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Auschwitz Birkenau
German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)

Poland
Factors affecting the property in 2000*
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Interpretative and visitation facilities
  • Management systems/ management plan
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Threat to the integrity of the property (tobacco factory project) (issue resolved)
  • Issue of the transfer of seven original paintings from the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum (issue resolved)
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2000
Requests approved: 2 (from 1998-2000)
Total amount approved : 30,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2000**
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 2000

Previous deliberations:
Twenty-second session of the Committee - paragraph VII.38
Twenty-third session of the Bureau, paragraph IV.75
Twenty-third session of the Committee, paragraph X.46 and Annex VII 

New information:  The Bureau of the World Heritage Committee at its twenty-third session requested the Government of Poland to submit a further progress report by 15 April 2000 for examination by the Bureau at its twenty-fourth session. During a mission to Poland, a staff member of the World Heritage Centre was informed that a draft spatial plan for the surroundings of the Camps had been prepared and would be discussed with the International Expert Group. This group will tentatively meet during the first week of July 2000.

With regard to the request from the Polish National Commission for UNESCO for the Committee’s views on the matter of the restitution to the author of portraits made while she was imprisoned in the Camp, the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee at its twenty-third extraordinary session concluded that legal advice from the Secretariat is required before this matter can further examined by the Bureau or the Committee.

Concerning the restitution, the Office of the International Standards and Legal Affairs has provided the following observations:

“As you are aware, it is the States Parties to the Convention, whether acting in the Assembly of States Parties, in the Committee or in its Bureau, which are competent to decide on matters of interpretation of the Convention. We note that the World Heritage Centre acting in its Secretariat function appropriately transmitted this matter, without taking a position thereon, to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee at the request of a State Party.

However, since the Bureau has now specifically requested legal advice, please be informed that it is the view of this Office, after having examined the file, that this matter involves a dispute of a private nature and that it does not come within the framework of the World Heritage Convention. Consequently, we are of the opinion that it is not within the competence of any of the organs created under the Convention to take a position or any action on this matter.”

Action Required

The Bureau may wish to examine this matter at its session.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2000

To date, the requested report has not been received by the Secretariat.

The Secretariat has been informed through different sources that the Polish Minister of the Interior would have lifted a ban on the construction by a private company of a visitors’ centre with a cafeteria and a parking lot close to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Furthermore, the Secretariat was informed that a discotheque was opened outside of the World Heritage site but in a building that was used for slave labour. The Secretariat requested the Polish authorities for a report on these matters, recalling that the World Heritage Committee at its twenty-second session confirmed its support that the implementation of the Declaration Concerning Principles for Implementation of Programme Oswiecimsky continues in a consensual manner among all parties involved.. To date, the requested report has not been received.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2000
24 BUR IV.B.73
Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Poland)

The Secretariat informed the Bureau that it had received on 21 June 2000, a brief report from the Polish authorities on the state of affairs for the planning and preservation for the World Heritage site of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. This report included the following information:

  1. An International Council for Auschwitz and Birkenau Concentration Camps was set up on 29 March 2000 under the chairmanship of an ex-minister for Foreign Affairs and with the participation of both national and international experts and institutions. The Council met for the first time on 7 June 2000 and will co-operate with and advise on the protection, management and presentation of the Camps and in obtaining the necessary means for the functioning of the Auschwitz Museum.
  2. A Spatial Plan for the surroundings of Auschwitz, including a plan on scale 1:4000, had been prepared and had been subject to a long consultation process. A municipal resolution for the approval of the final version of the plan had been drafted. The Spatial Plan for the surroundings of Birkenau was less advanced but a plan on scale 1:4000 had been elaborated.
  3. Both plans, translated into English, had been transmitted to the International Expert Group that was established in 1999. Due to scheduling problems, this Group was not able to meet so far in 2000 but two conference calls took place. The next meeting is scheduled for September 2000. Two new members had been appointed on the Expert Group, one from Poland and one from Hungary.

The Bureau noted the information provided by the State Party on the progress made in the implementation of the Strategic Governmental Programme for Oswiecim and that the International Expert Group would meet in September 2000. It requested the authorities to submit a progress report by 15 September 2000 for examination by the Committee at its twenty-fourth session.

As to the request from the Polish National Commission for UNESCO for the Committee’s views on the matter of the restitution from the Auschwitz Museum to the author of portraits made during her imprisonment in the Camp, the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee at its twenty-third extraordinary session concluded that legal advice from the Secretariat was required before this matter could be further examined by the Bureau or the Committee. The Secretariat informed the Bureau that the Office of Legal Affairs of UNESCO was of the opinion that this matter does not come within the framework of the World Heritage Convention.  The Bureau took note of this advice.

The Observer of Israel, who is also a member of the International Expert Group, noted that, in fact, the World Heritage site should be called Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camps. He also noted that the Spatial Plans refer to the urban town plans areas surrounding the Camps and not specifically to the World Heritage site itself. As to the restitution of the portraits, he recognised that this had also an emotional dimension and that there was a need to urge the parties to reach a conciliation.

24 COM VIII.34
Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Poland)

VIII.34 Auschwitz Concentration Camp (Poland)

The Committee examined the state of conservation of the site and noted the information provided by the Secretariat and by the Under-Secretary of State of Poland, responsible for the implementation of the Strategic Governmental Programme for Oswiecim.

The Committee recalled that, at its twenty-third session (Kyoto, 1998), it confirmed its support for the principles laid out in the Declaration of March 1997; this process should continue in a consensual manner among all parties involved. It expressed the belief that no steps should be taken unless consensus had been reached.

The Committee expressed its concern regarding the delay in implementing the Strategic Governmental Programme for Oswiecim and the work of the international group of experts. It urged the Polish authorities to address these issues without further delay.

Concerning the construction projects within the zones related physically or symbolically to the Concentration Camp, the Committee requested the State Party to avoid any action that could compromise reaching consensus between the authorities, institutions and organizations involved and to ensure that the sacred nature of the site and its environment are preserved giving special attention to their integrity.

The Committee reiterated its request to the State Party, previously made during its twenty-fourth session, to submit a progress report on the implementation of the Strategic Governmental Programme for Oswiecim, and requested the State Party to submit this detailed report by 15 April 2001, at the latest, for examination by the twentyfifth session of the Bureau.

Furthermore, the Committee requested the Secretariat to maintain close contacts with the State Party and other parties involved in order to support planning actions and the process for establishing a consensus as indicated in the decision adopted by the Committee at its twenty-third session.

In conclusion, the Committee reiterated the need for the establishment of a buffer zone to be created around the site, as well as a plan for the implementation of development control mechanisms within this newly identified area. It urged the Polish authorities to pay particular attention to this matter and to submit a report on the progress made in the identification of a buffer zone and control mechanism for examination by the twenty-fifth session of theBureau.

The Observer of Israel underlined that the two former Concentration Camps -Auschwitz and Birkenau - approximately 3 kms from each other, are located in two different municipalities - Oswiecim and Birkenau - are managed under different jurisdictions, and that before the creation of a buffer zone, the two locations should be unified. He stressed that the Strategic Governmental Programme for Oswiecim was not the management plan but a plan developed by the town of Oswiecim and that this should be clarified. Furthemore, he declared that he had taken note of the comments from Zimbabwe, Finland and Greece (included in the Report of the Rapporteur). Finally, he underlined that coordination between the International Group of Experts, the State Party and ICOMOS was essential and should be reinforced. In addition, due to the high sensitivity linked to this site, the Observer of Israel specified that representatives of the State Party and of the Jewish community should be involved in the work undertaken by the International Group of Experts.

The Bureau may wish to examine the information that may be available at the time of its session and take the appropriate decision thereupon.

Report year: 2000
Poland
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (vi)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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