The beginnings of the Auschwitz – Birkenau Museum
In April 1946, the Ministry of Culture and Arts sent to Oświęcim a group of former prisoners of Auschwitz concentration camp headed by Tadeusz Wąsowicz to protect the grounds of the former Auschwitz camp and to create a museum there.
Death camp museum as historical document
At the beginning of 1947, Ludwik Rajewski, head of the Department of Museums and Monuments at the Ministry of Culture and Art, presented his organizational project. According to him, the Museum was to be a “historical document”. It was planned that it would present the extermination of the nations conquered by the Germans, expose the mass nature of German crimes, avoiding the “macabre” and using only appropriate artistic solutions. It was emphasized that the issue of the extermination of the Jewish people required special treatment, and in consultation with the Central Commission of Jews in Poland it would be necessary to determine the number of Jewish victims and victims from each nation.
The exhibition was to include three parts: a general one – showing the fate of prisoners in the camp, an international one – devoted to the war situation of nations whose representatives were deported to Auschwitz, and a part illustrating the history of other German concentration camps.
The exhibitions designed in 12 blocks of the former main camp
Expositions were to present the history of Polish-German relations (block 15). The structure and character of the SS, the genesis of concentration camps, categories of prisoners, the ratio of SS-men to prisoners (block 16). Life, work and death in the camp and outside the camp (blocks 17 and 18). Then the Holocaust – the official then name of the exhibition ‘Holocaust’, as the extermination of representatives of other nationalities was also included (block 4). All items remaining after the victims (blocks 5 and 6), the history of the camp and resistance in the camp (block 7), the state of the block in 1940 (block 8) and in 1944 (block 9). Experiments on prisoners and the life of women in the camp (block 10), interiors “Block of Death” (block 11). The last block and the adjacent yard were to form a mausoleum. The remaining blocks were intended to be given to the protection of nations whose representatives died in Auschwitz, and to present in them the history of other Nazi concentration camps.
In some of the post-camp blocks, from 1960, so-called “national exhibitions” created on the initiative of former prisoners from various countries affiliated to the International Auschwitz Committee. They mainly presented the fate of the citizens of those countries from which the Nazis sent transports to deportees to KL Auschwitz. At the site of the former Birkenau camp, efforts were made to maintain a condition similar to the original one. The only new large element introduced to this part of the camp was the International Monument to the Victims of the Concentration Camp, unveiled in 1967.
Check also : HISTORY OF KRAKOW