1.         Auschwitz Birkenau
German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945) (Poland) (C 31)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1979

Criteria  (vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/31/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1998-2000)
Total amount approved: USD 30,000
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/31/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 10,000 from Israel

Previous monitoring missions

July 2001: joint Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee/World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; December 2006: World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS site visit during the management seminar; May 2007: site management meeting; May 2008 and October 2013: Expert Consultation Group Meetings 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/31/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2016

On 20 January 2016, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/31/documents. This is based on issues raised in an ICOMOS review submitted to the State Party in August 2015, in response to the State Party’s report of 3 March 2015 and on individual responses from each of the key stakeholders: the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the Town of Oświęcim and Oświęcim Commune and the General Directorate for National Roads and Motorways.

In April 2015, the State Party submitted a Conservation strategy for the property to the World Heritage Centre. ICOMOS received this in April 2016 and will submit a review to the State Party.

Planned expressway S-1 and the south ring road of Oświęcim

This road project was initiated in 2011 to upgrade the transport infrastructure serving the property by linking a ring road of Oświęcim with the provincial road and then national roads to Cracow and Wadowice. Various routes for the expressway were put forward for evaluation. The State Party reports that in April 2015, a hybrid variant of the options for the expressway and the south ring road of Oświęcim were approved. A request for environmental approval was submitted in 2015 and is pending. It is stated that further research and analyses of the route of the ring road of Oświęcim in the area of the property will be carried out after the environmental decision has been obtained. This will include a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), in accordance with the 2011 ICOMOS Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessment for Cultural World Heritage Properties, that will cover a visual and spatial analysis of the impact of the proposed bridge over the river Soła.

Conservation

Work has started on the ‘comprehensive’ conservation of two brick prisoner barracks in the oldest part of the camp in order to strengthen their structure while preserving as much as possible of the frail historic fabric. All of the brick barracks will be renovated in subsequent years. Historical structures associated with the camp in the area of the Commune of Oświęcim, such as Judenrampe (railway) and the potato and cabbage warehouses, are systematically monitored and the area around them is maintained on a regular basis.

Management of visitors

An advance booking system has now been instituted for the 1.72 million visitors received annually, with good results. A new visitor centre near the Auschwitz Memorial in Oświęcim is planned near the warehouses, and funds are being sought.

A strategy for visitor traffic is also being planned to deliver better car access.This will include the construction of a road near the museum in Brzezinka and an access road to the Judenrampe and the potato and cabbage warehouses, linking Piwniczna and Kombatantów Streets in Brzezinka.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

The details provided by the State Party are welcomed. They cover issues that have been reported several times since 2011 and provide details of work undertaken or already planned.

The detailed Conservation Strategy is an important step forward in setting out approaches to the conservation of the property and its setting, in the documentation of the historical and memorial contexts of the property and in setting out management and development controls appropriate for different areas. It highlights the difficulties in the conservation of structures that are privately owned and the lack of legal instruments to allow grants to be awarded. It also highlights to the necessity of engaging with the local community on a substantial and sustainable basis and indicates the need to develop a separate programme to this end.

In setting out the key threats identified in 2008, the Conservation Strategy further highlights that these have become more intense. While the Conservation Strategy indicates buildings are in an extremely fragile state, as is the case with various memorial camps and their associated infrastructures such as railway sidings and warehouses, these need to be monitored to prevent them from falling into irreversible disrepair.

No further action is reported on resolving the conflicting boundaries of the buffer zone.

Requests have been made over the years for more information on the proposed road projects to be submitted with the necessary HIAs before any decisions are taken so that a better understanding can be achieved as to the delivery of necessary infrastructure in harmony with local development and while respecting the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property. It is to be noted that the HIAs have not yet been submitted.

With regard to the various transformations that are taking place in relation to the capacity of the property to accommodate nearly two million visitors each year,,it is important to ensure that all transformations (not only infrastructure) be undertaken in symbiosis with the surroundings and in line with the Conservation Guidelines.

These issues highlight the need for more coordinated management and a greater dialogue with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies on forward planning for major projects so that the Committee has a clearer understanding of the way the property is being protected and conserved to sustain its OUV. After several years of consultation, a Retrospective Statement of OUV (SOUV) is now in the process of being adopted by the Committee (see Document WHC/16/40.COM/8E) and this will be crucial for monitoring and management.

The great efforts being invested by the State Party, particularly through the work of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, are acknowledged. There does remain however concern that these efforts could be better coordinated and promoted through more open processes so that there is a clearer understanding as to how the property and its setting might move forward in an integrated way. Once the SOUV has been adopted by the Committee, this should provide an opportunity to align the management of the property and its setting with the OUV.

Decision Adopted: 40 COM 7B.55

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.115, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),
  3. Acknowledges the details provided by the State Party on the ongoing projects including progress made in the management of visitors including with advanced booking systems, the express route and the start of a restoration initiative of the barracks in Auschwitz;
  4. Welcomes the development of the detailed Conservation Strategy and urges the State Party to ensure that its Guidelines are followed;
  5. Whilst understanding that the proposed expressway and south ring road of Oświęcim have been approved in principle, subject to environmental decisions, reiterates its request to the State Party to undertake as soon as possible a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) of the overall project, and to submit this, together with details as to how this project relates to other proposed road schemes in Brzezinka and elsewhere, to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, before irreversible commitments are made;
  6. Also welcomes the start of the restoration project of the two brick prisoner barracks and requests the State Party to submit further details on the restoration principles at use with documentation in order that good practice be established for further application in other parts of the property;
  7. In light of the various transformations that are taking place to accommodate the nearly two million visitors arriving at the property each year, also requests the State Party to provide more information on how the various projects and necessary infrastructure will be provided in symbiosis with the surroundings of the property, in line with the Conservation Guidelines, while respecting the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  8. Also reiterates it request that HIAs are undertaken for all projects before any decisions are taken, in order to define clearly potential impacts on the attributes of OUV;
  9. Notes with satisfaction that the Retrospective Statement of OUV of the property has been finalized and submitted to the World Heritage Committee for adoption (Document WHC/16/40.COM/8E);
  10. Considers that there is a need for a governance system that brings together all the stakeholders at the property and for a clearer multi-disciplinary management approach that is based on OUV, and further welcomes the suggestion of a programme to facilitate more positive relationships with the local community;
  11. In order to undertake a dialogue with the State Party on how best these issues might be addressed, further requests the State Party to invite an ICOMOS Advisory mission to the property;
  12. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2017, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.

Decision Adopted: 40 COM 8E

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/16/40.COM/8E.Rev,
  2. Congratulates the States Parties for the excellent work accomplished in the elaboration of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties located within their territories;
  3. Adopts the retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value, as presented in the Annex of Document WHC/16/40.COM/8E.Rev, for the following World Heritage properties:

EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN

  1. Decides that retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger will be reviewed in priority by the Advisory Bodies;
  2. Requests the States Parties to provide support to the World Heritage Centre for translation of the adopted Statements of Outstanding Universal Value into English or French respectively, and further requests the World Heritage Centre to upload the two language versions on its web site.