Establishing the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau

After the war and liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, its two main camps, main camp
Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, also known as Birkenau, were in the hands of the Soviet military.
The Soviet army established a field hospital in the main camp and with help of the Polish Red
Cross and their hospital started treating surviving prisoners.

In late 1945 Soviet authorities began a transfer of the territory of the former Auschwitz
concentration camp to the Polish administration. At that time some former Auschwitz inmates
wanted to protect the premises of the camp with the plan of setting up a museum. On 31
December 1945 an initiative undertaken by Alfred Fiderkiewicz, a former inmate, presented a
proposal to set up a space commemorating Polish and international martyrdom in Oświęcim
and Brzezinka. On 1 February 1946, the recommendation by Fiderkiewicz was approved by the
Commission for Culture and Art of the Polish State National Council.

With the approval of Fiderkiewicz’s proposal, the future staff of the Museum tried to protect
and keep the ground and buildings of the former Auschwitz concentration camp clean and in
good condition. Their task was not easy at the time due to the lack of influence they had on the
activities of different institutions that administered the camp after the Soviet military left the
premises of the camp.

The plans for the design of the Museum were based on the work the so-called expert
commission appointed in February 1946 to draft the act establishing the Museum. Former
inmates who were also part of the staff of the institution being developed in Oświęcim were
involved in the design. The first plan was presented in September and was more of a general
nature, following with the more detailed one in February 1947. According to the plans made,
the Museum should be historical proof of the conditions, operations, and crimes of the camp as
when it was in operation. The exhibition was to be divided into three segments. First, a general
exhibition depicting the fate of the inmates in the camp. Second, the international segment,
showing wartime circumstances of the nations, whose people were deported to Auschwitz. The
last, third segment presenting the history of other German concentration camps.

A Jewish nation would require special treatment in determining the number of Jewish victims of
different stats in the consultation with the Central Committee of Polish Jews. In late February
1947, the Board of the Central Committee of Polish Jews decided to arrange the Jewish
exhibition (Jewish Pavilion) in the Museum. Later in May, a conference on the participation of
Jewish institutions involved with the development of the exhibition was held in Oświęcim.
Where the institutions were familiarized with the general design of the exhibition and were
given blocks 4 and 10 as per their request.

On the 7th anniversary, 14 June 1947 of the arrival of the first transport of Polish political
prisoners to Auschwitz concentration camp Museum had its official opening ceremony. It began
at 11 am with the director of the Museum, Tadeusz Wąsowicz, and the head of the Department
of Museums and Monuments of Polish Martyrdom at the Ministry of Culture and Art, Ludwik
Rajewski, welcoming the guests from different influential backgrounds.

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