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Washington must return Auschwitz barracks exhibit, says former foreign minister

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 28.02.2012 09:04
A former Polish foreign minister has said that if Washington's Holocaust Museum does not return an exhibit loaned to it by the Auschwitz museum then cooperation between Polish and Jewish museums worldwide could be jeopardized.
photo - glowimages.comphoto - glowimages.com

photo - glowimages.com

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, himself an Auschwitz survivor, is adamant that wooden barracks loaned to the Holocaust Museum in Washington by the Auschwitz museum in southern Poland should be returned immediately.

“It was not Washington where people were murdered – it is not Washington that is a vast cemetery,” he has told the Rzeczpospolita daily.

Bartoszewski, a Polish foreign minister for a period in 1995, suggested that if the Washington museum did not change its stance, it could spell the end for cooperation between Poland and Jewish museums across the globe, although he made an exception of Israel's Yad Vashem Institute, with which he said cooperation was “excellent.”

When the initial ten year loan of the barracks expired in 1999, the agreement was extended for another ten years. That deadline ended two years ago.

“A self-respecting museum returns borrowed objects,” said Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

“This is the basic principle of the industry,” he added.

Earlier this month, Sara Bloomfield, director of the Washington museum, told The Washington Post that it is “our priority to keep the barracks in the exhibition.”

The Washington museum, however, has suggested in a statement that removing the exhibit could have a “damaging” effect on the fragile structure.

In the 1980s, Poland loaned numerous objects, such as shoes, suitcases and prayer shawls that once belonged to Holocaust victims to the Washington museum.

Since then, the Holocaust Museum has returned some objects, renegotiated loans or exchanged existing materials for equivalent pieces.

The Polish Embassy in Washington is acting as a go-between in the negotiations on the museum exhibits.

Witold Dzielski, first secretary of the Polish Embassy in Washington, has said that aside from the barracks, “all the other issues are being solved quite easily.” (nh/pg/mk)

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