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Oswiecim (Auschwitz) to separate from its’ twin.

KRAKOW TOURS – The mayor of Ballan-Mire, central France, has announced that he does not want to renew a twinning agreement with the southern Polish town of Oswiecim, citing concerns that the local authorities there are distancing themselves from the former Nazi concentration camp situated there.

According to reports from Agence France Presse (AFP), Laurent Baumel, the socialist mayor of Ballan-Mire, near Tours, has criticised the twinning agreement, signed in 2002 by his predecessor, by stating that the contract does not refer in any way to the Nazis’ activity at the site of Auschwitz, where an estimated 3 million people died during World War II.

“There is no talk of the Holocaust, Shoah or the camp,” Baumel told AFP, underlining that the twinning agreement is “a typical ‘twinning’ between a French and Polish town geared towards cultural and touristic exchange.”

According to Mayor Baumel, since 2008 Oswiecim authorities want to forget about the Nazi concentration camp as part of the twinning agreement. “The Polish local authorities are standing by the separation of the town from the death camp, in effect leading to the trivialisation of the town itself,” Baumel stated.

“In fact, their approach is based as if they were to say ‘stop identifying our quaint town with a death camp; Oswiecim is not Auschwitz’,” Baumel complains.

“By no means do I want to support a strategy based on separating the name of Auschwitz from everything it means in common history,” the mayor has said, with reports in La Nouvelle Republique (FR) that Baumel has already taken the decision not to renew the agreement.

Meanwhile, head of Oswiecim’s town council, Piotr Kucka is surprised by the French mayor’s decision.

“We have always repeatedly stated that it is not allowed to link the town with the camp. After all, that is also the policy of the Polish state as a whole,” Kucka told the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

“As soon as there is talk of an ‘Oswiecim camp’ instead of ‘Auschwitz’, a line is crossed as to the falsification of ‘Polish concentration camps’,” Kucka maintains.

Oswiecim is a town over 800 years old, reminds Piotr Kucka, yet Auschwitz was the result of a five-year period of Nazi occupation, when most Polish and Jewish residents were resettled to make way for a model German town.

Originally, Auschwitz camp was used for the interment of Poles. Town councillor Piotr Kucka told PAP that current residents of Oswiecim make sure that visiting Germans refer to the town in its proper Polish form, and the German name.

Co-operation between Ballan-Mire and Oswiecim has been ongoing for around ten years, starting with youth exchanges, and ultimately leading to a Polish-French Friendship Association based in the southern Polish town.

The mayor of Ballan-Mire last visited Oswiecim in the Spring of this year. His opposite number is Oswiecim, Janusz Marszalek, has not been informed of the decision.

LINKED STORY.  Oswiecim…Under the shadow of Auschwitz

November 11, 2010 - Posted by | Krakow Travel Advice, News, Tour Information | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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