Niels Kraaier: Preserving the 'Factory of Death'

Roundup: Talking About History

[Niels Kraaier is currently working at Griffith University in Brisbane on a PhD thesis on the impact of advancing communication technology on Australia’s multicultural society. He worked as a Speechwriter and Media Advisor to the Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management in The Netherlands before relocating to Australia in 2008.]

After almost half a century of communist repression that followed the Second World War, Poland seems to have finally entered a better future. The country’s accession to the European Union in 2004 has triggered an impressive national metamorphosis. Historical towns are being restored to their former glory while construction companies work around the clock to deliver new infrastructure in the run up to the European football championships in 2012. Even the ubiquitous suburban concrete apartment blocks - once dull symbols of communist equality - look somewhat happy today, freshly painted in all the colours of the rainbow.

Yet, beyond the wrought-iron gate of the former concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland’s southeast, the past is still painfully present. Although the prisoners and their tyrants have long gone, largely everything - from the cobblestone pavement to the red-bricked barracks - remains exactly as it was at the end of the Second World War. Auschwitz is where history comes to life. But there are grave concerns about the future of the former concentration camp. Nearly seven decades after the war the ravages of time are becoming a serious problem. The need for a long-term conservation plan is pressing, says Dr Piotr Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum....

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