is also a very important reason for my participation in this project,” said the head of the audio group, Paweł Kamiński. “I am interested in history in general, but I am also interested in the history of the Holocaust, and I feel that this topic is not discussed enough and these

show the audience the places and people that had taken part in the project.” Without the groups working on the text, audio, and video, the project would not have been complete; because this is also about Web 2.0 as well as social media. The group dealing with the Internet, led by Sebastian Schroeder-Esch, had an extremely challenging job. Its members had to collect the resulting work of the three teams, and show this in an attractive way to the wide audience on the world wide web. “This is an integral part of the whole project,” said Sebastian. “The most interesting part is that the entire platform is free. How is that possible? Well, the answer is simple— the blogosphere! Blogging allows all participants to publish their work. Everyone can watch, read, and listen to them as well as make comments, of course. A true Web 2.0 project!,” he added. This method also involves challenges. “We want the

Photo: Paweł Sawicki

Photo: Paweł Sawicki

hen I sent the first application for the workshop held by the Association Maximilian Kolbe-Werk, I received a reply that, though there was not a thought at all about Macedonia, they were happy that I was interested and I might have the opportunity to go... and that is what happened. I was a participant in the project Memory and Commemoration in the Era of Web 2.0. Why was I able to do so, although my country was not even taken into consideration when creating the seminar? I was active... I was truly passionate!

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blog’s content to be available in different languages and we are constantly working on the most effective resolution. A professional website is a very expensive answer to this, we are looking for good alternatives,” said Sebastian. It must be remembered that all the teams worked on the various topics related to the Holocaust, together with survivors, and in order to create something that is lasting for future generations. As Paweł Sawicki has said, “Everyone has personally proven that they can add their little piece to the puzzle.” Most important is the fact that we had the chance to talk and listen to stories of survivors. Thanks to that, we have witnessed their history. We remember and commemorate, but the most important thing is that in addition to this remembrance, we have chosen to be active. Mustafa Yakupov


Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

THE WAR THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD AND AN ADULT

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e, the young participants in the project run by the Association Maximilian Kolbe-Werk, heard many stories told by witnesses of history. Sharing their stories were, among others, two survivors: Isaac Segalis and Vasily Volodko. Mr. Segalis ended up in a ghetto as a child. Vasily Volodko was deported to a concentration camp as an adult. Two different fates, two different views of Nazi terror. How is a concentration camp remembered through the eyes of a child and how is it remembered through the eyes of an adult?

Photo: Paweł Sawicki

childhood spent with their family, without hunger and fear. The story of Vasily Volodko was completely different. He was arrested in 1943 when he was 19 years old. His story was more concise, constructive, based on historical facts and dates, but, of course, his emotions were also present there. His most terrible experience was being held in a Gestapo prison. The Germans treated him very brutally, which had affected his health. Paradoxically, it was thanks to this that it was a bit easier to survive the Dachau Concentration Camp, where he was sent to the hospital and avoided the exhausting slave labor. Mr. Volodko talked about the every day function of the Gestapo prison: “Every morning, the Germans ordered us, the weak and starved to do jumping until we lost our energy. They tied the bags of bricks to the backs of some prisoners and forced them to exercise.” The 86-year-old Vasily can talk about his experiences with a touch of bitter humor, but somewhere behind it,

it not been returned, we wouldn’t have been able to get out of there, because no one would have moved the stove. I do not know how or why, but he was allowed to return home. Thanks to that we managed to survive,” he said. As a small child in the world of the concentration camp, Mr. Segalis began thinking

about death very early on; something that he actually saw on a daily basis. “I realized that the worst thing you could do to me was to kill me. I did everything to stay alive,” he said. The extraordinary story of a child who survived Nazi brutality symbolizes the fate of thousands of children who were deprived of a normal, happy

Juliana Ryazantseva

Photo: Paweł Sawicki

The story of Isaac Segalis, who was three years old when he was taken to the ghetto of Kaunas, was full of personal emotions, fragmentary memories, and colorful scenes which remained in his memory. His first memory was the inhumane division of all prisoners into two groups. Some were sent to a brutal death in the gas chambers, however, others were allowed to live, or rather exist, within the ghetto. “My entire family ended up behind the walls: my mother, father, sister, grandparents, and I,” Mr. Segalis said. “A long queue formed at the gate. Before us, stood a person in a uniform, who loudly screamed ‘Left! Right!’ in German. My mother, father, sister, and I ended up on the right side. My grandparents on the left side, in other words, sent to die. I did not understand that I would not see them ever again.” Another clear memory he possessed was that of hiding under the floor, located in the house where Isaac and his mother were hiding from being deported to a labor camp, where people were chosen to be killed. “To make the hide-out harder to find, my father covered the entrance with a heavy oven. One day, as my sister, mother, and I remained in hiding, the Germans ordered my father to leave the house. Had

there are deep, hidden emotions hidden.” Hunger, the omnipresence of death, survival in inhuman conditions, and the constant fear of death are terrible things. Terrifying for those of all ages. A child’s psyche is not able to survive this unscathed. We know the stories of the child survivors of the camps who played at doing “selections” and “pogroms,” rather than normal games. Only in adulthood did they recognize the horror of those events. Isaac Segalis was lucky because he remained with his family. Despite the hopelessness of the situation, he had his family with him. When Vasily Volodko was sent to the camp, he did not have anyone with whom he could share the darkest moments of his life. The fact that he had such great courage and did not break down in the terrible conditions of the Gestapo prison and later at Dachau is unusual. Child and adult, Isaac Segalis and Vasily Volodko, despite their differences, share a burden—the burden of a tormented, but unbroken human being.

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Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

THE WORLD VISITS AUSCHWITZ DURING THE WORLD CAFÉ

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ovely tables, lively discussions, and menus placed on the tablecloths: a pleasant, normal coffee shop. However, upon closer scrutiny this is something completely different; conversations in English, Polish, Russian, and German resound throughout the room, the tablecloths are made of paper, and on the menus, instead of the dishes offered, there are questions: What impact does the memory of the Second World War have on the creation and development of a national identity? Is it possible to create a common international culture of memory? Instead of coffee there is a serious discussion. the past allows us to build the present and the future. We can create a national identity, when we recall the past events” is the common conclusion. That evening an interesting question was asked, as to the way topics such as: the Second World War, National Socialist ideology and the Holocaust are taught during history lessons in schools. There were various answers to this question. For example, in Israel, all three themes are interconnected and it is important to possess good knowledge of these issues. Everyone must learn about this, and after a few weeks they must take an exam. The Government supports the commemoration of the Holocaust, even if it is through organizing a day of remembrance. In Polish education there is more information on the effects of, rather than the causes of the Second World War. Not enough is said about the Nazi era, although there are special educational programs for teachers, while students visit the Memorial Sites. The subject is breached not only during history lessons, but also during art and literature classes. In Communist times there was a serious problem, because history was taught differently at home from that in schools. That has now changed. In Russia, the most important day is Victory Day on May 9. The National Socialist ideology and the Holocaust are presented from a political standpoint, and even now, these are difficult questions. The anniversary is commemorated annually, but it does not take place in schools, but in various youth organizations. Young people from Germany were divided. For some, the lessons are interesting. You can watch many movies, listen to radio shows and, of course, read a large amount of books devoted to

Photo: Paweł Sawicki

ing of reflections someone wrote: “To have an identity, you have to have a history. To make history, an identity is needed.” The Israeli guests said that the memory of the Holocaust has had a profound impact on the identity of the Israelis. Many people have known survivors and every year a national day of remembrance takes place, which touches everyone. The Russian participants observed that the military victory of the Second World War was of greatest pride in the former Soviet Union; however, it is also important to note that, in Russia and in other post-Soviet countries, historians are beginning to address the subject of the Holocaust, because not all the facts are known yet. In contemporary Poland, the culture of memory is a popular phenomenon—much is said about it, but there are also many opportunities to do something concrete, to not forget. “Knowledge of

this period. But some want to know more. You can meet many Germans, who take part in various volunteer programs in Poland and visit the places connected with the history of the Holocaust. The discussion on how to create and develop various forms of memory and commemoration, which does not serve political ends and cannot be used for nationalistic purposes, presented very many possibilities.

International dialogue and interviews with surviving witnesses should be documented and presented even on the Internet. Also important are education, intergenerational communication, pluralism, and diversity. And, as it turns out, everything can start from an international discussion, over a cup of coffee.

Photo: Paweł Sawicki

Photo: Paweł Sawicki

During the international meeting in Oświęcim, participants took part in workshops devoted to the culture of memory within their own countries. The World Café brought together a variety of perspectives and posed many questions. Small, mixed groups of people from different countries and of different ages sought the answers. The main problem discussed during the meeting was how the mass media and societies deal with the culture of memory. “After the end of World War II German identity had collapsed and, in reality, the situation never truly returned to normal. Showing any trace of patriotism was accompanied by a feeling of deep shame. German flags and the German national anthem, appeared for the first time only in 2006 when Germany held the world football championship,” said one of the German participants. On the special card for the writ-

The coordinator of the project Memory and Commemoration in the Era of Web 2.0 was the Association Maximilian Kolbe-Werk. The progress of the participants’ efforts can be followed on the website: Maximilian-Kolbe-werk.blogspot.com

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Anna Reinhardt Katarzyna Gasińska


International Youth Meeting Center

Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

OUR CONSUL

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Dr. Thomas Gläser

Photo: IYMC

n March 2007, the Consul General of Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Thomas Gläser, had been awarded a statuette of the Good Spirit at the annual meeting of the Good Spirits, Friends and Benefactors of the International Youth Meeting Center in Oświęcim. The statuette was accompanied by a certificate, in which the jury justified its choice, highlighting the remarkable ability of the Consul to combine the functions of a diplomat with sensitivity to the challenges posed by modern times, and the particular understanding of the issues of historical Auschwitz and the modern city of Oświęcim. In early March 2011, we received the sad news Dr. Thomas Gläser had died in Barcelona. A terrible message, unbelievable, that is so difficult to come to terms with.

There are individuals that you meet and it changes the way you look at our world, sometimes it also changes relationships among people. Thomas Gläser was one of these people. If the term “Polish-German reconcilia-

tion” defines a certain process, the work of the former Consul General of Germany in Cracow was the process’ practical realization. He was a remarkable person, combining the seriousness and authority of the office he held with an exceptional openness towards others and a kindness that gained him allies and friends. Few people in recent years have done so much for bettering the neighborly Polish-German relations, especially for the perception of Germans by the Poles. And although we know that while he was the Consul in Cracow, he was highly valued and respected; his activity and consistently fulfilled need to get to know the people among whom he lived and worked (his customary walks through the area covered by the consulate in Cracow), for us, employees of the IYMC, was a particularly important and close. From the first meeting in our Center, immediately after following his visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, it became clear to us that the problems associ-

ated with this unique place’s history in Poland and Germany would become a priority for the Consul. It is impossible to calculate or overestimate the initiatives taken up by Thomas Gläser for the city of Oświęcim as well as the International Youth Meeting Center. The close cooperation with the State Higher Vocational School in Oświęcim (that included a significant extension of its library collection), taking part in the difficult discussions to find financial support from Germany for the construction of the Memorial Hospice in the city of Oświęcim, or his cooperation with the Rotary Club of Oświęcim, which he was also a member of, are just some of the very important projects in which Thomas Gläser took part. He also worked in cooperation with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the International Auschwitz Committee, the Association of Roma in Poland, the Center for Dialogue and Prayer, and the Jewish Center in Oświęcim. Recognition of his work includes

his reception of the Medal of the City of Oświęcim. Thomas Gläser was closely connected to the Meeting Center from the beginning. He participated in countless events carried out by IYMC (lectures, exhibitions, and concerts); a deep relationship that linked him with former inmates of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the eyewitnesses, and the weight he attached to the visits of young Germans to this especially marked place, allows us to call Thomas Gläser the ambassador who carried the message which flows from the International Meeting Center, the pedagogical concept that “Auschwitz is a place of learning.” He sponsored the jubilee exhibition The other side of the world which, thanks to his support, could be presented in Cracow as well as in many German cities. He was uniquely consequential and sought to make others aware and appreciate the work the Center is doing in the very complicated field of pedagogy of remembrance. He accompanied a countless number of delegations that

after visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, also had the opportunity to get acquainted with the activities of the IYMC. He supported the active role of Volkswagen AG with respect in fostering a culture of remembrance, frequently meeting with the youth involved in study programs at the Meeting Center. He knew most of the IYMC staff, valued our homecooked meals, and when with us, he felt he was among friends. The time spent with Thomas was for the Center and for those of us working here an important and good time. We believe that he felt the same way. He was the Consul General of Germany in Cracow. He was also our Consul. At the end of May 2011, the Judaica Foundation – Jewish Cultural Center in Cracow together with the International Youth Meeting Center in Oświęcim plan to organize an evening and concert in Cracow devoted to the memory of Consul Thomas Gläser. Leszek Szuster

INSIDE THE (SEASHELL) HOUSE “When a quarter of a century ago the creators of this place made it known as the International Youth Meeting Center, it was a slight exaggeration. It’s a bit like the names of newly born babies. We do not know whether the few day old treasure, who we name Victoria will be victorious in life. We do not know whether baby named Peter will truly be real bedrock... Likewise, it was not certain whether the International would be truly international, and would become recognizable in the world,” said Alicja Bartuś, the Chair of the IYMC Foundation Board, opening the yearly meeting of Good Spirits—friends and donors of the Center… Germany. It deserves this merit also due to the many quiet and valuable projects that have created the Center’s unique character: meetings with poetry, art, philosophy, history... and above all—with other individuals.

A place in the heart The theme of this year’s meeting of friends and donors of the IYMC was the seashell. The Good Spirits met at the Center full of maritime scenery, surrounded by variously shaped and colorful wonders of nature intricately

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formed out of calcium carbonate. Małgorzata Szpara, as always, took good care of the fabulous evening’s artistic backdrop. Invited to spend a few moments in the quiet serenity of the seashell were the faithful, regular guest of events organized by the International Youth Meeting Center, those former Auschwitz prisoners who have become friends of the Center: Zofia Posmysz, August Kowalczyk, Wilhelm Brasse, Tadeusz Smreczyński, Józef Paczyński, as well as representatives of the city, county, and province institutions.

Photo: Jakub Senkowski

Today no one doubts that this known to us all for 25 years mature and unique “youngster” is recognizable not only in Poland and Germany, but also in Strasbourg and New York, Eastern and Western Europe, Israel, as well as in... South Africa. And this means that it fully deserves to be called “International.” This is not only the effect of many high-profile meetings, that have taken place in the Center, such as the recently organized debates with current and former chairmen of the European Parliament or the meeting that included the presidents of Poland and

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Joanna Galistl, a Good Spirit in the “Donnor” category

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International Youth Meeting Center

The shell is also a house…

Józef Paczyński (right) and Piotr Kudełka (left), a Good Spirit in the “Artist” category

Gładyszek. The former prisoners who are presently here say the same thing and, despite the years, they continue to perform their mission— that is how much they enjoy returning here. Teenagers who listen to the words of eyewitnesses say this. As do the great artists, as well as their grateful audience. We hope that, for you, the IYMC has found a place in your heart during the last quarter century,” Dr. Alicja Bartuś emphasized in her introductory speech.

Gaba Kulka

The seashell gives birth to pearls Shell is an attribute of the deities of the sea. Pearls are born out of it, which symbolize beauty. The Meeting Center on March 20, a Sunday evening, released these pearls and awarded them. For the ninth time already, with the help of artists from the Teatr Gry i Ludzie [The Games and People Theater], extraordinary individuals were honored—the IYMC Good Spirits. “Statuettes of the

Good Spirit are awarded to people who are particularly close to us, and those who, in various ways support, help, and inspire us,” said the IYMC director and host of the evening, Leszek Szuster. This year, Piotr Kudełka was awarded the Good Spirit statuette (in the category: “Artist”)—for outstanding artistic achievement, for his mastery and virtuosity as well as bringing the art of the guitar to young people, for true cooperation with the International Youth Meeting Center in carrying out the most prestigious artistic ventures, especially the Cracow Poetry Salon, for including the Kudełka musical family—his sister Maria and his brother Jan—in the artistic presentation at the Meeting Center, and for his humility and sincerity. For the category of “Donor,” Joanna Galistl, owner of the bakery “Ptyś” in Chełmek, was awarded for her subtle, long-term, and regular support for the Cracow Poetry Salon; for her poetic artistry in the art of confectionery, with a deep understanding of the ideals of the Center. In the category of “Reliable Rescuer,” the statue of the Good Spirit was given to Marcin Boiński for his sensitivity, kindness, and big heart, but also for the fact that nothing is impossible for him, and for always having time

for the IYMC, when he does not have any time! To finish the evening, inside the musical shell of the IYMC, was a performance by the pearl of Poland’s music scene—Gaba Kulka—a talented vocalist and pianist, with an exceedingly rich imagination and fantastic voice. It was an amazing concert with the blend of progressive pop, which combines within itself various genres, from jazz to piano rock, and the Weill cabaret created a beautiful setting for another, amazing Meeting with a capital “M.”

Monika Bartosz

Photo: Jakub Senkowski

Photo: Jakub Senkowski

At the IYMC many people from around the world found a home. “Our sorely missed friend Jadwiga Toczek, who, with her husband Janusz, conjured up for us a series of Poetry Salons in this room, said this. So did our great friend Thomas Gläser, former German Consul in Cracow. Jan Knycz, who from the outset had been associated with the IYMC, said the same. Former prisoners, no longer with us also said this— Zofia Łyś and Władysław

Photo: Jakub Senkowski

For each visitor that crossed the threshold of the IYMC the hosts presented a seashell as a gift—a wonderful gift of the seas and oceans, which could be used by its new owner as a beautiful natural mirror, a household decoration, or even a musical instrument. Many people believe that the shell is a charm that protects against fire, shows the way, guards against bad luck, and that it also ensures fertility and prosperity.

Photo: Jakub Senkowski

Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

Good Spirits guest at the IYMC

Marcin Boiński, Good Spirit in the “Reliable Rescuer” category

NOTES FROM ANOTHER WORLD A MEETING WITH LESZEK ALLERHAND

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It includes, not only extensive historical material, but also the biographical history of the Allerhand family—including Leszek Allerhand’s famous grandfather, Maurice, professor of law at the Jan Kazimierz University in Lviv. In 2003,

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his book Zapiski z tamtego świata [Notes from Another World] was published, including discovered notes that were written by Maurice Allerhand during the occupation on the back of a court document, interspersed with memories of

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his grandson. Leszek Allerhand was born in Lviv in 1932, to a wealthy, intellectual Jewish family. His father Joachim and his grandfather Maurice ran the law firm there. In the autumn of 1942, after the seizure of Lviv by the

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Photo: IYMC

s part of the series Literature and Memory, on April 1 at the IYMC a meeting was held with Dr. Leszek Allerhand, who spent the last several years carefully examining the history of Jews in Lviv. The fruit of his labor is his newest publication from 2010—an album, entitled Żydzi Lwowa. Opowieść [The Jews of Lviv. A Story].

Leszek Allerhand and Leszek Szuster

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International Youth Meeting Center

Photo: IYMC

Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

Leszek Allerhand

Germans, the family was forced to live in the ghetto, from which they managed to escape and survive the War, hiding in the city. After liberation, the family was repatriated to Cracow.

Allerhand graduated from the Medical Academy in Cracow, he received a grant from the Ministry of Health and studied at the Training College of Physicians. In 1963, he settled in Zakopane

where he worked as a doctor at a local hospital (a doctor of medicine training), and also assumed a number of other functions; including chief physician of the Polish Olympic winter sports team. In 2009, he was also one of the founders of the Allerhand Institute. “In autumn 1992, I attended the World Congress of the Association of Children of the Holocaust in Jerusalem. One day, I was visited by Shmuel Krakowski, a representative of Yad Vashem. He asked me many questions about our family, trying to determine whether I am a member of Maurice Allerhand’s family,” Leszek Allerhand recalled, presenting the beginnings of his interest in the history of his family and the wider Jewish community in Lviv. “I learned that Yad Vashem has in its possession a copy of my grandfather’s

memoir from the time during the occupation, which was published in book form after being translated into English and Hebrew. I received a copy of the book, and after returning to Poland I went to the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, where the originals of the diaries were made available to me. This discovery determined Leszek Allerhand to relive the events in parallel with the events described in his grandfather’s diary but seen and heard and—as he says— with his very clear child’s eyes and ears. “I then wrote, not realizing that I created my own diary. I assumed that my memoirs had to be only a modest addition to descriptions of my grandfather. Finally, I defied the intended proportions, but I hope that my grandfather will forgive me,” he said. The same picture was painted

by the story, summed up by the film, entitled Pasja życia [A Passion for Life] from 2004, filmed in Lviv. It was shown during the second part of the meeting. Leszek Allerhand recalls the times of the so-called first Soviets, who took over Lviv at the beginning of the War. The history, while mainly dealing with dramatic experiences, was interspersed with amusing comments and anecdotes, as well as a historical sketch of the history of the Lviv Jewish community. Among the guests of the meeting, which was hosted by Leszek Szuster, were representatives of the Sambor Club in Oświęcim. The Foundation for International Youth Meeting Center and the Judaica Foundation – Center for Jewish Culture in Cracow, organized the event. jk

Participants of the seminar during their visit to the Memorial Site

From March 8 to 15, twentyfive participants took part in a seminar organized jointly by the IYMC in Oświęcim, the Middle School in Heepen/Bielefeld, and the FILOMATA Private Secondary School in Gliwice. The seminar’s participants worked together and attempted to decipher the history of Auschwitz through the use of literary texts that were created by survivors. Preparing for the seminar, the students developed presentations about selected authors: Liana Millu, Krystyna Żywulska, Stanisław Hantz, Bogdan Bartnikowski, and Tadeusz Borowski, whose testimony helped the participants create a literary narrative during a visit to the Birkenau Memorial Site. An equally important aim of the seminar was to bring to-

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tions arose about the joint responsibility of other European nations for the extermination of the Jews and the phenomena that were associated with this. Both groups were convinced that the most important task ahead is to preserve the memory of the victims as well as their suffering and the authenticity of this place that has the power to create fundamental values of dignity and the equality of every human being. In joint discussions dealing with memory within families and how it is passed on from generation to generation, the participants often discovered very complicated and difficult histories. A grandfather of one of the participants from Germany was a member of the SS, something that she only became aware of a few years ago following his death. While tidying the attic she came across Nazi propaganda medals, something that her grandfather was proud of. The family remained silent about the subject. The second grandfather was expelled from the territories annexed for Poland after 1945, under the Potsdam Agreement. He lost everything he possessed, his family as well as property. A great-grandfather of another participant was a prisoner in

Participants of the seminar during their visit to the Memorial Site

the camps of Auschwitz and Neuengamme. He brought with him the only memento left after his great-grandfather—a letter from the Auschwitz camp. His grandmother had given it to her grandson so that he would donate it to the Museum Archives and look for any traces of his great-grandfather’s imprisonment in the camp. By discovering the fate of the Poles, Germans, and Jews, the complex picture of the War and the Holocaust was revealed to the young people and taught them mutual respect and tolerance. This dialogue was not about fixing blame for the crimes that had been committed, but to preserve the memory of the victims as well as the events that had taken place more than 60 years ago.

The most important experience for the young Poles and Germans during this seminar in Oświęcim, as was emphasized in the summary session, was the joint literary tour around the Birkenau Memorial. Tangible, moving, often true-to-life descriptions of places, people and events that had been chosen by the young people were read out at the authentic sites where the events had taken place, this left a deep impact on their psyche. The second part of the project will be held in the autumn in Bielefeld, Germany. The participants will jointly develop a full documentation of the project in the form of an exhibition, which they will present to their peers at school. Elżbieta Pasternak

Photo: IYMC

Photo: IYMC

gether young Poles and Germans, in the context of their biographies, families, and the countries of their origin. In analyzing the texts, the young people searched for specific themes that were common in some of the works, such as: love, solidarity, protest, struggle to preserve humanity in the sense of physical and mental suffering, death, injustice, survival strategies, and labor. This allowed a more empathetic perception of a visit to the Auschwitz Memorial Site, whose purpose was to deepen knowledge about the topography and function of the Concentration Camp. The first joint discussion was about the observations and reflections on the various ways of the tour of Auschwitz seemed to be accepted among young Poles and Germans. The German participants were troubled by the question of guilt for crimes perpetrated by the Nazi Germans in the historical, legal, and moral contexts; as well as whether now, in the 21st century, there are sufficiently strong legal mechanisms for the protection of human rights that guarantee the prevention of genocide. In the Polish group, undoubtedly influenced by the current debate that surrounds J.T. Gross’ publication, ques-

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Photo: IYMC

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summary of the Polish-German seminar for young people from Gliwice and Bielefeld, The fate of the Poles and Jews persecuted during the Second World War and the Holocaust in the context of Polish and German post-war literature—searching for traces.

Photo: IYMC

SEARCHING FOR TRACES

Participants of the seminar at work

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Jewish Center ter

Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

MATISYAHU IN OŚWIĘCIM

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ne of the most original and intriguing artists of the world reggae scene will perform on June 18 in Oświęcim, at the closing concert of the second edition of Oświęcim Life Festival—Festival for Peace. This will be his second visit to Poland. Last year in July he appeared at the Open’er festival in Gdynia, and also performed an intimate acoustic concert at Temple Synagogue in Cracow during the Jewish Culture Festival.

Photo: OLF

He moves well within the reggae style, adding to it elements of Hasidic music, jazz, hip-hop, and beatbox, creating a highly original blend of music. He is known from his very energetic, attention-grabbing shows. As he says, “performances on stage are an important part of what I do. It is where energy is produced, something that cannot be achieved in the recording studio.” Over the past few years, Matisyahu has worked with many famous producers and artists including Bill Laswell, Sly&Robbie, Muslim beatboxer Kenny Muhammad, and P.O.D. Moreover, he was also nominated for the prestigious Grammy music award. He is also known to engage in a number of projects promoting human rights, so his message perfectly fits the idea of Life Festival. In 2007, Matisyahu became involved in the formation of the American documentary Unsettled, whose protagonists were six refugees from Gaza. The musician wrote

Matisyahu

the soundtrack, and the movie won the Jury Prize for documentary filmmaking and was also screened

during the Slamdance Film Festival. A year later, together with, among others, Steven Segal and Jennifer

Photo: OLF

Matisyahu, but actually Matthew Paul Miller, was born in 1979 to a Jewish family in the United States. A trip to Israel in 1995 was a turning point in his life. It was then that he became fascinated with Orthodox Judaism, and he became a Hasid. He has been actively involved in music since 2000, after four years Matisyahu signed with JDub Records, promoting Jewish musicians free of charge. In midOctober, that same year, he released his debut album Shake Off the Dust... Arise. A year later the artist’s live album hit the stores, entitled Live at Stubb. In 2005-2006, Matisyahu toured extensively in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He has also performed in Israel, opening for Sting. At the beginning of March 2006, his second studio album Youth was released, which confirmed that Matisyahu is one of the leading artists of the contemporary reggae scene. The latest, a live album by the artist, Live at Stubb’s Vol 2, was released in February this year.

Artur Szyndler

Matisyahu

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Aniston he joined the campaign drawing attention to human rights abuses in Burma by recording a special video for the song It Can’t be Wait. In 2010, the artist put his support behind the NU Campaign, which produced a special t-shirt with his image, and the income from the sale went to support the work of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma to aid the victims of the people affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Also last year, including with American actor Matt Damon, Matisyahu backed the Onexone Canadian Foundation, which aims to improve the living conditions of children worldwide. In Oświęcim, the artist will perform together with the Brooklyn based Dub Trio, composed of: D.P. Holmes (guitar), Stu Brooks (bass), and percussionist Joe Tomino (drums). At this year’s final concert, in addition to Matisyahu, we will also hear James Blunt, T. Love, and RotFront. More on this year’s edition of Life Festival can be found at: www.lifefestival.pl

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Jewish Center

Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

OSHPITZIN A GUIDE TO THE JEWISH HISTORY OF OŚWIĘCIM

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efore the War, where did the Chief Rabbi of Oświęcim live? Down which streets did the Jewish inhabitants of Oświęcim walk? Who did President Mościcki visit in Oświęcim? You can find the answer to these and many other questions thanks to the latest project of the Jewish Center in Oświęcim, entitled Oshpitzin. It is a virtual map of the preWar Jewish Oświęcim, which is combined with historical photographs as well as filmed testimonies of witnesses who remember the currently nonexistent Polish-Jewish world. The website for the project Oshpitzin is available at www. oshpitzin.pl, and is supplemented with a book that has been published, entitled Oshpitzin. A Guide to the Jewish History of Oświęcim.

We sincerely invite you to the official inauguration of the project Oshpitzin, which will take place on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 5:30 p.m. at the Oświęcim Jewish Center at 5, Fr. Skarbek Square. The project will be presented by its creators: Tomasz Kuncewicz, Dr. Artur Szyndler, and Maciek Zabierowski. Admission is free. JC

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Center for Dialogue and Prayer Foundation

Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

GOD, SHED A TEAR...

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Photo: WSD Cracow

t should be noted that, in spite of the abyss of evil and despair that emanates from Auschwitz, it would be fitting to simply remain quiet and not even to make the most subtle attempt at expressing the feelings which accompanied us while passing the row of remaining barracks of the former Nazi German Concentration and Death Camp.

grimage was doing the Way of the Cross at the world’s largest necropolis in Birkenau. It lasted three hours in the shadows of people who lost their lives here. About 140 hectares, nearly 300 barracks, 16 km of barbed wire fences, gas chambers and crematoria. From this place one does not return the same, part of human being does not come back at all— the memory returns to the hectares of extermination, to the barracks, in which there is a terrifying emptiness left be-

of certain values—they are in fact competent specialists from the realm of the body, soul, and the spirit). Despite this “hell on earth” many prisoners were able to find an unblemished area of freedom in themselves. So intense was this extreme situation, which Maximilian Kolbe and many others experienced that it led them to true holiness. Praying in the places of their execution, such as praying at the Wall of Death, was an opportunity to ask God that their blood, which still cries from the earth (cf. Gen 4, 10), will be the cause of the conversion of people who come here and who will be able to learn about the crimes committed at Auschwitz. Similarly, an important element of our pil-

hind by those who had previously been there. One would like to whisper: God, shed a tear! But it was God himself, as Jesus Christ, who gave the meaning of death—even that which is most dreadful. He had gone through it himself. Death becomes the gate necessary to pass on to a new life. He also inflicted death onto any death, even the most absurd, though perhaps we do not yet understand this. When Jesus died on the cross, his disciples also did not understand this.

Photo: WSD Cracow

regain your faith. Someone might think that the former concentration camp is not the most appropriate place for doing such a thing. However, Auschwitz had become a place of the mass murder of many individuals who enjoyed great authority in the interwar period—including doctors, teachers, and clergy. The Nazis were afraid of such people because they could be a source of resistance (it seems that even today an attack against these groups of individuals is the questioning

when evil gains momentum, it is hard to make it stop. The horror becomes overwhelming when reading about the cold and calculating estimates the creators of the camp had about the efficiency of the death camp and the manner in which technology can improve the technical process of killing. Looking for reasons for this depravity, one must look back upon aversions to a small group, or even to a particular person. “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 Jn 3, 15a). The visit we paid to Auschwitz was treated by us as a pilgrimage; a pilgrimage to a place where you can gain, or

Photo: WSD Cracow

standing of God, who in fact is not indifferent to any human beings. It is worth asking yourself how it became possible to treat entire nations in such a twisted manner. In Auschwitz, the nations on which the Nazis inflicted the greatest cruelty were the Jews and Poles. How could such a tragedy come to be, in which these and many other nations suffered so much? We can imagine three people, twenty people, or perhaps even a hundred; we cannot imagine a thousand. And what can we say about hundreds of thousands or millions—these numbers become statistics. It seems that

Photo: WSD Cracow

History has probably never seen a more brutal mistreatment of humans, for whom other people literally become the hell. What can someone, who is preparing for priesthood, say about this tragedy? A member of the clergy is seen as a person who has a unique connection with God—the God, who is accused of calmly watching the hell on earth known as Auschwitz. I hope that it does not sound like an empty statement: that that God suffered in each of the people, who were deprived of practically everything by the inhuman totalitarianism. In this statement, there is a profound under-

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Tomasz Koszarek

Photographs show seminarians from Wyższe Seminarium Duchowne in Cracow during their visit to the Memorial Site.


Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

History

PEOPLE OF GOOD WILL ZOFIA GAWRON (born 1926; married name: Prejzner) Born May 22, 1926, in the coal miners’ settlement in Brzeszcze known as the “Old Settlement,” she was the fifth and youngest child of Antoni and Tekla née Hoder. She attended public school in Brzeszcze. When the war broke out, she was thirteen years old and had finished six grades in school. Near her home, at the beginning of 1941, Zofia began encountering the first Auschwitz prisoner labor details marching to work in the Brzeszcze coal mine. Upset by the sight of these miserable-looking men in striped uniforms, she established contact and then began going daily to the place where they worked with food for them. At first, she helped the prisoners in the labor gang that shoveled slag, the Schlackenkommando. Next, she began helping other labor details, the surveyors and the wicker detail, as well. At first, she did this on her own. Later,

she cooperated with other women—most frequently with one of the organizers of the relief effort in Brzeszcze, Maria Górecka. Zofia went to Górecka’s house to help her divide up into portions the food they acquired, and to make coffee. Since she found it impossible to acquire as much food as she needed for the prisoners, she approached acquaintances, prosperous local residents, and shop owners, and won them over to the cause. She also took letters from the prisoners and forwarded them to their families. In the spring of 1942, she was arrested on suspicion of contacting the prisoners. She was released after undergoing several weeks of investigation, during which she refused to confess to the charged. She resumed her efforts to aid the prisoners. In February 1943, after someone informed on her, she was arrested again. This time, the Ger-

mans took her to the Auschwitz I-Main Camp and imprisoned her in Block no. 11, the “Death Block.” Despite multiple interrogations at the hands of the Gestapo, she again refused to confess to contacting and aiding the prisoners. In May 1943, the summary court sentenced her to Auschwitz, where she was registered as prisoner number 44097. She was placed in Block no. 15 in the women’s camp in Birkenau sector BIa. A few days later, she came down with typhus and was admitted to the camp hospital. Now, the same prisoners she had helped when she was on the outside came to her aid. They told the older women prisoners to look after her, and sometimes visited her when they came into the women’s camp on various job assignments. Once the crisis passed and she recovered her strength, she was assigned to labor inside the camp. In the fall of 1944, on a request from prisoner Antonina Piątkowska, who belonged to the resistance movement, Zofia Gawron applied for assignment to an outside labor detail. With the foreman in charge of her labor detail, Franciszek Zabuga,

serving as conduit, Zofia passed on to her family in Brzeszcze certain documents that had been illegally carried out of the camp, including evidence of the crimes committed there: blueprints of the crematoria, lists of Polish women who had died or been murdered in the camp, and photographs of Jewish and Roma women and children on whom Dr. Mengele conducted his experiments. Zofia’s father buried this material in his yard. After Zofia completed this mission, women fellow-prisoners helped her to obtain an assignment to the camp warehouses. She stole, and smuggled out of the camp, warm clothing intended for escapees who were fighting with local partisan units. In November 1944, Zofia was unexpectedly summoned to the camp Political Department (Gestapo) and accused of maintaining contact with the partisans. Despite being brutally beaten during her interrogation, she refused to admit anything. She never returned to Birkenau, but instead was imprisoned once again in Block no. 11 in Auschwitz I. On January 12, 1945, she was transferred

VESTIGES OF HISTORY

of official as well as desirable art within the Third Reich. Paintings and sculptures of this type were not placed in offices, but rather in canteens, meeting rooms, and in the SS men’s private homes. All of these objects, nevertheless, show how far Nazi ideology encroached into all spheres of people’s lives, through the use of various means and forms of expression.

Photo: Mirosław Ganobis

style—Himmler’s quotes for Fritzsch, and later for Höss.” In addition to the handwritten copies and prints, the collection also contains a well-preserved lithographic stone with the text of T. Eicke, from which additional copies were made. In addition to these inscriptions, on the walls of the SS offices there were photos of Adolf Hitler as well as signs with mottos, such as Recht—Unrecht—Mein Vaterland. Within the Museum’s collections there are preserved examples

Carriage sign

A friend of mine called me and said that he had something new for my collection. When we met, he brought a small, soiled, and worn sign that had some kind of writAgnieszka Sieradzka ing on it. At first glance this Collections Department was nothing interesting, but A-BSM it ended up somewhere within my museum collection and for some time I forgot about it. I do not like it when something whose mystery is not solved is on the shelf too long. I cleaned the sign— before the War, ones like it were on horse-drawn carriages. The sign had information about the owner, from Dwory, written in Polish and German, which testifies to the fact that the carriage was used during the German occupation. Often, Germans used the owners of vehicles to perform various jobs. In the pictures from the war horse-drawn carts appear even during the deportation of Poles and Jews. Often, The framed SS oath of faith such carriages were used in

Photo: Collections Depatment, A-BSM

The words of Theodor Eicke, cofounder of the German concentration camp system, hung on the walls of offices and quarters of the SS garrison in Auschwitz. Propaganda under Hitler focused mainly on a few constantly repeated points that catered to the emotions of its recipients. Every word spoken or printed in the Third Reich was to have an impact on society, to shape the right attitude, or at least praise the alleged greatness, importance, and strength of the regime. The framed SS oath of faith is a perfect example of this kind of indoctrination. The text is accompanied, in this case, by the typical SS ornamentation: runes and the death’s head, which also appeared on the covers of photo albums, tie-pins, and even signets. Within the Museum’s collection there are several examples of these types of inscriptions. Quotes from speeches by German officials were hand-written or printed, using a lithographic technique by prisoners on the specific order of SS men. One former prisoner, Alojzy Gołka, testified after the war, “I created various inscriptions in the Gothic

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Jadwiga Dąbrowska

FROM GANOBIS’S CABINET

FROM THE COLLECTIONS OF THE AUSCHWITZ MUSEUM “Our faith! We hate the stink of incense; it destroys the German soul. We believe in God, but not in his middlemen, priests and worshipers, as it would be pagan. We believe in greatness of our beloved German Fatherland, for which we fight and conquer, or die. If we must therefore die, then we do not ask Mary for assistance, we will depart as freely as we have lived. Our last breath shall be: Adolf Hitler.” Theodor Eicke, Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross-with Oak Leaves, WaffenSS General.

to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp as part of the general evacuation of Auschwitz. She was sent from there to Sweden for medical treatment as part of the Swedish Red Cross relief effort. She returned to Poland in November 1945. Jan Prejzner, who had escaped from Auschwitz in September 1944 and joined a partisan unit, found her shortly afterwards. They soon married and moved to Cracow. Her husband finished his schooling, which had been interrupted by the war, and passed his final examinations. Next, they moved to Warsaw, where her husband began studying to become a journalist. After graduation, he took a job with the Polish Press Agency (PAP). Zofia stayed at home to look after their son and daughter. When the children were older, she took a full-time job, and worked until she retired on a disability pension in the late 1970s. She lives in Warsaw. For her wartime services, she was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Poland Reborn and the Oświęcim Cross.

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transporting building materials for such projects as the expansion of Auschwitz as well as the building of the IG Farben chemical plant. And of course, Dwory was right next to the plant that was being constructed. Residents of the area remembered the name of the man. As it turned out, he has been dead for quite some time, however, all the while his family lives in that same house he had inhabited. Quite by chance, it turned out that the person listed on the sign was the great-grandfather of my friend. His family knew only a little bit of information about him. Urban Kwaczała was born on May 18, 1879 and died on June 10, 1942—the cause of death remains a mystery. Did he die a natural death? Or did he die at the hands of the occupier? I hope that one day I can find out more about this story. Mirosław Ganobis

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Oś—Oświęcim, People, History, Culture magazine, no. 28, April 2011

Photographer

PHOTO JOURNAL

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hotographs of Buchenwald Memorial Site taken during the project Memory and Remembrance in the Era of Web 2.0. Photographer: Paweł Sawicki.

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Oś – Oświęcim – People – History – Culture, nr 28, June 2011  

New English Language Edition of "Oś", the monthly magazine of the State Museum of Auschwitz. We once again handed over the pages of this mon...

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