Scrapbookpages Blog

June 8, 2012

$150 million project to preserve Auschwitz-Birkenau — including the archival documents and artwork

I read in the news today that the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum will soon have a Perpetual Fund of $150 million, donated by 20 countries, to use for restoration of the Auschwitz main camp (Auschwitz I) and the Birkenau camp (Auschwitz II).  “The annual interest of several million dollars will make it possible to plan and carry out the conservation work.”  You can read the full story here.

Auschwitz III, also known as Monowitz, is still in existence, but off limits to visitors, because the factories that were built by the Nazis are still being used.

I was amazed to learn that, along with the “155 buildings and 300 ruins, including the gas chambers and crematoria, as well as more than 100,000 personal items that belonged to victims,”  other items to be preserved include “archival documents and prisoners’ artworks.”

Archival documents?  What documents?

This quote is from the news article:

Israeli Ambassador to Poland Zvi Rav-Ner during the ceremony called the initiative “a holy mission.” Auschwitz was a “German Nazi death factory,” he said, in which 1.5 million people were killed.

“The memory is important,” Rav-Ner said. “There are many voices on the world which say that Auschwitz didn’t happen and there were no millions of victims.”

Why would anyone say that “there were no millions of victims”?

Are there “archival documents” that prove that 1.5 million prisoners were killed at the three Auschwitz camps, as stated on the plaques at the International Monument?  You can read the full story of the death statistics at Auschwitz-Birkenau here.

Plaque at the International Monument with words in English

As shown in the photo above, the English inscription on a plaque at the International Monument reads as follows:

FOR EVER LET THIS PLACE BE A CRY OF DESPAIR AND A WARNING TO HUMANITY, WHERE THE NAZIS MURDERED ABOUT ONE AND A HALF MILLION MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN MAINLY JEWS FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES OF EUROPE. AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU 1940-1945

The original plaques that were put up by the Soviet Union said that there had been 4 million people killed at Auschwitz. In 1995, at the suggestion of Lech Walesa, the number of deaths on the plaques was changed from 4 million to 1.5 million.

In 1989, the Soviet Union turned over, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the 46 volumes of Death Books (Sterbebücher) which they had confiscated from the Auschwitz camp.  These records, which had been kept by the political department (Gestapo) at Auschwitz, showed that there were around 69,000 registered prisoners who died between July 29, 1941 and December 31, 1943. The Death books from June 14, 1940 to July 28, 1941 are missing, as are the death books from all of 1944 and January 1945. Based on these records, the International Red Cross has estimated that a total of around 135,000 registered prisoners died in the three Auschwitz camps. These figures are for Jews and non-Jews, but do not include the figures for the Jews who were allegedly gassed.  The Jews who were allegedly gassed were not registered at Auschwitz-Birkenau and there were no records kept for them.  The Red Cross records were released at the request of Ernst Zündel, who was put on trial three times for Holocaust denial, but you don’t hear much about that anymore.

What about the artwork done at Auschwitz-Birkenau? I previously blogged about the artwork done in the Nazi concentration camps here.  I have heard that the kitchen building near the Arbeit Macht Frei gate at the Auschwitz main camp will soon have displays of artwork done by the prisoners, but I don’t know if this building is open to visitors yet.

The most famous artwork at Auschwitz is the painting on the ceiling of one of the wooden barrack buildings at Birkenau, which is shown in the photo below.

Painting on ceiling of wooden barrack in Auschwitz-Birkenau Photo Credit: Bryan Lynch

The painting in the photo above shows workers digging the Königsgraben canal at the western end of the Birkenau camp. The canal was needed in order to drain the water in the camp, since Birkenau was built on swampy ground.

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