„I don’t want our past to become the future of our children“
These were the words which the President of the International Auschwitz Committee (IAC), Mr. Roman Kent (New York), addressed to the participants of the General Assembly of the International Auschwitz Committee, which took place at the International Youth Meeting Centre in Oswiecim/Auschwitz (IYMC) from August 29th-30th.
Roughly 100 delegates from the different national committees and organizations close to the IAC from 16 countries attended the General Assembly. Among them many former prisoners of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau such as Esther Bejarano, Eva Fahidi, Noah Klieger, Marian Turski, Roman Kent oder Prof. Felix Kolmer, Prof. Wacław Długoborski as well as members of the 2nd generation.
Before the official inauguration of the General Assembly, on August 29th at 11:30 am, the delegation travelled to the Death Wall in the courtyard of Block 11 in Auschwitz-I-Stammlager for a wreath-laying ceremony and afterwards headed for Auschwitz-II-Birkenau to also lay down a wreath near the memorial and commemorate the victims. For the inauguration of the General Assembly many dignitaries were present among them the President of the city of Oswiecim, Mr. Janusz Chwierut, the General Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany in Krakow, Dr. Michael Groß, , the General Consul of the Republic of France in Krakow, Mr. Frédéric de Touchet, and members of the Board and the Council of the foundation for the IYMC.
After reading out the words of welcome of the President of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Andrzej Duda, the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Frank-Walther Steinmeier, the President of the Republic of Austria, ;Mr. Alexander Van der Bellen, and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres, Christoph Heubner, Executive Vice-President of the IAC, presented the development of the IAC since the inauguration of the Berlin office in 2003 and the perspectives of its future work. Then the director of the IYMC, Mr. Leszek Szuster, as a host welcomed the participants, before Ines Doberanzke-Minikel addressed words of welcome in the name of Volkswagen, who were staying at the IYMC with Polish and German trainees for an educational program. Subsequently the Vice-Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Mr. Andrzej Kacorzyk, presented the current status of and challenges that the memorial site is facing and devoted a lot of time to answer all questions raised.
This was followed up by the reports from Israel, presented by Mr. Noah Klieger and Mr. Avi Rosental, and France where Mrs. Isabelle Ernot presented their website www.memoiresdesdeportations.fr which almost brought to an end the first day. The culmination of the first day was the “Evening of encounters”, which was accompanied by music from Veronika and Marcin Bojanski, where the participants were able to get together in small circles, but also gave the youths staying at the IYMC the rare possibility to get in touch with the survivors.
The 2nd day of the General Assembly was dominated by the reports from the different countries which allowed a unique insight into the activities and difficult situations some countries are facing. In his thrilling speech “The world after Auschwitz” – Expectations for the future work of the IAC- Mr. Marian Turski warned:
If there will no longer be a personal memory, it will have to be replaced by collective memory. Collective memory that’s you, that’s something you can create. The collective memory that will tell also tell us about the experiences from the 20th century. Because remember, we shall not forget that the 20th century showed us the democracy may fall apart- it can! There is no insurance that ethics will not fall apart.
The Presidium of the IAC was reelected and Mr. Roman Kent confirmed as its President.
Upon leaving the IYMC the participants of the General Assembly, most of all the survivors, were grateful for the interest shown and the care taken of them in the IYMC, which made them feel like at home.