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Decision 25 BUR V.268-278
Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Poland)

V.268     The Secretariat introduced this item by summarising the report that had been received from the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration on the Government Strategic Programme Oswiecim, the International Group of Experts and the matter of the buffer zone around the World Heritage site. In this context the Secretariat referred to and projected on the screen the delimitation of the site and its buffer zone as proposed in the nomination that was submitted by Poland in 1978. Furthermore, the Secretariat informed the Bureau that it had received a letter of invitation from the Chairman of the International Auschwitz Council for a working visit to Warsaw and to the site.

V.269     The Observer of Israel highlighted that the linking of the sites of Auschwitz and Birkenau is of the utmost importance.

V.270     The Observer of Poland pointed out that the International Auschwitz Council had been set up to consider all the issues pertaining not only to the site of Auschwitz, but also to other Holocaust sites in Poland. With regard to the 100m-zone established around these sites, the Observer of Poland explained that the 100m-zone is a minimum zone and that the linking of the sites of Auschwitz and Birkenau is under discussion. However, the town of Oswiecim with around 50,000 inhabitants is suffering from an economic crisis that needs to be considered in the overall planning for the site. He stressed that the discussion on the issue of the buffer zone can best be discussed during a visit to the site itself. The Observer of Poland, furthermore, stressed the educational value of the concentration camps, and informed the Bureau that Poland is currently preparing a series of educational projects to be presented to UNESCO in this respect.

V.271     Following these interventions, the Chairperson established a drafting group, chaired by himself and with the participation of ICOMOS, the observers of Germany, Israel and Poland and the World Heritage Centre. Following the recommendation of the drafting group, the Bureau adopted the following decision:

"The Bureau takes note of the report of the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration on the Government Strategic Programme Oswiecim, the International Group of Experts and the matter of the buffer zone around the World Heritage site. It welcomes the decision of the Government to extend the Strategic Programme for another five years until 2007. It regrets that the International Group of Experts has not met since March 1999. It expresses the hope that under the aegis of the International Auschwitz Council, its terms of reference will be agreed upon and that the Group will be able to effectively meet and contribute to the development of a Management Plan for the area of the State Museum and its surroundings as referred to in the Declaration Concerning Principles for Implementation of Programme Oswiecimski that was signed on 5 March 1997.

V.272     The Bureau recalls that the area inscribed on the World Heritage List coincides with the area of the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau and that, on the matter of the buffer zone, the nomination dossier for the site, submitted by the Polish authorities on 6 June 1978, refers to the zone of protection being expanded from 300 to 1000 metres and that a map was attached (see Annex VI) with an indication of a silence and a protection zone. Noting that the matter of the buffer zone and the need for a preservation plan for the site and its surroundings had been under discussion at sessions of the Bureau and the Committee since 1996, the Bureau recalls that the World Heritage Committee at its twenty-second session (1998) confirmed its support for the principles laid out in the Declaration of March 1997 and also confirmed its support that this process continues in a consensual manner among all parties involved and that it expressed the belief that no steps should be made unless consensus is reached. It notes with regret that a consensus on the planning and protection of the surroundings of the Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps has not been reached and that the Minister in his report states that the effective legal buffer zone is a strip of land not wider than 100 metres from the boundaries of the Holocaust Monument and that how land outside this zone be used is decided exclusively by the officials of the township council. The Bureau notes that no information has been made available to it on the plans that have been or may be in the process of preparation by the local authorities.

V.273     The Bureau commends the State Party for the establishment of the 100-metre zone as a zone with strict regulations and control, for the substantive study that has been undertaken by the State Museum on the situation of the area before, during and after the war and on the importance it attaches to the education of young people.

V.274     However, the Bureau is of the opinion that the 100 metres zone cannot be considered as equivalent to a buffer zone and that there is an urgent need to:

(i)      confirm the buffer zone that is specific to the site and that was submitted at the time of the nomination of the site for inscription on the World Heritage List and implement appropriate management practices in this zone under the responsibility of the national authorities;

(ii)     establish a Management Plan for the area that is under the authority of the State Museum and for the buffer zone.

V.275     The Management Plan for the State Museum and the buffer zone should:

  • guarantee the preservation of the sacred and symbolic character of both the Auschwitz and the Birkenau Concentration Camps and their surroundings;
  • prevent inappropriate constructions and/or functions in their surroundings including the discotheque;
  • ensure the preservation of elements that at this moment are not part of the State Museum and World Heritage site but that are intimately linked to it and that are essential for the understanding and interpretation of the site (e.g. the area between Auschwitz and Birkenau where the railways are located). The above-mentioned study may provide the basis for the identification of these elements.
  • ensure the physical link of both sites [Auschwitz and Birkenau], as referred to in the Declaration of March 1997.

V.276     The Bureau acknowledges with appreciation the invitation for a working visit that the Chairman of the International Auschwitz Council extended by letter dated 25 May 2001 and requested the Secretariat to make the necessary arrangements for the visit of a UNESCO-ICOMOS mission. It expresses the sincere hope and expectation that such a mission will contribute to an effective and constructive co-operation between all parties concerned and will result in a common understanding of and agreement on the ways and means to adequately protect and manage the Concentration Camps and their surroundings.

V.277     The Bureau decides to defer further examination of this issue to its twenty-fifth extraordinary session and to the twenty-fifth session of the World Heritage Committee."

V.278     The Chairperson then informed the Bureau that at the invitation of the State Party, he would undertake a mission to Auschwitz-Birkenau on 1 and 2 July 2001 together with representatives of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and the International Group of Experts.

Context of Decision