US Returns Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp Wooden Barracks to Poland

Wooden Barracks Part of the Auschwits-Birkenau Camp

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is giving back an Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp wooden barracks to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland after being part of the former’s centerpiece for 20 years. The said barracks which housed prisoners in the Nazis most deadliest concentration camp are being returned since the said artifacts were only on long-term loan.

The museum have had the Holocaust relics since it opened in 1993 and have been its most powerful exhibit for the past years. In place of these are new barracks obtained by the museum; these upcoming artifacts are already museum-owned.

In 2003, the Polish government had passed a law which stated “that no historical artifact could remain on loan abroad for more than five years without being returned for inspection”. When the said law was finalized, officials at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum who had designed the barracks as a permanent exhibition in the museum had worried  that it would need important artifacts to be returned to Poland, thus, affecting the whole design of the Holocaust memorial. For the past few years, negotiations between museum authorities and Polish officials have been tension-filled. However, they were able to reach a compromise.

“The agreement we reached with Polish authorities allows us to adhere to Polish law and have a barracks from Birkenau in our permanent collection and display it in the Museum,” the official statement from the US Holocaust memorial Museum stated.

Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust scholar and was the project director of the museum when it was constructed said the whole Holocaust memorial edifice and its exhibit centered around the barracks.

“If you look at the pillars of the building, it has slats in them which take those barracks. It’s a complex operation to remove them,” Berenbaum said. “The good news is that the museum will receive barracks in return and will own that barracks so we don’t have to face this problem again. But the bad news is that it’s going to take five months and the museum experience will be less complete [during that time].”

Last September 24, the museum closed a portion of its third floor to give way for the removal of the old barracks and the installation of the new. The whole operation, like what Berenbaum stated, would take approximately five months to complete.

The New Zealand Herald and The Washington Post report

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE