The 14th session of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Council took place on 16 September in Warsaw. The main task of the Foundation is to finance the conservation of the authentic remains of the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
A minute’s silence was observed in memory of Henryk Wujec, a long-standing member of the council who passed away on 15 August 2020. ‘We could always count on his wisdom and sensitivity,’ said Council President Marek Zając.
During the session the most important events in recent months were summed up. The key issue for the Foundation’s Endowment Fund was Germany’s decision to double its financial support from EUR 60 to 120 million. The decision was announced in December 2019 at the Auschwitz Memorial by Chancellor Angela Merkel, and in June 2020, an agreement on the matter was signed in Warsaw by the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas and the President of the Foundation and Director of the Auschwitz Museum Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński. The United States, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have also increased their support substantially.
The Director-General of the Foundation Wojciech Soczewica summed up the activities related to the acquisition of new funds for the Endowment Fund from donor countries, cities and individual donors. ‘In 2020, London became one of the Foundation’s donors, and through the cooperation with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation in the United States of America, we will shortly be able to announce another “Pillar of Memory” of one million euros,’ said Wojciech Soczewica.
‘In the future, the Foundation will also analyse the possibilities of supporting the Museum’s mission in the broadly understood scope of education. The implementation of these activities will be possible with the donation made to the Foundation by the State Opera in Berlin to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which, according to the donor’s wish, should be allocated to financing an international educational project,’ added Soczewica.
The Fund created and managed by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation has already been supported by nearly 40 countries. The financial declarations amount to over EUR 170 million in total. In 2019, the Foundation donated a record PLN 12 million to the Auschwitz Memorial for conservation works
Piotr Cywiński also spoke about the unprecedented situation related to the coronavirus pandemic, closure of the Museum and consequences for the Museum in terms of attendance and budget. He stressed that the implementation of conservation work was not threatened in any way during this challenging period. ‘The extraordinary support of the Foundation allowed for the implementation of several new projects involving Museum employees under the supervision of our conservators. Thanks to it, we were able to save many jobs in this dramatic situation,’ Piotr Cywiński underlined. In 2020, the Foundation plans to donate a total of approximately PLN 20 million for conservation work.
The head of the Master Plan of Preservation Agnieszka Tanistra-Różanowska spoke about conservation works carried out at the Auschwitz Memorial. The most important works include the conservation and protection of the ruins of the gas chamber and crematorium II, as well as the conservation of the brick barracks on the grounds of the former Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. With the support of the Foundation, 400 camp letters were conserved in 2019, as well as some 400 objects from the Museum Collections: suitcases, baskets, shoes, pots, empty cyclone B cans, or elements of the gas chambers and crematorium. A laser scanner has also been purchased for the documentation of conservation works. Work has also begun to create a conservation facility for the Master Plan for Conservation in the historical building of the so-called small potatoes storage.
Wojciech Soczewica also thanked external companies that support the statutory activities of the Museum. ‘Legal assistance on a pro bono basis was provided by the Law Firm Weil, Gotshal Manges. The Foundation rents office space on preferential terms from the Jewish Religious Community in Warsaw. Tax consulting, accounting and HR and payroll services are provided by Deloitte Dąbrowski and Partners, while Deloitte Advisory conducted a security audit of the Foundation’s network infrastructure. The financial statements were audited by an independent auditor, KPMG Audit. Hay Group also provided support in the area of personnel consulting. BNP Paribas Fortis Bank headquartered in Belgium supports our mission by not charging fees for the safekeeping of securities on the Foundation’s investment accounts,’ said Soczewica.
The Council also decided to appoint Jacek Kastelaniec, co-founder and former Director-General of the Foundation, as a member.
Members of the Council are individuals who, among other things, work to preserve the memory of German Nazi crimes, historians and diplomats. The Chairperson of the Foundation Council is Marek Zając. The Foundation Council is an organ that makes decisions, controls and gives its opinion on the entire work of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.
During the session, the Council members approved the substantive report on the work of the Foundation for 2019, including the annual action and financial plans. The members of the Foundation Council also approved the financial statements for 2019, which according to the external audit conducted by KPMG once again do not raise any reservations but “present a reliable and clear picture of the financial and asset situation” and “are compliant in all material respects as to form and content with the legal regulations and the Entity’s Articles of Association”.