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Birkenau Block 25 – 6th February 1943

Birkenau block 25

On February 6, 1943 at 3:30 am a general roll-call ordered by the camp authorities started in the female camp at Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

All the female prisoners were driven outside of the camp. Poorly dressed, with no food they stood on the snow-covered ground until 5 pm.

They were ordered to run back to the camp. Female guards and SS men stood at the gate and tried to speed their return by hitting them with clubs. Those women who were not able to keep up, as well as those weak, sick and elderly were pulled from the ranks with a hook, and later brought to block 25, where they awaited transportation to the gas chambers.

Block 25 at BIa sector of Birkenau camp (also known as the block of death) was called “waiting room for the gas” (Warteblock für die Vergasung). After chasing all the prisonersback to the camp a special group of the strongest women was formed and forced to collect all remaining corpses of women who had died under the blows of the SS and female guards during the roll call. The corpses were placed in the courtyard of block 25.

During the roll call about 1,000 women died.

February 6, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz, This Day In History | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poland marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day

KRAKOW TOURSHolocaust survivors, politicians and dignitaries are taking part, Sunday, in ceremonies marking the 68th anniversary of the Liberation of the Nazi Death Camp at Auschwitz.

The invited guests, including Russian Parliament’s chairman Sergey Naryshkin, Polish Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski, former prisoners, clergy and politicians from various countries, are marking the day the camp, located in southern Poland, was liberated by Soviet troops, after around 1.1 million died there at the hands of the occupying German Nazis, most of them Jews, but also Poles, Roma Gypsies, political prisoners and others.

In 2005, the UN General Assembly declared 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Ceremonies began in the morning on Sunday with a Holy Mass for the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, celebrated at the Church of Divine Mercy, located near the former Auschwitz I camp., with the main ceremony commemorating Holocaust victims taking place at the Monument to the Victims in Birkenau in the afternoon.

The visual symbol of this year’s celebration is a picture by a former prisoner, Halina Ołomucka, a Polish Jew, entitled “Liberation.”

“This image highlights, on the one hand, the joy of the end of the camp ordeal, and yet the unimaginable toll of the camp experiences that the liberated will have to carry with them until the end of their days,” says director of the Auschwitz Museum, Piotr Cywiński.

As part of this year’s commemorations, a new Russian exhibition is opening in block 14, prepared by the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow.

“People survived and gave testimony. Today, thanks to their words and also to the original extant remains of the camp space, we remember and we try to understand. The knowledge we have obtained imposes a fearful obligation on us,” Piotr Cywiński writes in the 2012 Auschwitz Memorial and Museum summary report, which was published on Friday.

On Germany’s responsibility for the Holocaust, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said in a podcast on her official web site: “Naturally, we have an everlasting responsibility for the crimes of national-socialism, for the victims of World War II, and above all, for the Holocaust.”

“We must clearly say, to generation after generation, and say it again: with courage, each individual can help ensure that racism and anti-Semitism have no chance,” Merkel added.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , | Leave a comment

70 years on…proof my parents died at Auschwitz

A HOLOCAUST evacuee has received proof that his parents were murdered at Auschwitz after a photograph of their battered suitcase was sent to him by a Polish tourist.

Harry Grenville and his sister Hannah were among 10,000 Jewish children sent to Britain from Nazi Germany as part of the Kindertransport refugee mission on the eve of the Second World War.

Their parents, Jacob and Klara Greilsamer, and grandmother, Sara Ottenheimer, were sent to an internment camp in Czechoslovakia.

Mr Grenville received brief correspondence from the Red Cross about his family until a chilling message in 1944 said they were being sent “east”.

He was 18 at the time and suspected this meant to a concentration camp in Poland. He never heard from them again.

Mr Grenville, 87, born Heinz Greilsamer, had confirmation of their deaths at the end of the war. But for nearly 70 years he has been haunted by not knowing when or where they died.

Now Mr Grenville, of Dorchester, Dorset, has been sent a picture of the suitcase which for years was an exhibit at the Auschwitz Museum.

It clearly shows the name Jacob Greilsamer.

It was taken by a Polish visitor who researched the name and got in touch with Mr Grenville through a history society near his former home of Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart.

Last night Mr Grenville, said: “Out of the blue a photograph turned up of a whole lot of suitcases of victims.

“They have the names of the victims painted on them and low and behold, there on this photograph is my father’s name. My heart missed several beats when I saw it for the first time. This is the first evidence I have ever had that my mother, my father and my grandmother arrived at Auschwitz.

“I have carried suspicions with me for a long time and now I have this evidence.”

Mr Grenville and his sister, now 83, lived with a foster family in Cornwall. He volunteered to join the British Army and then worked as a biology teacher, marrying his late wife Helen in 1950.

He has three children and two grandchildren. He said: “There will never be closure but I take a great deal of comfort from the fact that the second and third generations after the Nazis are trying to bring about reconciliation and a confession of the sins of their forefathers.”

via At last, after 70 years…proof my parents died at Auschwitz | UK | Express.co.uk – Home of the Daily and Sunday Express.

January 25, 2013 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , | Leave a comment

Auschwitz guard to maybe stand trial – 68 years on

Auschwitz Guard, Johann 'Hans' Breyer

Johann ‘Hans’ Breyer is an 87 year old American citizen, living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is accused of, and freely admits to once being a guard at Auschwitz.

What makes this case very complicated, however, is the fact that Breyer denies ever being a guard at the Auschwitz 2, Birkenau camp, where the majority of the estimated 1.5 million victims were murdered.

The legal saga surrounding Breyer was thought to have ended in 2003 when it was ruled that he could remain in the USA, but documents obtained recently have shed further light on his past and appear to prove that he has lied about his time serving at Auschwitz.

It now seems that Breyer was serving in the 8th Company of the SS Totenkopf or ‘Death’s Head’ during the time that they were assigned to guard Birkenau, it also seems that he made false claims that he discharged early from the SS to help run his family farm.

These newly discovered documents have led German authorities, investigating Nazi-era crimes, to review whether there is enough evidence to charge Breyer with accessory to the murder of at least 344,000 Jews, and have in extradited from the U.S.

December 30, 2012 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , | Leave a comment

Wayne Rooney on Auschwitz.

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Rooney was incredibly moved by Auschwitz visit, reveals Hodgson

The England striker is far more caring than his reputation suggests – with a bookish interest in World War II

Wayne Rooney is a sensitive, bookish young man – according to England manager Roy Hodgson.

But the Manchester United superstar, prefers to keep that side of his personality hidden from the public.

Since taking over as Three Lions boss Hodgson, himself a cultured, well-read figure, has been amazed that Rooney’s past image as an ­unintelligent hot-head was so far off the mark.

This struck the coach earlier in the year when he and some ­members of the national team visited Auschwitz, the site of the biggest mass murder ever carried out, before playing in the 2012 European Championships in Poland and the Ukraine.

“Wayne was incredibly moved by the experience,” recalled Hodgson. “At one point Joe Hart put his hand on his shoulder and asked him if he was alright.

“I wasn’t surprised because since getting to know Wayne I know how different he is to the public ­perception.

“Many football players have a reputation that is far different to the reputation they deserve. He is one of them.

“My concern was that he was going to be too moved. That the ­experience would give him – and others – nightmares and they wouldn’t be strong enough to take it. Luckily that wasn’t the case.”

Rooney, now 27, has in the past seen off-field indiscretions with prostitutes, and occasional explosions on the pitch ­reinforce the perception that he is out of control.

Last week he raised ­eyebrows after his latest round of male grooming – part of the price Hodgson believes he has to pay for his celebrity status.

Yet last month he tweeted his interest in the American presidential elections. He claimed he was ­watching the pre-election debate involving Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Hodgson believes that Rooney would like to have more time to pursue his cultural interests – particularly his love of modern ­history. The England boss said: “When Wayne’s wife came over to join us in Poland I think he would have liked to have gone back to Auschwitz with her again.

“But he and she have such a high profile it couldn’t be risked without the level of security we had around us, unfortunately.

“He’s quite well read on the ­subject. Most of his generation, ­unlike mine, aren’t as aware as we are. But Wayne is very interested in all apsects of the ­Second World War.

“He has a ­particular interest, he has all the World at War television series.

“He reads a lot about the ­period and is very knowledgeable on that, and other subjects.

“This is a side of him the public aren’t allowed to see. It’s important that high-profile people like ­football players highlight these issues.

“Wayne didn’t need to be taken there dragging and screaming. He wanted to go out of interest.

“We were invited by the Holocaust Educational Trust, but we would have gone anyway out of our own interest – and out of respect.

“Rooney is one of those players who decides games. He is ­extremely high profile, a great player, a player who decides games.

“Yet he would be the first to admit that he has unfinished business for England at a major championship.”

After visiting Auschwitz, Rooney said: “It’s hard to understand.

“I am a parent and it’s tough to see what happened there.

“You’ve seen the amount of ­children who died. You see the children’s clothes and shoes. It’s really sad.

“You have to see it first hand.

“You don’t realise how those who lived there to work managed without food, without water.

“It’s a form of torture and then they died. The ­others got ­murdered.”

December 10, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , | Leave a comment

The photographer at Auschwitz:

Man forced to take chilling images of inmates and their Nazi guards was haunted until his death at 94

  • Photographer Wilhelm Brasse died this week aged 94
  • He had taken up to 50,000 photos in Auschwitz for the Nazis
  • Mr Brasse hid negatives which were used to convict the very Nazis who commissioned them

These chilling images of a young Jewish girl at Auschwitz are among thousands that have haunted a Nazi photographer all his life.

Wilhelm Brasse was forced to take photographs of frightened children and victims of gruesome medical experiments moments from their death at the extermination camp where some 1.5 million people, mostly Jewish died in the Holocaust.

Mr Brasse, who died this week aged 94, has had relive those horrors from inside Auschwitz but is considered a hero after he risked his life to preserve the harrowing photographs, which later helped convict the very Nazi monsters who commissioned the photographs.

He said: ‘When I started taking pictures again, I saw the dead. I would be standing taking a photograph of a young girl for her portrait but behind her I would see them like ghosts standing there.

‘I saw all those big eyes, terrified, staring at me. I could not go on.’

He never again picked up a camera. Instead, he set up a business making sausage casings and lived a modestly prosperous life.

Before the war, Mr Brasse trained as a portrait photographer in a studio owned by his aunt in the Polish town of Katowice. He had an eye for the telling image and an ability to put his subjects at ease.

But his peaceful, prosperous existence was shattered with the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939. He was the son of a German father and Polish mother.

He said: ‘When the Germans came, they wanted me to join them and say I was loyal to the Reich, but I refused. I felt Polish and I was Polish. It was my mother who instilled this in us.’

Considering the Nazis’ capacity for brutality, it was an extraordinarily brave thing for 22-year-old Mr Brasse to do.

After several Gestapo interrogations he tried to flee to Hungary but was caught at the border. He was imprisoned for four months and then offered another chance to declare his loyalty to Hitler.

He said: ‘They wanted me to join the German army and promised everything would be OK for me if I did.’

But again he refused and on August 31, 1940 he was placed on a train for the newly opened concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In February 1941, he was summoned to the camp commander’s office, the notoriously brutal Rudolf Höss, who would later be hanged for his crimes.

Mr Brasse was certain that this was the end but when he arrived he discovered that the SS was looking for photographers.

There followed what must have been a bizarre and terrifying experience. The assembled men were tested on their photographic skills.

Each must have known failure would mean a return to hard labour and death.

He said: ‘We were five people. They went through everything with us – the laboratory skills and the technical ability with a camera. I had the skills as well as being able to speak German, so I was chosen.’

The Nazis wanted documentation of their prisoners. The Reich was obsessed with bureaucratic records and setup ‘Erkennungsdienst,’ the photographic identification unit.

Based in the camp, it included cameramen, darkroom technicians and designers.

He said: ‘The conditions for me were so much better then. The food and warmth were heavenly.’

Soon began a daily parade of the doomed in this makeshift photographic studio. Each day he took so many pictures that another team of prisoners was assembled to develop the pictures.

The photographer estimates that he personally must have taken between 40,000 and 50,000 portraits.

One day, a prisoner was sent to him because one of the camp doctors, the infamous Nazi Dr Josef Mengele, wanted a photograph of the man’s unusual tattoo.

He said: ‘It was quite beautiful. It was a tattoo of Adam and Eve standing before the Tree in the Garden of Eden, and it had obviously been done by a skilled artist.’

About an hour after taking the photograph, he learned that the man had been killed. He was called by another prisoner to come to one of the camp crematoria where he saw the dead man had been skinned.

Mr Brasse said: ‘The skin with the tattoo was stretched on a table waiting to be framed for this doctor. It was a horrible, horrible sight.’

 ‘Mengele liked my photographs and said he wanted me to photograph some of those he was experimenting on.

‘The first group were Jewish girls. They were ordered to strip naked. They were aged 15 to 17 years and were looked after by these two Polish nurses.

‘They were very shy and frightened because there were men watching them. I tried my best to calm them.’

Mr Brasse and another inmate managed to bury thousands of negatives in the camp’s grounds which were later recovered.

November 1, 2012 Posted by | Auschwitz, News | , | Leave a comment

Antoni Dobrowolski RIP….

ImageAntoni Dobrowolski, oldest Auschwitz survivor, dies aged 108.

The oldest known survivor of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp has died aged 108 in Debno, north-west Poland, officials say.

A teacher, Antoni Dobrowolski, prisoner 38081, was imprisoned for giving secret lessons during Germany’s occupation of Poland.

Mr Dobrowolski was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Nazi concentration camp in 1942.

He was later transferred to the Gross Rosen and Sachsenhausen camps in Germany, before being freed in 1945.

“Auschwitz was worse than Dante’s hell,” he said in a video made when he was 103.

Education for Poles was restricted to just four years during the Nazi occupation, in an effort to suppress Polish culture.

Mr Dobrowolski was part of an underground effort to continue education for children.

October 23, 2012 Posted by | Auschwitz, News | , , , | Leave a comment

Franciszka Mann

ImageFranciszka Mann (Franciszka Mann) – 4th February 1917 to October 23 1943 was a polish dancer, who is mentioned in the context of a heroic action in Auschwitz concentration camp.

Before the Second World War she was a young dancer located in Warsaw. She studied dance in the dance school of Irena Prusicka. Her friends at that time included Wiera Granand Stefania Grodzieńska. In 1939 she placed 4th during the international dance competition in Brussels among 125 other young ballet dancers. She was considered one of the most beautiful and promising dancers of her generation in Poland both in classical and modern repertoire.

At the beginning of the Second World War she was a performer at the Melody Palace nightclub in Warsaw. She was a prisoner of Warsaw Ghetto. In several publications she is mentioned as a German collaborator. Her name is associated with the “Hotel Polski affair”. At the same time she is mentioned in the context of heroic behavior in Auschwitz.

On October 23, 1943 a transport of around 1700 Polish Jews arrived on passenger trains at the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, although they had been told that they were being taken to a transfer camp called Bergau near Dresden, from where they would continue on to Switzerland to be exchanged for German POWs. One of the passengers was Franciszka Mann. She had probably obtained her foreign passport from the Hotel Polski on the Aryan side. In July 1943 the Germans arrested the 600 Jewish inhabitants of the hotel and some of them were sent to Bergen-Belsen as exchange Jews. Others were sent to Vittel in France to await transfer to South America.

The new arrivals were not registered but were told that they had to be disinfected before crossing the border into Switzerland. They were taken into the undressing room next to the gas chamber and ordered to undress. Different accounts give different details of what happened next, but what is confirmed is that she fatally wounded the roll call officer Josef Schillinger, using a pistol (many accounts say his own) and fired two shots, wounding him in the stomach. Then she fired a third shot which wounded another SS Sergeant named Emmerich.

According to Tabau, the shots served as a signal for the other women to attack the SS men; one SS man had his nose torn off, and another was scalped. However, different accounts say different things; in some Schillinger and Emmerich are the only victims. Reinforcements were summoned and the camp commander, Rudolf Höss, came with other SS men carrying machine guns and grenades. According to Filip Mueller, all people not yet inside the gas chamber where mowed down by machine guns. Due to various conflicting accounts, it is unclear what truly happened next; the only things that are certain are on that day Schillinger died, Emmerich was wounded, and all the Jewish women were killed.

October 23, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

On This Day…………………

ImageOn 23 October 1943 a transport of 1,800 Polish Jews arrived from Bergen-Belsen to Auschwitz.

They all had passports allowing them to emigrate to South America.

The SS sent them to the gas chambers immediately after selection, men were directed to crematorium III and women to crematorium II. In the undressing room of crematorium II in Birkenau, the antechamber to the gas chamber, one of the women realized the danger they were in and seized SS man Josef Schillinger’s pistol. She shot him and wounded him badly, and also shot a second SS man, Wilhelm Emmerich. This was a signal for other women to attack the henchmen. However, the SS suppressed the mutiny very fast and killed all the women. Schillinger died on the way to the hospital in Katowice. Emmerich survived, but was disabled. 

The identity of the women has not been 100% confirmed, yet some sources indicate, that it was Franciszka Mann.

October 23, 2012 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

Ryszard Horowitz

Of late I only seem to have news of  the deaths of Auschwitz survivors, here’s a happier story.

The renowned photographer and Auschwitz survivor Ryszard Horowitz has received an honorary doctorate from the Fine Arts Academy in Wrocław, south-western Poland.

Ryszard

In his thank-you remarks, Horowitz, a Krakow contemporary to Roman Polanski who now lives in the US, said he could not believe he gained such a prestigious distinction considering that, as he put it, “not long ago I left communist Poland with a five-dollar banknote hidden in the heel of my shoe”.

His luggage included a folder with his drawings and paintings which were supplied by an official with the stamp reading “the articles do not have any artistic merit”.

Horowitz, who emigrated to the United States in 1959 after being born in 1939 and enduring time in concentration camps with his parents while under Nazi occupation, also told those attending the ceremony, who included President Bronislaw Komorowski, that he has not forgotten Poland and has not changed his name into Richard.

“It was thanks to very hard work and a little of bit of talent that I managed to achieve something,” he said.

Ryszard Horowitz was four months old when he and his family were ransported to Nazi German concentration camps, including Auschwitz. He was one of the youngest survivors of Auschwitz when it was liberated in January 1945.

As a student at the Fine Arts Academy in Kraków, he developed an interest in photography, which he continued in the United States. He studied at the Pratt Institute in New York City. Upon graduation, he worked for several film and design companies, before opening his own photography studio in 1967. He has earned a reputation as a pioneer of special effects photography prior to digital technology, and has updated his techniques as technologies have changed.

October 9, 2012 Posted by | Auschwitz, News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Shlomo Venezia, who survived being an Auschwitz Sonderkommando, dies

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Shlomo Venezia, a Holocaust survivor who wrote about his experiences in an Auschwitz Sonderkommando unit and spent years bearing personal testimony to the Shoah, has died.

Venezia, who was born in Salonika (Thessaloniki), Greece, died Sept. 30 in Rome at the age of 88.

Deported to Auschwitz in 1944, he was one of the few survivors of the notorious Sonderkommando units – teams of prisoners forced to move and cremate the bodies of those killed in the gas chambers. His mother and two sisters were killed in Auschwitz. He wrote about his experiences in a memoir, “Sonderkommando Auschwitz,” published in 2007.

Venezia was very active speaking about the Holocaust at schools, public events and in the media, and he accompanied Italian student groups on study trips to Auschwitz.

His death “leaves a vacuum and great pain,” said Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno.

Nicola Zingaretti, the president of Rome province, said: “It is difficult today, and it has always been difficult, to find the words to thank Shlomo for all that he has given us and all that he has taught us, and it is difficult, maybe impossible, to comprehend the depth of his suffering, his courage and his generosity.”

The Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, Irina Bokova, also paid tribute. “Shlomo Venezia was an exceptional and tireless witness of this dark period of history,” she said in a statement. “He dedicated many years of his life telling his story in Italy and throughout Europe to serve as a warning for the future. He influenced a whole generation of young people, teachers and historians, thanks to his deep loyalty to the memory of the deceased. All those who knew him were struck by his modesty and his strength of character,” she said. “His death is a call to intensify efforts for educating and transmitting the history of the Holocaust around the world.”

October 3, 2012 Posted by | News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Record numbers visit Auschwitz – Birkenau in 2011

Over 1.4 million people visited the site of the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz last year.

 According to a press release by the Auschwitz Museum, this is a record since the Museum opened sixty five years ago.

The number of young people visiting Auschwitz grew by 150, 000 last year.
The director of the Museum, Piotr Cywiński, said that this is encouraging, a visit to Auschwitz being for them not only a lesson in history but also a lesson of responsibility which is born out of remembrance of past events.

In addition to over 600, 000 Polish visitors, foreigners from 111 countries came to Auschwitz last year. The British top the list, with 82, 000 visitors, followed by the Italians, the Israelis, the Germans and the Americans. A 30 per cent drop in the number of Japanese visitors is attributed to the earthquake which hit Japan in March 2010.

February 21, 2012 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , , | Leave a comment

Kazimierz Smolen. RIP

Kazimierz Smolen survived the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Mauthausen, and went on to co-found the State Museum at Auschwitz-Birkenau. He died on Holocaust Memorial day aged 91.

Smolen was born into a Catholic family in 1920 in Chorzow Stary, southern Poland. After the Nazi occupation in September 1939 he joined one of the first resistance groups. Arrested in April 1940 in Chorzow, he was sent to the former Austro-Hungarian cavalry barracks on the outskirts of the Polish town of Oswiecim, which had been annexed by the German Reich and was now known as Auschwitz.

The Nazis had converted the old barracks into a concentration camp for Poles, and Smolen was dispatched in one of the first prisoner transports and given the prisoner number 1327. He recalled that in the first few months, he and the other prisoners, mainly Poles, were held standing in a totally dark cell; many suffered strokes. Each morning and evening the SS conducted roll call outside. Weak, starving and barefoot, prisoners were often made to do “exercise” by turning around in circles with their arms raised above their heads, sometimes for several hours. When the inmates stopped or lowered their arms, the guards beat or shot them.

Later they were put to work building Birkenau, a new sub-camp, where the gas chambers were located. They worked from 5am until dark in muddy fields and marshes, their food consisting of a litre of herbal tea in the morning and 250 grams of bread in the evening, and sometimes soup. There were deaths each day from exhaustion. Fortunately for Smolen, when the Nazis discovered he could type he was transferred to office duties.

Smolen left Auschwitz on the last transport of around 10,000 prisoners on 18 January 1945, nine days before its liberation by Soviet troops. He survived the “death march” and was imprisoned in Ebensee, the sub-camp of Mauthausen concentration camp near Linz in Upper Austria. There he joined Russian, French, Dutch, Norwegian, German, Austrian, Spanish and other nationalities. The camp was an integral part of the Nazi armaments industry where the policy of Vernichtung durch Arbeit [extermination through work] was the order of the day.

As the curtain fell on the Reich most of the SS guards and their commander, Franz Ziereis, fled. Ziereis was later shot trying to escape from American troops. On 5 May 1945 the camp was approached by soldiers of the 41st Recon Squad of the US 11th Armored Division, who disarmed the auxiliary guards and left. The 30 or so remaining SS were killed by the prisoners.

After the war Smolen returned to Poland and graduated from the law faculty at the Catholic University of Lublin. He worked for the Main Commission for Investigation of Nazi Crimes and had the satisfaction of living to see the longest-serving commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, tried and hanged. The last commandant, Richard Baer, died in custody. Smolen appeared as a witness and an expert in many war-criminal trials, including the Nuremberg trials in 1945 and ’46, and the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, which ran from December 1963 to August 1965. At Frankfurt six defendants were given life sentences and several others received the maximum prison sentences – though many others never faced trial.

Smolen was a co-founder and adirector, from 1955-90, of the StateMuseum Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was also a long-standing secretary-general and deputy chairman of the International Auschwitz Committee. Hisperiod in office saw many controversies: he not only had to rebut Holocaust deniers but he was often faced with disagreements within his committee with members from about 19 countries, which reflected the changes in Cold War alliances.

He and his wife lived within the camp in a flat above the main office. They remained there after his retirement. He explained his decision to return to the camp to manage it as a way of honouring those who were killed there. He attributed his survival to good health and extreme luck. He died in Oswiecim on the 67th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, which in 2005 was designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations.

Kazimierz Smolen, lawyer and museum director: born Chorzow Stary, Poland 19 April 1920; married; died Oswiecim, Poland 27 January 2012.

February 18, 2012 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , | Leave a comment

Poland to donate €10,000,000 to Auschwitz perpetual fund.

The Polish government is to contribute 10 million euros for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation which is to oversee the conservation and maintenance work at the site of the former Nazi German concentration camp in southern Poland.

A draft bill which is to approve the donation has had its first reading in the parliamentary commission for culture and the media. Its chairwoman, Iwona Śledzińska-Katarasińska, said that preserving Auschwitz, a site of unique importance, is of utmost siginificance not only for Poland and Europe, but also for the whole world.

Chairman of the Auschwitz Foundation, former Auschwitz prisoner Władysław Bartoszewski, called on deputies to support the draft irrespective of party differences. ‘Such a non-partisan gesture would be appreciated by both the Germans and Jews, showing that all the parties in Poland, from the right to the left, share the view that the site of the former camp should be preserved as a testimony for the whole mankind’, he said.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, which was established in January 2009, hopes to create a Perpetuity Fund of 120 million euros by 2015 to ensure the consolidation, restoration and long-term maintenance of the camp site.

Several countries have already pledged to contribute 85 million euros, the most sizeable contribution (60 million euros) having been offered by Germany. The United States, Austria, Great Britain and Israel have also contributed to the fund.

The site of the Auschwitz camp extends over an area of almost 200 hectares and comprises 155 buildings, most which are badly in need of repair. The conservation projects are also to cover the camp’s archives, documents and objects in the museum collection. Over 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, perished at Auschwitz.

July 30, 2011 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , , , | 1 Comment

And not before time.

Krakow Tours - Auschwitz Italian displayFrom July 2011, the Italian exhibition at the Auschwitz Memorial is closed to visitors.

Not educational in any way, it failed to meet the basic requirements for national exhibitions as set by the International Auschwitz Council, which have been in force since the 1990s.

The Italian exhibition, opened in 1980, was made up of a ribbon of fabric in the form of a spiral, hung with paintings intended to represent various incidents from the history of Italy in the 1930s and 1940s. The designers stated that the final section was supposed to be an apotheosis of positive colors signifying victory over the time of contempt and persecution.

This type of exhibition can be categorized as art for art’s sake and would be referred to in a gallery of contemporary art as an installation or performance. This type of art is not presented on the grounds of the former Auschwitz camp, where the educational dimension is connected with remembrance, education, and making the younger generation aware of the tragedy of the victims of the Shoah and the concentration camps, as well as encouraging people to reflect upon their personal responsibility for the world around them and its future.

The organizers of the closed exhibition, the Italian ANED association, have been reminded regularly over the years about the fact that the exhibition did not conform to the rules established by the International Auschwitz Council. Positive talks are underway with the Italian government about creating a new narrative-historical exhibition in the future that will meet the requirements set by the International Auschwitz Council and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.

July 4, 2011 Posted by | Auschwitz | , , , , | 3 Comments

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