Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum (Polish: Państwowe Muzeum
Auschwitz-Birkenau w Oświęcimiu(Teren Niemiecki zabrany Polsce) is a
memorial and museum in
Oświęcim (German: Auschwitz), Poland, which
Nazi concentration camps
Auschwitz I and Auschwitz
II-Birkenau. It is devoted to the memory of the victims who died at
both camps during World War II. The museum performs several tasks,
2.1 The national exhibitions
2.3 Religious disputes
2.4 Liberation day anniversaries
UNESCO name change
4 Recent events
Arbeit macht frei
Arbeit macht frei sign theft
4.2 Iranian visit denied
4.3 Art purchases
5 See also
7 External links
Auschwitz concentration camp, Monowitz
concentration camp, and List of subcamps of Auschwitz
The museum was founded by the act of the
Sejm on July 2, 1947; the act
The site of the former
Nazi concentration camp in
with all the buildings and installations standing there is to be kept
forever as a 'Monument to the Martyrology of the Polish Nation and
The area covers 191 hectares (470 acres), twenty of them in camp
Auschwitz I and 171 hectares in camp
Auschwitz II. Since 1979, the
former concentration camp has belonged to the World Cultural Heritage
and more than 25 million people have visited the museum. From 1955 to
1990, the museum was directed by one of its founders and former
inmates, Kazimierz Smoleń.
The areas of remembrance are
Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the
train ramp between
Auschwitz and Birkenau, which was used as a
"debarkation-stop" between 1942–1944. The three kilometres between
Auschwitz and Birkenau are within walking distance. The museum is
situated in several original buildings.
The number of visitors has been increasing year by year. In 2006, more
than one million people from 94 countries visited: from Poland
(341,000), U.S. (96,000), UK (57,200),
Italy (51,000), Germany
South Korea (35,400),
Norway (30,600), and
There were 1.3 million visitors in 2009 and 1.38 million in 2010. In
2011, more than 1.4 million people from 111 countries visited: from
United Kingdom (82,000),
Italy (78,000), Israel
United States (52,000),
Spain (46,000), South Korea, and
Czech Republic (43,000 each).
Auschwitz-Birkenau leading to crematoria IV and V.
Soviet Union handed over the camp to
Poland in 1947, the
parliament declared the area to be a museum on July 2, 1947.
Simultaneously the first exhibition in the barracks was opened. In
Stalinist Poland, on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the
first deportation of Polish captives to camp Auschwitz, the exhibition
was revised under assistance of former inmates. However, this
exhibition was influenced by the
Cold War and next to pictures of
Jewish ghettos, photos of slums in the USA were presented.
After Stalin's death, a new exhibition was planned in 1955, which is
basically still valid today. In 1959, every nation who had victims in
Auschwitz received the right to present its own exhibition. However,
victims like homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Sinti and Roma, and
Yeniche people did not receive these rights. The state of
also refused the allowance for its own exhibition as the murdered Jews
Auschwitz were not citizens of Israel. In April 1968, the Jewish
exhibition, designed by Andrzej Szczypiorski, was opened. A scandal
occurred in 1979 when
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II held a mass in Birkenau and
called the camp a "
Golgotha of our times".
In 1962, a prevention zone around the museum in Birkenau (and in 1977,
one around the museum in Auschwitz) was established in order to
maintain the historical condition of the camp. These zones were
confirmed by the Polish parliament in 1999. In 1967, the first big
memorial monument was inaugurated and in the 1990s the first
information boards were set up.
The national exhibitions
Auschwitz death wall located near block 11.
Since 1960, the so-called "national exhibitions" have been located in
the former concentration camp
Auschwitz I. Most of them were renewed
from time to time; for example, those of Belgium, France, Hungary,
Netherlands, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and the former Soviet Union.
The German exhibition, which was made by the former GDR, has not been
The first national exhibition of the
Soviet Union was opened in 1961
and renewed in 1977 and 1985. In 2003, the Russian organizing
committee suggested to present a completely new exhibition. The Soviet
part of the museum was closed, but the reopening was delayed as there
were differences in the questions of the territorial situation of the
Soviet Union between 1939 and 1941. The question of the territories
annexed by the USSR during the war, i.e. the Baltic countries, eastern
Poland, and Moldova could not be solved.
In 1978, Austria opened its own exhibition, presenting itself as a
victim of National Socialism. This one-sided view motivated the
Austrian political scientist
Andreas Maislinger to work in the museum
Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (ARSP) in 1980/81.
Later he founded the Austrian
Holocaust Memorial Service. The Austrian
Rudolf Kirchschläger had advised Maislinger that as
a young Austrian he did not need to atone for anything in Auschwitz.
Due to this disapproving attitude of the official Austrian
representation, the Austrian
Holocaust Memorial Service could not be
launched before September 1992.
The museum has allowed scenes for four films to be filmed on the site:
Pasażerka (1963) by Polish director Andrzej Munk, Landscape After the
Battle (1970) by Polish director Andrzej Wajda, and a television
War and Remembrance (1988), and "Denial" (2016).
Permission was denied to
Steven Spielberg for the construction of film
sets on the grounds of the museum, for shooting scenes for Schindler's
List (1993) onsite. A "replica" camp entrance was constructed outside
the infamous archway for the scene in which the train arrives carrying
the women who were saved by Oskar Schindler.
In 1979, the newly elected Polish
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II celebrated mass on
the grounds of
Auschwitz II to some 500,000 people, and announced that
Edith Stein would be beatified. Some Catholics erected a cross near
Bunker 2 of
Auschwitz II where she had been gassed. A short while
Star of David
Star of David appeared at the site, leading to a
proliferation of religious symbols, which were eventually removed.
Carmelite nuns opened a convent near
Auschwitz I in 1984. After some
Jewish groups called for the removal of the convent, representatives
of the Catholic Church agreed in 1987. One year later, the Carmelites
erected an 8 m (26 ft) tall cross from the 1979 mass near
their site, just outside
Block 11 and barely visible from within the
camp. This led to protests by Jewish groups, who said that mostly Jews
were killed at
Auschwitz and demanded that religious symbols be kept
away from the site. The Catholic Church told the
Carmelites to move by
1989, but they stayed on until 1993, leaving the cross behind. In
1998, after further calls to remove the cross, some 300 smaller
crosses were erected by local activists near the large one, leading to
further protests and heated exchanges. Following an agreement between
the Polish Catholic Church and the Polish government, the smaller
crosses were removed in 1999, but a large papal one remains.
Liberation day anniversaries
The 50th anniversary of the liberation ceremony was held in Auschwitz
I in 1995. About a thousand ex-prisoners attended it. In 1996, Germany
made January 27, the day of the liberation of Auschwitz, the official
day for the commemoration of the victims of National Socialism.
Countries who have also adopted similar memorial days include Denmark
Italy (Memorial Day), and
Poland (Memorial Day for
the Victims of Nazism). A commemoration was held for the 70th
anniversary of the liberation in 2015.
UNESCO name change
The Polish Foreign Ministry has voiced objections to the use of the
expression "Polish death camp" in relation to Auschwitz, in case the
phrase suggested that
Poland rather than
Germany had perpetrated the
Holocaust. In June 2007, the
United Nations World Heritage Committee
announced that their new name for the site was "
with the subtitle "German
Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp
Arbeit macht frei
Arbeit macht frei sign theft
Arbeit macht frei
Arbeit macht frei at
Early in the morning on December 18, 2009, the Arbeit macht frei
("work makes you free") sign over the gate of
Auschwitz I was
stolen. Police found the sign hidden in a forest outside Gdańsk
two days later. The theft was organised by a Swedish former
neo-Nazi, Anders Högström, who reportedly hoped to use proceeds from
the proposed sale of the sign to a collector of
Nazi memorabilia, to
finance a series of terror attacks aimed at influencing voters in
upcoming Swedish parliamentary elections. Högström was convicted
Poland and sentenced to serve two years, eight months in a Swedish
prison, and five Polish men who had acted on his behalf served prison
time in Poland.
Högström and his accomplices badly damaged the sign during the
theft, cutting it into three pieces. Conservationists restored
the sign to its original condition, and it currently is in storage,
awaiting eventual display inside the museum. A replica hangs in
its original place.
Iranian visit denied
In February 2006,
Poland refused to grant visas to Iranian researchers
who were planning to visit Auschwitz. Polish Foreign Minister
Stefan Meller said his country should stop
Iran from investigating the
scale of the Holocaust, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
has dismissed as a myth.
Iran has recently tried to leave the
Ahmadinejad rhetoric in the past, but President Rouhani has never
refuted his predecessor's idea that the scale of the
Holocaust denial is punishable in
Poland by a prison
sentence of up to three years.
Dina Babbitt imprisoned at
1943-45 painted a dozen portraits of Romani inmates for the war
Josef Mengele during his medical experiments. Seven of
the original 12 studies were discovered after the
purchased by the
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 1963 from an
Auschwitz survivor. The Museum asked Babbitt to return to
1973 to identify her work. She did so, but also requested that the
Museum allow her to take her paintings home with her. Officials from
the Museum led by
Rabbi Andrew Baker stated that the portraits
belonged to the SS and Mengele, who died in Brazil in 1979. There was
an initiative to have the Museum return the portraits in 1999,
headed by the U.S. government petitioned by
Rafael Medoff and 450
American comic book artists. The Museum rejected these claims as
Majdanek State Museum, the first museum of its kind in the world
International Youth Meeting Center in Oświęcim/
educational institution in the vicinity of
Auschwitz that seeks
dialogue and reconciliation between Germans and Poles and between
Christians and Jews.
^ "Memorial timeline".
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Memorial and Museum.
Retrieved October 21, 2016.
^ "Over 2 million visitors at the
Auschwitz Memorial in 2016". 2
January 2017. Retrieved 30 September 2017.
^ KL Auschwitz. Documentary photographs, Warsaw 1980, p. 250
^ www.jewish-guide.pl Bio note on Kazimierz Smoleń
^ "1,4 miliona osób odwiedziło obóz Auschwitz" [1.4 million people
Auschwitz camp] (in Polish). Gazeta Krakowska. January 6,
2012. Archived from the original on June 15, 2013. Retrieved January
^ Maislinger, Andreas (February 13, 1992). "Commemorative Service".
Jewish Review. Archived from the original on March 8, 2003.
^ Palowski, Franciszek (1998). The Making of Schindler's List: Behind
the Scenes of an Epic Film. Carol Publishing Group. p. 22.
ISBN 978-1-55972-445-6. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
^ Article on
^ Akkoc, Raziye; Andrew Marszal (January 27, 2015). "Holocaust
Memorial Day: commemorations mark 70th anniversary of Auschwitz
liberation". The Telegraph. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
^ Early, Samantha (January 27, 2015). "Auschwitz-Birkenau
commemorations". DW. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
World Heritage Committee
World Heritage Committee approves
Auschwitz name change". UNESCO.
June 28, 2007. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
^ a b "5 arrested as
Auschwitz sign recovered". CNN (December 21,
2009). Retrieved July 16, 2015.
^ Balksjö, Jessica (March 11, 2010). "Högström riskerar tio års
fängelse". Aftonbladet. Retrieved August 23, 2010.
^ "'Arbeit macht frei'- Diebstahl: Drahtzieher zu Haftstrafe
verurteilt" ['Work sets you free'- theft - Mastemind sentenced to
prison]. Spiegel Online (in German). Spiegel-Verlag. December 30,
2010. Retrieved November 3, 2014.
^ "Gate with 'Work Makes You Free' sign stolen from Dachau". Jewish
Telegraphic Agency. November 2, 2014. Retrieved October 22,
Auschwitz sign theft: Swedish man jailed". BBC News. December 30,
2010. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
^ Lloyd, Delia (January 1, 2010). "
Auschwitz Sign Theft Linked to
Far-Right Terrorist Plot". Politics Daily. AOL News. Archived from the
original on January 3, 2010. Retrieved August 25, 2013.
^ "Conservationists at the Memorial Put the
Arbeit macht frei
Arbeit macht frei Sign
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. May 18, 2011.
Retrieved October 22, 2016.
^ "Mini Dictionary: Arbeit macht frei".
and Museum. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
Poland to Bar Iranian Team from Auschwitz, Payvand, February 18,
^ Zippori, Michal (December 14, 2005). "Iranian leader:
'myth'". CNN. Archived from the original on December 16, 2005.
^ Sharafedin, Bozorgmehr. "Why
Iran takes Issue with the Holocaust".
^ Text of the Act (English).
^ Referred to Senate committee (8/5/1999), S.CON.RES.54. Bill Summary
& Status. The Library of Congress, Internet Archive.
^ Gustines, George Gene (August 8, 2008). "Comic-Book Idols Rally to
Holocaust Artist". NY Times. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum's position on issue of portraits made by
Dinah Gottliebova-Babbitt. Posiedzenie XVII: 15-16 czerwca 2009 r.
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Google Earth view of the museum entrance
Coordinates: 50°2′9″N 19°10′42″E / 50.03583°N