Władysław Bartoszewski: Appeal to the World over Auschwitz-Birkenau
January 27, 2011 marks the passage of 66 years since the liberation of the German Nazi Concentration and Death Camp Auschwitz. During the anniversary observances Professor Władysław Bartoszewski, former prisoner and initiator of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, addressed a special Appeal to the entire world for help in maintaining the authentic original remains of the former camp.
“I wish to help preserve this testimony as a living symbol of genocide and intolerance. I do so in remembrance of all the victims who died in Auschwitz-Birkenau and of those who survived this hell. I do so in view of what happened, what is happening now, and what could happen again,” we read in the Pledge, which is available to be signed on a special page at the Auschwitz Museum website.
Taking part in the anniversary of liberation were former Auschwitz prisoners, the presidents of the Republic of Poland and the Federal Republic of Germany, parliamentarians from the Polish Sejm and the German Bundestag, members of the diplomatic corps, clergy, regional and local officials and community leaders, invited guests, and people wishing to honor the memory of the victims of the German Nazis. In their remarks, speakers drew attention to the need to preserve the Memorial for future generations. Former Auschwitz prisoners Eva Umlauf, August Kowalczyk, and Professor Władysław Bartoszewski were among those who addressed the gathering.
“ By preventing Auschwitz from decay we give a signal for resistance against the Holocaust, which, according to the plans of the Nazis, should be so total that no trace of the victims would remain, not even of the extermination process. For this purpose we established the Foundation Auschwitz-Birkenau, which collects money for the preservation of the former camp. We are appealing to the whole world for support of this enterprise,” said Professor Bartoszewski.
“Auschwitz as a museum conducts a huge role. I am glad that it would be possible to say we are reaching the moment that this place in a financial and organizational sense will be protected for ever. And it will be functioning not only as a big prick of conscience and a reopened wound but as a place of collective thought about the future and humankind,” said Polish President Bronisław Komorowski.
Germany has contributed €60 million in support of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, and the country’s president stressed that the name “Auschwitz,” like no other, symbolizes the crimes that the Germans committed against millions of human beings. “Unlike anything else, the name «Auschwitz» stands for the crimes perpetrated by Germans against millions of human beings. They fill us Germans with disgust and shame. They lay upon us a historical responsibility that is independent of individual guilt,” said German President Christian Wulff.
Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, sent a special letter to those in attendance at the ceremony. "I call on all countries to commit themselves to maintaining this special place. By supporting Auschwitz-Birkenau financially, we support the testimony of our terrible past," he wrote. "Even in times of crisis, or perhaps especially in times of crisis, we must uphold the memory of what people are capable of doing. We cannot erase this from our memory."
During the ceremony there was also talk of the need to prevent similar things from happening today and in the future. " We must do everything within our power to prevent a repetition of this tragic event. We must combat all manifestations of racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, and hate that could lead to a new genocide. We believe that commemorating the victims of the Holocaust will be a successful lesson to this purpose," stressed Zvi Rav-Ner, the Ambassador of Israel.
Representing the Roma community, Romani Rose said that human rights and the rights of minorities are inseparable. " For centuries, Sinti and Romanies have been residents of the countries of Europe. They are an integral part of European history and culture. Discrimination, rabble-rousing motivated by racism, and violence against Sinti and Romanies must be ostracized as rigorously as the various manifestations of antisemitism by those who are politically responsible and by the European institutions. This is the lesson to be learnt from Auschwitz," he said.
The ceremonies concluded at the Monument to the Victims of the Camp, where those in attendance placed candles commemorating the victims of Auschwitz while rabbis and clergy of the various Christian faiths joined together in reading the 42nd Psalm.