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

Factors affecting the property in 2001*
  • 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)
  • Lack of Planning and management of the surroundings of the Camps (e.g. opening of a discotheque outisde the site) 
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2001
Requests approved: 2 (from 1998-2000)
Total amount approved : 30,000 USD
Missions to the property until 2001**

JUly 2001 : mission of the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 2001

Previous deliberations:
Twenty-fourth session of the Committee (paragraph VIII.34; Annex X page 125)

Main issues: Planning and management of surroundings of the camps; establishment of a buffer zone.

New information: On 2 May 2001 the Secretariat received a report from the Under Secretary of State of Poland concerning the Government Strategic Programme for Oswiecim (GSPO). In summary the report provides information on the following issues:

Implementation of the Strategic Government Programme for Oswiecim:

  • The programme (GSPO) was established in 1996 and over 1 million US$ were provided for its implementation, mainly for transportation systems around the camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau and the rehabilitation of the former tabacco factory. The programme is being implemented according to plan and within the budgets allocated;
  • The Government of Poland has made a preliminary decision to extend the programme for another five years until 2007.

International Auschwitz Council:

  • The International Auschwitz Council was established on 20 January 2000. Its aim is to co-operate with the national and local authorities for the protection and presentation of Holocaust monuments.

International Group of Experts:

  • The International Group of Experts was appointed in 1999 by the Undersecretary of State and Plenipotentiary for the Implementation of the Strategic Government Programme for Oswiecim. Due to scheduling problems, the International Group of Experts could not meet in November 2000 as was foreseen.
  • The Group will be brought under the aegis of the International Auschwitz Council. A formal decision to this effect is expected in May 2001. Once formalised, the Council and the Group will meet to define rules and scope of the Group.

In response to the question regarding the buffer zone the Under-Secretary of State commissioned a legal analysis of the issues in the context of Polish law and Poland’s international obligations.

It states that the Committee’s decision in 1979 to inscribe the site on the World Heritage List does not refer to any buffer zone. As to the statement in the nomination dossier -that the Museum will extend its buffer zone from 300 to 1000 meters- it is stated that no legal actions were taken at the time and that the maps provided with the nomination dossier showed a buffer zone as was defined at the time by the land-use plan adopted by local authorities.

The description of intentions concerning the buffer zone boundaries was not binding in character since the boundaries were neither delineated nor included in the inscription decision. Moreover, no previous technical or urban planning studies had been conducted which would justify the particular boundaries or indicate how the area within the buffer zone would be used.

 A legal act establishes buffer zones around Holocaust Monuments (Act dated 7 May 1999, art. 3 par.2) including the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps. This is a buffer zone of a strip of land no wider than 100 meters from the boundaries of the Holocaust Monument.

According to this Act, the Minister of Internal Affairs issued a directive on 27 May 1999 specifying the boundaries of the buffer zone which are delineated in such a manner to ensure the necessary protection of the Monument while enabling normal functioning of the city and township. The buffer zone around the camps has a surface of 38,89 hectares.

Since this Act regulates assemblies as well as business activity, the construction of buildings, temporary structures and construction installations and the expropriation of property, the Polish side believes that it has met the obligations stemming from the Convention. The report stresses that the use of the land outside statutory zones is to be decided exclusively by the elected officials of the township and that the solutions adopted by the Oswiecim township in the land-use plan fully guarantee the inviolability of the Museum’s surroundings.

Finally the Undersecretary of State emphasises the high esteem for UNESCO and his will to cooperate with it. He ensures that the inhabitants as well as the local authorities of Oswiecim and Brzezinka are well aware of the weight of the responsibility.

Action Required

The Bureau may wish to examine the information that has been provided and take the appropriate decision thereupon.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2001

Under the leadership of the Chairperson of the World Heritage Committee, Mr Peter King, a site visit to Auschwitz on 1 and 2 July 2001, to assess the issues relating to the management of the site and the establishment of a buffer zone. The mission report contained in Information Document WHC-01/CONF.207/INF.6 was sent to the Polish authorities for review and comments.

At the time of the preparation of this document no reply has been received. 

As a result of the site visit the mission concluded that the discussions with the Polish authorities and stakeholders were held in an constructive atmosphere to achieve progress with regard to the protection of the site and to achieve confidence for the overall management in consultation with all stakeholders in the future.  The mission in particular acknowledged the commitment by the Polish Government to the preservation of the World Heritage site.  However, it also underlined the need for a policy of conservation and overall management for the surroundings incorporating a coherent silence and protection zone, an appropriately zoned buffer area and satisfactory long term protection or integration of the area between the two camps.

The mission reassures the World Heritage Committee and its Bureau of the excellent quality of management at the World Heritage site and of the commitment and dedication of the staff of the museum. However, a number of issues to be solved were identified: social and commercial development, private property rights in neighbouring areas, longer term suitable investment, appropriate tourism and education programmes, inventory of related sites, co-ordination between the different levels and a dialogue between the city of Oswiezim and the village of Brezinka etc.. The mission also recommended an early determination of the terms of reference and structure for the work of the International Group of Experts and the formation of two sub-committees, one on museology and conservation and another one on urbanism and planning. This will enable the International Group of Experts to proceed with the work on an on-going basis. 

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2001
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.

The Bureau may wish to adopt the following decision for transmission to the World Heritage Committee for action:

“The Committee takes note of the report of the site visit to Auschwitz Concentration Camp and its surroundings and thanks the Chairperson for his great commitment concerning this site. The Committee urges the State Party to implement the recommendations of the mission as soon as possible and requests the authorities to provide a report by 1 February 2002 with details on the status of the implementation of the recommendations.“

Report year: 2001
Date of Inscription: 1979
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (vi)

* : 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.