On 20 June, the 18th Session of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Council took place at the Warsaw headquarters of Deloitte Poland, a long-time corporate donor to the Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to safeguard the preservation of the authentic remains of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and to support the educational activities of the Memorial.
Participants were welcomed by Tomasz Konik, President of Deloitte Poland: 'Deloitte has been a proud partner of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation since 2014. The Foundation's actions to preserve the Memorial for the war victims are highly significant in current times, given the world's failure to learn from this tragic event. Remembrance is extremely important, but it is also about a better future for us all. The Foundation's efforts offer a glimmer of hope that things can get better. I believe that in this respect, our actions and values are strikingly similar. Our company also strives to make a positive impact on the surrounding reality. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, we have been actively assisting not only our staff members and their families in Kyiv but also the refugees affected by the situation. I thank you for being such an inspiration, and I look forward to working with you on future projects.
At the start of the session, the Council members reached a unanimous decision to name Roman Rewald, an attorney and mediator of Polish-American descent, as a member of the Council.
In his presentation, Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, the Director of the Auschwitz Museum and President of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, emphasised the outstanding support that the Foundation provides to women conservators who were compelled to escape war-torn Ukraine. He also discussed the exceptional preservation project for children's shoes co-funded by the Foundation and private donors, including the International March of the Living.
'The Foundation is expanding its educational endeavours while upholding its commitment to preservation. The most significant among these is a platform that will facilitate online live guided tours of the Memorial. The project will be presented at an upcoming international methodological conference at the Museum and will be launched soon,' said Dr. Cywiński.
The platform is being jointly developed by the Foundation, the Museum and two Israeli companies, AppsFlyer and Diskin. The project implementation is facilitated by the support of several private donors from the United States and Orange, which has provided stable and high-speed wireless internet access throughout the Memorial.
'For several months, we have been conducting tests with selected school and university groups and employees of companies that have financially supported the creation of the platform. It is worth noting that the platform is interactive and allows tour participants to ask the guides questions and share their thoughts in real time. We do not aim to replace a personal visit to a former camp, but to seek opportunities to enhance this kind of experience, to prepare better or deepen previously acquired knowledge. Based on the research conducted after the digital visits, it is evident that for a significant number of individuals, this mode of education serves as a motivation to visit the Memorial. We acknowledge that visiting via the platform will be the only mode of contact with the authentic Memorial for many people,' emphasised Wojciech Soczewica, Director General of the Foundation.
Funds for educational activities carried out by the Foundation do not come from the profits of the Endowment Fund, as this only supports preservation works. 'Last year, we raised PLN 2.3 million for educational activities. The platform was mainly developed with private funding. Monaco and Malta were the initial countries to provide funds for online tours aimed at schoolchildren in Europe,' said Soczewica.
The Endowment Fund created and managed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation has already been supported by nearly 40 countries. It is currently worth about €178 million out of the targeted €180 million. Proceeds from the invested Capital are allocated to preserving the Auschwitz Memorial. At the beginning of this year, the Foundation's support for preservation work at the Memorial exceeded PLN 100 million.
Agnieszka Tanistra-Różanowska, head of the Master Plan for Preservation, spoke in her presentation about the preservation of personal items belonging to the victims of Auschwitz - including children's shoes and the many works carried out at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site. She also discussed the conservation of the ruins of the gas chambers and crematoria, the historical brick and wooden buildings, particularly the prisoner barracks, and the clearing of drainage ditches to protect the historical site from the negative impact of rainwater.
During the session, the Council approved the substantive report on the work of the Foundation for 2022 and the annual action and financial plans. The Foundation Council members also approved the Foundation's financial statements for 2022, which, according to KPMG’s independent audit, once again raised no objections and presented a fair and transparent picture of expenditure and cash flow. The financial statements are fully compliant with all legal requirements.