The commemoration has been organized by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and the International Auschwitz Council. It will be attended by delegations from the over thirty countries. The event is held under the patronage of the President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski.
Speeches by the camp’s former prisoners will form the central point of the program. (Read more:http://70.auschwitz.org/index.php?lang=en)
The Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp was liberated on January 27 1945 by the Soviet Red Army soldiers. The camp operated since the spring of 1940. Between January 17 and 21 1945 Auschwitz crew evacuated the camp, sending approximately 56,000 prisoners on to the so-called ‘death marches’ to other camps in the German Reich. The Soviet Red Army, marching west, liberated approximately 7,000 prisoners in the camps of Auschwitz I, II and III.
The German Konzentrationslager Auschwitz was established by decision of the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler on April 27 1940 in the artillery barracks in the Polish city of Oswiecim, which was incorporated into the German Reich in the fall of 1939 and became part of the area called Regierungsbezirk Kattowitz. Then the German authorities changed the name of the city to Auschwitz. SS-Hauptsturmführer Rudolf Höss was appointed the camp’s commander.
In May of 1940 about 30 German convicts were sent to the camp to maintain order and perform supervisory functions with regard to future political prisoners. The first prisoners (728 men, mostly Polish political and social activists) were sent from the Polish city of Tarnow on June 14, 1940. That group also included Catholic priests and Jews.
The construction of the Birkenau camp began in the fall of 1941. In the spring of 1942 the mass killing of Jews in gas chambers began. For that purpose the German Nazis used two smaller makeshift chambers and five large chambers, all of which operated by the crematoria. The Birkenau camp was a concentration camp though it is commonly known as the site of immediate death of over a million prisoners, mostly Jews.
In 1947 the Polish parliament granted the former German Nazi Death Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau the status of a state museum. The camp is a unique place of remembrance and a center of education about the Holocaust and human rights. It is also the only such site which was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. “Auschwitz-Birkenau has become the symbol of the Holocaust and the crimes of World War II”, said Dr. Piotr Cywiński, the Museum director.
Every year Auschwitz-Birkenau is visited by over 1 million visitors. In 2014, the number of visitors reached 1.5 mln (400,000 from Poland; 200,000 from the UK; 90,000 from the USA; 85,000 from Italy, 75,000 from Germany, 60,000 from Israel). Almost 70 percent of the visitors are young people.
There are close to 150 preserved buildings (including the barracks) on the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum as well as about 300 ruins (including the ruins of the gas chambers and the crematoria at Birkenau). The Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage annually allocates approximately USD 5 mln for the preservation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. However, the funds required to maintain the buildings and archives of the camp far exceed that amount. Therefore, in 2009 the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation was set up with the goal of raising the perpetual capital of EUR 120 million (USD 144 million) which is to bring the total annual income of EUR 4~5 million (USD 4,8~6 mln) for permanent restoration work. Up until December 31 2014, 30 countries have declared their contributions to the fund. The largest sums were declared by: Germany: EUR 60 mln (USD 72 mln); the USA: USD15 mln; Poland EUR10 mln (USD 12 mln), Austria: USD6 mln (USD 7.2 mln), France: EUR5 mln (USD 6 mln), the UK: GBP2.1 mln (USD 3.17 mln), Switzerland: EUR1 mln (USD 1.2 mln), Italy: EUR1 mln (USD 1.2 mln), Israel USD1 mln, Russia: USD1 mln.
German Nazi concentration camps: http://issuu.com/msz.gov.pl/docs/obozy_2014_engn?e=0/11122283
Website: the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation
Video: the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau
Website: The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Website: German Nazi labor, concentration and extermination camps
The Consulate’s website: www.chicago.mfa.gov.pl
Facebook: Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago