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Conference on the Holocaust in Oświęcim

From July 1 to 3, 2022, the Oświęcim Office in Poland of the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) participated in a conference organized by the Oświęcim Institute of Human Rights entitled “Auschwitz and the Holocaust on the background of genocide in the 20th Century. What is worth, what pays off: Righteous versus Collaborators.”

The event — attended by 112 participants from across Europe, including researchers, teachers, and educators involved in teaching history and civic education — was the result of the collaboration to promote Holocaust Education as a means of understanding the process of genocide and how to prevent it, between several organizations and AIPG including the Foundation of International Youth Meeting Center (MDSM), the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the Institute of History and Archives of the University of Life Sciences in Krakow, the Department of Politics and Culture of the Mediterranean Countries at the Institute of European Studies of the Jagiellonian University, and the Institute of Law and Administration of WSB in Poznań.

During the event, speakers analyzed different topics concerning people’s and institution’s behavior during the Second World War, and the motivations behind the actions of the Righteous (non-Jews who took significant risks to save Jews during the Holocaust) and Collaborators (people, groups, and countries who collaborated with the Nazis) including the effects of fear on Collaborator’s behavior during the conflict and their conviction after the war. 

The conference also analyzed the historical and political impact of the Righteous and Collaborators on various countries, along with the different manifestations of collaboration during and after the war.

Following the presentation, participants had the opportunity to visit the historical exhibition in the Town Hall in Oświęcim and the tunnels,  which included an informational path under the Piast Castle, as well as a guided tour of  the two exhibitions that accompanied the conference:

  1. “They were neighbors”; was prepared by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was presented in cooperation with the Oświęcim Institute of Human Rights.
  2.  “And so you became my only friend…The Salwik family in the literary legacy and correspondence of Zofia Posmysz*”; prepared by the International Youth Meeting Center (MDSM).

In December 2022, organizers will release a reviewed report on the event, which will examine the outcomes of the lectures given during the conference.

Dr. Alicja Bartuś, of the Oświęcim Institute of Human Rights, explains:

Years later, from the perspective of future generations, we are able to worship the Righteous collectively and express our declarations of full solidarity with their attitudes and lives. We set them to our children as role models – both in family education and educational systems as well as in cultural and pop culture narratives. The Collaborators are clearly branded as evil incarnate; attempts to nuance are rarely and almost exclusively made by professional historians, whose voice occasionally breaks through the masses of opinion – and the imagination […] It is not necessary to have extensive historical and statistical analyzes to state that in times of real trials, the actions characteristic of the Righteous were undertaken by few, and few who dared to openly support this – clearly positive – attitude. It’s a very human posture: most of us aren’t born heroes, and being Righteous takes above-average courage. During the conference, the researchers tried to attempt to face this difficult topic.

The event also collected funds for a Mobile Cultural Center for children in a small village in Benin. The participants reached their goal, allowing this EDU Africa Foundation program to commence in July 2022.

*Zofia Posmysz was a prisoner (number 7566) in the KL Auschwitz.