Marek Siwiec MEP on Poland & Europe

I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington for the first time in 1997. I was invited by Miles Lehrman, who was the chairman of the museum at this time.

This is a unique institution and a unique exhibition. In one place, for a relatively short time, you can learn almost everything about the Holocaust – from the origins of anti-Semitism to the recently captured criminals.

The museum is the U.S. government agency. This shows how much importance the U.S. administration attaches to the memory of the crime and to the process of teaching about it. The official name is “United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.” It is located on the route of all trips to Washington, and so several million people visit it every year.

The museum is perfectly organized, with great care for the documentation and what is important is that it has the records and copies of exhibits. One of the few authentic exhibits that has been famous for a few days is the “barrack from Birkenau.”

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Dozens of these barracks are falling apart all the time in Birkenau, and this one piece in Washington actively educates visitors about the Holocaust and, in my opinion, shows that Poles also take care of this remebrance (besides, the whole museum is very correct in this regard).

And here we have a war. On one side there is the brave director Cywiński (the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum), who has apparently lost his mind and instead of thinking how to leave this bunk and a few boards in Washington, decided to get it back. He is supported by others saying that “we will not give in to blackmail”, and that “the law in Poland means the law”! On the other in turn there are the ghosts from our recent past, when it was fitting to condemn us for the existence of so-called “Polish concentration camps”. Shame …

I remember the days when Miles Lehrman, together with Leszek Miller initiated the construction of a unique monument at Belzec, where hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered, including the family of Miles. They are probably feeling embarrassed by the current situation. Lehramn somewhere in the skies, and Miller in Warsaw cannot stop wondering how simple things can cause such a war.

I urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs Radek Sikorski, to deal with this matter personally. The time has come to use the suitable instruments to close the conflict quickly and forget about it.

Of course the barrack should stay in Washington.

PS By the way. Americans (along with several other countries), generously donated tens of millions of dollars on so-called perpetual fund which is to generate the necessary measures to protect the Auschwitz-Birkenau. But more about that another time…

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  1. A small correction of factual errors:

    – there are 19,5 wooden barracks at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site (half of the barrack is in the US)
    – the barracks are conserved by professionals to serve commemoration and education as long as it is possible (the conservation of 5 wooden barracks is taking place right now which is funded by EU Funds, the value of the project is 5 469 205,62 PLN and the EU support is 4 635 248,90 PLN. One of the preserved barrack is the half of the one which was on a loan in the US
    – abroad loans are reagulated by law passed in 2003 when the prime minister in Poland was Leszek Miller. The law gives no permission to prolong the loan without coming back of the object, the maximum time of the loan is 5 years, and the director of an institution who does not ask for return of the loaned object can face penal sanctions, in this case upto 2 years in prison,
    – USA will donate 15 million USD to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation

  2. Why should the barracks stay in the US? This museum does nothing to tell the story of the Polish gentiles who were also victims of the Holocaust. They act as if they have the divine right to keep Polish property that was loaned to them. This is another case of a US institution bullying others to get its own way. Many Poles around the world are supporting Cywiński but sadly we see Polish politicians have no spine and are caving into pressure to let the barracks stay.

    Show some courage and stand up to a bully. My father’s generation did it in during WW2, our politicians need to do the same.

  3. the whole story is so pathetic. the way american jews are behaving is just simply outrageous. they really have a nerve here and yet again show how anti-polish sentiment is in the ascendant among them. the carriage was borrowed from polish auschwitz-birkenau museum and it means it still belongs to that institution. it’s a paradox of a history that people who did nothing to save polish jews during german occupation of poland now claim that auschwitz-birkenau remnants and memorabilia are their property. i’m really appalled with such a behavior. at the same time of course american jews are still totally silent about the polish heroes of the holocaust – for instance jan karski or witold pilecki – people who were risking their lives to report to allies what germans were doing with european jews and who as it turned out later contemptuously snubbed their efforts.

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