26.06.2015 - UNESCO Office in Venice

Important steps towards setting up the Holocaust education exhibit space at Auschwitz-Birkenau

© UNESCO - Ex-Yugoslav pavilion (nr. 17) in the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau

A meeting on the “Holocaust education and intercultural understanding in South-East Europe: Renewing the ‘Ex-Yugoslav’ Pavilion in Auschwitz-Birkenau” project was hosted by the National Museum of Contemporary History in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The event was organized by the Ministry of Culture of Slovenia, the Slovenian National Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy).

This 6th session of the international steering group, established in 2012, took place on 27 May 2015 with a view to continuing discussions on the renovation and refurbishment of the former Yugoslav pavilion - block No. 17, located within the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, and on the establishment of a joint exhibition on the Holocaust.

Five meetings on this subject have already taken place in Belgrade (June 2012), Sarajevo (December 2012), Skopje (April 2013), Oswiecim (July 2013) and Zagreb (February 2014) under the auspices of UNESCO. They led to a general agreement on the framework and main contents of the exhibition. During the Skopje meeting, in April 2013, the steering group agreed to divide the new common exhibition space into 4 themes: Time and Space, Victims, Perpetrators and Collaborators, Resistants.

Participants of this new edition of the international steering committee included experts and ministries’ delegates from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Verena Vidrih Perko, Director-General of the Cultural Heritage Directorate at the Ministry of Culture of Slovenia, welcomed the participants, stressing the importance of this regional project, followed by Gašper Hrastelj, Deputy Secretary-General of the Slovenian National Commission for UNESCO and Véronique Dauge, Head of Culture and Officer-in-Charge of the UNESCO Venice Office.

The meeting consisted of two sessions. The first allowed participants to review the draft synopsis prepared by the Editorial board for the exhibition in the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and make suggestions on possible additional material. The second provided an update on the pavilion’s renovation project, financial situation, future exhibition design and project management. 

The renovation of the pavilion and the production of a joint permanent exhibition will contribute to produce innovative narratives, interpretations and museographical displays on the Holocaust, contributing to enhancing the role of this important World Heritage memorial as a civic and educational forum for learning and exchange. Participants agreed that the next meeting will be held in Montenegro, and that it could involve the relevant ministers of participating countries and lead to an agreement on financial and management issues.

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The objectives of this meeting were in line with UNESCO’s overall mission to promote Holocaust education, as well as the role of museums as tools for intercultural understanding, research and dialogue.

Supported since its inception by the UNESCO Venice Office, the project is founded on the strong will and involvement of the 6 Successor States which composed Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia,  Slovenia and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), and is supported and accompanied by diverse International institutions - the National Fund for Victims of National Socialism from Austria, which is playing a central role in the new design of the Austrian national exhibition on the ground floor of block No 17, the Mémorial de la Shoah (France), Topography of Terror (Germany) and the Holocaust Memorial Museum (USA). 

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