- Andrew HollingerDirector, Communications202.437.1221
U.S. Department of State and Museum Event Recognizes
75th Anniversary of Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum's Singular Role
in Preserving Holocaust Memory
WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Department of State and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum marked the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum with a special program on July 13th recognizing the singular role the historic site has played in preserving Holocaust memory.
At the event, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Director Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński received the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Leadership Award, in the presence of two Auschwitz survivors.
“The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum plays a unique role in Holocaust memory and education. It is the site of a watershed event in human history, an iconic symbol of the world over human evil. And our most potent reminder of the dangers of unchecked antisemitism and hatred, Holocaust ignorance, distortion and denial, which are sadly intensifying,” said Museum Chairman Stuart E. Eizenstat. “We are deeply grateful to Poland for its decision to establish the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, as well as its longstanding support for the institution. We applaud Dr. Cywiński’s stellar leadership of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and his singular contributions to advancing the cause of Holocaust memory and education in Europe and worldwide.”
Established in 1947, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum opened its first exhibitions in 1950. The grounds cover 191 hectares, of which 20 are at Auschwitz I and 171 at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, where over one million Jews and others were systematically killed. On the grounds stand several hundred camp buildings and ruins, including the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria, over a dozen kilometers of camp fence, camp roads and the railroad spur ("ramp") at Birkenau. In 1979, the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was recognized on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.
“The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was created just after the war by survivors of this infamous concentration camp and extermination center,” said Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywiński. “Seventy-five years later, with the survivors diminishing in number, it is our responsibility to determine the role of this memory in individual and collective lives. If we place the memory of the Holocaust only in the history books, it means that we have failed to understood the universal truth about humanity it reveals. In today's world, our culture, legal, political, and diplomatic evolution, as well as our understanding of ethics and social norms cannot be comprehended without understanding the very essence of the planned dehumanization, exclusion, antisemitism, and racism of Auschwitz and the entire German Third Reich.”
“More than a million people were murdered at Auschwitz, most of them Jews,” said the State Department’s Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Ellen Germain. “Auschwitz stands as testimony to the depths of evil to which humanity can descend, and so we can’t overstate its importance as a place of commemoration and education. For 75 years, since just after the end of World War II, Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum has taken on that dual role of honoring the victims and preserving their history. Under Dr. Cywiński’s leadership, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has supported accurate history and education about the Holocaust and has guarded against Holocaust distortion and denial. The United States is proud to work with such people and institutions.”
A nonpartisan, federal educational institution, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust dedicated to ensuring the permanence of Holocaust memory, understanding, and relevance. Through the power of Holocaust history, the Museum challenges leaders and individuals worldwide to think critically about their role in society and to confront antisemitism and other forms of hate, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. The Museum’s National Leadership Award recognizes outstanding partners who have significantly advanced the Museum’s mission. For more information, visit ushmm.org.