January 27, 2011 marks the passage of 66 years since the liberation of the German Nazi Concentration and Extermination 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 plays an exceptionally important role as a museum. I am pleased that we are approaching the moment when we will be able to say that, in the financial sense and in the organizational sense, this place will be permanently secure. It will function permanently not only as a great affront to the conscience, not only as the unhealed wound, but also as a place for thinking together about the future of the world and about the future of humanity,” 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.
The addresses delivered during the ceremony of the 66th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp
• Prof Władysław Bartoszewski
• August Kowalczyk
• Eva Umlauf
• The President of the Republic of Poland Bronisław Komorowski
• The President of the Federal Republic of Germany Christian Wulff
• The Ambassador of the State of Israel to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner
• The Chairman of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma Romani Rose
• The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Poland Aleksander Alekseyev
The address by the Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński during the 66th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz
We are meeting for the sixty-sixth time in winter.
That is more often than the majority of those present celebrated their birthday anniversaries.
I was born thirty years
after the gas chambers of the Holocaust were put into operation.
It is difficult for me to imagine
the third ...
the fifth ...
How different the atmosphere must have been at that time!
When the reverberations of Death could still be felt,
when they were loud and omnipresent at this place.
At a time when pain slowly began to change into memory.
Now we are here and look at Auschwitz
from the perspective of the twenty-first century.
At the core of Europe’s worst experience.
At a point of no return, after which nothing was as it has been.
At the apogee. At the bottom. At today’s most important point of reference.
At our European conscience.
There are survivors among us, those who lived through this hell.
From there they brought with them, in their luggage,
fear from the perpetrator,
frequently also from the fellow prisoner,
maybe also anxiety about themselves.
Today their words and testimonies belong to the great voice of history.
There are men and women among us who were born just after the war,
frequently with an inquiring look,
in the field of tension between angst and disbelieving.
Nowhere else than here, at this place,
we feel a panic desire to flee from verbalization.
From naming. And so also from understanding.
There are men and women among us who bear a special responsibility:
Politicians, leaders, decision makers.
Their word puts things in order.
They have, however, also the power to destroy this order.
Nowhere else than here, at this place, they clearly see
the immense and rarely bearable degree of responsibility that rests on their shoulders.
Here great ideas do not matter, neither nailing one’s colors to the mast, nor power, nor honor.
Here real human beings do matter. Men and women. Everybody.
There are young people among us.
It will take many years until their word will influence the reality of our world.
Today, however, we can ask ourselves:
Are we giving them a chance to understand?
Among all these words, big ones and small ones,
ceremonious and everyday words, strange and understandable words,
I would like to remind us of words
that were never said on the occasion of our anniversaries.
Did our ears hear the voices of those who are not among us,
who never have been among us?
The voices of those who could not experience a single anniversary of the liberation.
The voices of those whose steps at Auschwitz were their last steps.
Let us especially remember
that the voices of the majority of the victims of Auschwitz died with their last cry,
before any liberation whatsoever.
They are the strongest commitment for our memory.
We look for their voices in the echoes of our epilogues.
In the language of our memory.
In our conscience.
I am thanking the survivors who are present. Once again.
I am thanking the Presidents.
I am thanking everybody who came here.
I do not do this in my own name alone.
Though I do not have the least right
to thank in the name of somebody else.
Especially in the name of someone who has been silent for more than sixty-six years.
As usually, I am thanking, and I am asking.
We are meeting exactly on this day and this very place ...
This Day of Liberation has become a Day of Remembrance for mankind,
and this place—as pars pro toto—has become a symbol known worldwide.
That means a great commitment for all of us.
Exactly here, at this very place,
let me exclaim:
We need help with the preservation of the authenticity of Auschwitz!
We need help more than ever before.
There are no more remains of Treblinka, Kulmhof,
Sobibór, and Bełżec.
Let us not allow that the biggest of these death camps
and the only one that is still recognizable
will fall into decay due to the ravages of the time
and our indifference.
Let us today side with the remembrance.
With the conscience.
So that future generations, those of our children and their children,
can come and stand here and—may the Almighty grant it—understand things better.