Poland

1 Recognition of the Genocide

1.1 Recognition, official texts

According to the OSCE report, the Centre for Education Development reports that there is no commonly agreed definition of the Holocaust in school textbooks. However, the most popular definition explains the Holocaust as the planned and institutionally organised extermination of approximately six million European Jews by the German Nazis during World War II. (See Education on the Holocaust and on Anti-Semitism, page 104)

In 2011, the Sejm of Poland declared 2nd August as the official Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day.

Poland observes 27th January as International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The date is observed nationally as an official day of remembrance. The commemoration honours all those who perished in the Holocaust, in particular Jews and Roma and Sinti. The Day of Commemoration was established in 2005. 

In addition, the state instituted 19th April, the date of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, as the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust and Prevention of Crimes against Humanity. The subject of the Holocaust is the primary issue for seven state or regional museums, memorial sites, and former concentration camps on the territory of Poland.

In 2007, the President of Republic of Poland, Mr. Lech Kaczynski, awarded Mrs Alfreda Markowska, Polish Roma woman born in 1926, with Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta - the Polish second highest civil medal given by the President of Poland for rescuing approximately 50 children of Roma and Jewish origin during the World War II.

1.2 Data (camps locations, Remembrance places, measures etc.)

Konzentrationslager Auschwitz - Concentration camp Auschwitz (information provided by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum)

It was established by Germans in 1940, in the suburbs of Oswiecim, a Polish city that was annexed to the Third Reich by the Nazis. Its name was changed to Auschwitz, which also became the name of Konzentrationslager Auschwitz. Consisting originally of a single camp, Auschwitz expanded constantly until, at the peak of its growth in the summer of 1944, it had become a complex of about 40 camps, holding 135,000 prisoners. The two principal camps were located in Oświęcim (I) and Brzezinka (Auschwitz II-Birkenau). Founded in March 1942 and covering an area of about 150 hectares, Auschwitz II-Birkenau contained prisoner barracks, gas chambers, 4 crematoria with a daily throughput calculated by Nazi officials at 4,416 corpses, and a complex of 30 warehouses for the personal belongings confiscated from the victims. From 1944, a three-track railroad spur was operational inside the camp; this is where the selection of mass transports of Jews was carried out. The so-called sub-camps (KL Auschwitz III-Aussenlager) were scattered throughout the Upper Silesian Industrial Region. The Auschwitz prisoners in them performed unpaid slave labor, mostly in German coal mines, mills, armaments plants, and at the large building sites for new industrial facilities of importance to the German war economy. When the prisoners had been worked to exhaustion, they were sent back to Auschwitz-Birkenau and killed. At least 1,300,000 people were deported to the camp, of whom at least 1,100,000 perished. Some estimates of the number killed are as high as 1,500,000.

The Gypsies were the third most numerous group of victims. A small number of Gypsies, estimated at several hundred, were deported to Auschwitz in 1940-1942 and registered in the general series of prisoners. The number of Gypsies in the camp began to rise rapidly only as a result of a 29th January 1943 decision by the Main Reich Security Office to deport whole Gypsy families to Auschwitz. A total of about 23,000 Gypsies were incarcerated in Auschwitz. They were placed in a special camp in Birkenau (BIIe). About 20,000 Gypsies perished in the camp. About 6,500 were killed in the gas chambers. The largest group, consisting of about 3,000 men, women, and children were killed by gas on 2nd August 1944, during the liquidation of the Gypsy camp. The remainder were transferred to camps in Germany proper.

The extermination of Gypsies in Auschwitz was a fragment of the German Third Reich’s criminal plans for the almost total elimination of Gypsies. It is estimated that from 200,000 to 5000,000 Gypsies perished as a result of executions and imprisonment in various camps.

Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day is observed on 2nd August.

The main commemoration event is held at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum where a concentration camp used to be. The observance is organised by the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and/or the Chancellery of the President. The ceremony, which includes speeches by Polish and international leaders, laying wreaths and prayers, is attended by several hundred people, marking the anniversary of the liquidation of the "Gypsy Family Camp" at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Participants of the ceremony include former prisoners, members of Roma organisations, representatives of the Polish government, the Polish Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, regional and local authorities, the diplomatic corps, members of the Jewish community, and the management and staff of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau. The commemoration is publicised through the media. In former Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Death Camp (1940-1945) there is permanent exhibition on Roma and Sinti extermination in the block 13.

There are several memorial sites in Poland commemorating Roma and Sinti Victims such as "Gypsy Camp" in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Łódź Ghetto Holocaust Memorial, the Gypsy Camp in Litzmannstadt Ghetto (there is a commemorative plaque on the wall of the old forge), Treblinka Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom, Memorial Site in Belzec (there is a monument commemorating the Roma and Sinti victims of former labour camp), Kulmhof Death Camp (there is a board at the entrance with information about Roma and other nationalities as victims of the death camp) and Memorial to the Murdered Roma of Szczurowa.

OSCE-ODIHR report “Holocaust Memorial Days: An overview of remembrance and education in the OSCE region”, page 82, provides the following information:
Official commemorations on 27th January take place at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, the Majdanek State Museum, the Sobibor Regional Museum, the Treblinka Museum of Struggle and Martyrdom, the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes Monument and the Radegast train station in Łódź, where the monument of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto is situated. Commemorative activities at these locations usually include speeches delivered by Holocaust survivors, those awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations, Polish and foreign government representatives, as well as representatives of the Jewish community in Poland and of Jewish diaspora organisations. In addition, memorial processions take place, wreaths are laid, candles lit and stones are placed on graves. Songs are performed in Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew and English, and Jewish and Christian prayers are recited. 

Commemorative activities are attended by high-level representatives, including the President of the Republic of Poland, the Prime Minister, the Special Envoy of the Government for International Dialogue and the Speaker (or Deputy Speaker) of the Senate. Members of the Polish parliament, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Administration and Digitization and the Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Relations with the Jewish Diaspora are also involved in the activities.

Groups involved in commemorative activities in Poland include survivors, the Association of "Children of the Holocaust" and those awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations from the Polish Society of Righteous Gentiles. Organisations involved in the events include the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, the Majdanek State Museum, the Sobibor Regional Museum, the Treblinka Regional Museum, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, a civic organisation Marek Edelman Dialog Center, the City of Warsaw, the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and the Chancellery of the President of Poland. Local governments are actively involved in commemorations and often initiate commemorative events at the local level. In 2009, Ministry of Interior participated in the commemoration of Roma victims of the former German Nazi labour camp which took place in Ulez (Ryki district, Lubelskie region).

The Government of Poland promotes the commemorative events through announcements in the media and the live broadcasting of major events. It also works with civil society to organize the events. In addition to the official events, various unofficial commemorative events take place that are organized by local activists and priests.

1.3 Specialised institution, commission, research centre etc., dealing with this issue

According to the available information, there is no specialised institution, commission or research centre specifically dealing with the issue of the Genocide of the Roma.

Wiezniow Oswiecimia  Street No 20
32-603 Oswiecim
Poland
 
Rynek Street No 20-21
33-100 Tarnow
Poland
 
ul. Legionów 11,
32-600 Oświęcim
Poland
 
Holocaust Research Center
ul. Jodłowa 13
30-252 Kraków
Poland
 
ul. Tłomackie 3/5
00–090 Warsaw
Poland
 
Aleje Ujazdowskie 28
00-478 Warszawa
Poland

1.4 Official initiatives (campaigns, actions, projects, commemoration days, museums)

Several days event called “Dikh he na bister” takes place in Cracow during July/August. It consists of seminars, conferences, meetings, public debates, concerts etc. partly devoted to Roma and Sinti victims and the role of Holocaust of Roma and Sinti in modern Roma identity. The event includes the ceremony of 2 August commemoration in Auschwitz-Birkenau. “Dikh he na bister” is organised since 2011 by ternYpe – International Roma Youth Network and it gathers approximately 1 000 young Roma from all around the Europe.

“Zalikierdo Drom - Interrupted Road” is a publication and exhibition featuring the works Roma artists, it marks the 70th anniversary of the Genocide of Roma and Sinti, but it also marks a movement where Romani artists are addressing the attempted destruction of Roma by the German Nazis.

Caravan Memorial to commemorate the Romani Holocaust
In 1996, Adam Bartosz, curator of the Ethnographical Museum in Tarnów, created together with Adam Adrasz, President of the Roma Association in Tarnów, a Caravan Memorial - Tabor Pamieci to commemorate the Romani Holocaust. In order to commemorate the Romani Holocaust and Szczurowa massacre and, at the same time, to integrate Romani people into contemporary society, teach Romani children and youth about their culture and history as well as to improve the image of Roma in Poland through the use of internationally accepted Romani anthem and flag,  the organisers continue this tradition of a four-day trip which is popular with locals and the media. Starting in late July, the caravan leaves its starting point in Tarnów and makes symbolic stops along the way.

The Museum of Tarnow holds a permanent exhibition on Roma and their culture, with a part devoted to Roma Genocide during WW II. In 2011, the Museum published a leaflet on the “Routes of Roma Martyrdom in Malopolskie Region” which comprises the map of sites of Roma Genocide during the WW II in the region. The research programe on discovering these places is ongoing.

In 2015, Museum of the Former German Kulmhof Death Camp in Chełmno on Ner implemented a project titled: “Jews, Gipsy, Lodzermensch – the Strangers” devoted to history and aiming on combating discrimination and intolerance. Every year on 2 August, Museum is organising a commemoration of Roma victims.

Stutthof Nazi Concentration Camp plans to open a new exhibition in 2016.One of the sections is already prepared part devoted to Roma and Sinti victims. They were not the most numerous group of victims, nonetheless there is a part concerning general policy of Nazi Germans towards Roma and Sinti communities.

2 Teaching about the Genocide of the Roma

2.1 Inclusion of the topic in the school curriculum

Teaching about the Holocaust is explicitly incorporated into the national school curriculum through a 2003 regulation of the minister of national education and sport.

The Centre for Education Development explained that the Holocaust is not taught as a separate subject, although it is incorporated into the history, Polish-literature and civic-education curricula of lower and upper secondary schools. It can also be elaborated in ethics and theology classes as well as through interdisciplinary activities. Students first learn about the subject at the age of 13 to 14 and again at 17 to 18. State legislation has not prescribed a fixed number of hours dedicated to teaching about the Holocaust; however, the Polish delegation to the ITF estimated that approximately 12 hours in total are allocated to teaching about the Holocaust. Teachers have the freedom to choose how much time they would like to devote to the issue.

2.2 Inclusion of the topic in the school textbooks

The topic of holocaust is incorporated into the history, Polish literature and civic education textbooks.

2.3 Training of teachers and education professionals

Teacher training courses are provided by the Centre for Educational Development, regional teacher training centres, the Jewish Historical Institute, the Institute of National Remembrance, universities, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial and other memorial sites as well as by non-governmental organisations.

The website "Learning from History" is a publication platform for educational projects (realized in schools and in out-of-school, youth education) dedicated to the history of Poland and its neighbours in the 20th century and human rights, such as “To learn from the history. Experiences of XX century totalitarian regimes

In 2014, Belzec Museum of former German Nazi Death Camp organised an educational event which included a conference and a workshop for Roma and non-Roma pupils devoted to Roma and Sinti victims of WWII.

Workshops for Roma school assistants were conducted from 2005 to 2011 on local level initiative with component devoted to Roma and Sinti Genocide. They provided practical lessons on how to teach on Roma and Sinti Genocide.

2.4 Particular activities undertaken at the level of education institutions

A programme titled “Preserve remembrance. History and culture of two nations” has been implemented by Yad Vashem and the Centre for Education Development, a national teacher-training institution, that aims to create a network of regional co-ordinators and teachers trained to teach about the Holocaust. Polish teachers also regularly participate in the seminars offered by Yad Vashem. The Ministry of Education also organises workshops for teachers in co-operation with the Council of Europe and other partners.

Informal Holocaust education is provided primarily by non-governmental organisations. As an example, the Forum for Dialogue Among Nations, a Polish non-governmental organisation, conducts youth meetings for Jewish and non-Jewish Poles that focus on co-operative learning techniques that aim to reduce prejudice between Jewish and non-Jewish students. The Polish-Israeli Forum of Dialogue is a one-week exchange project for university students that is held in Poland and Israel. The participants take part in the March of the Living and discussions on the Holocaust that aim to overcome stereotypes and misconceptions.

Polish schools observe 19th April as the Day of Remembrance of Holocaust Victims and for the Prevention of Crimes against Humanity. Commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in schools was introduced by the Minster of Education in 2005 as part of the “Remembrance for the Future” programme, which aims to prepare schools to organize educational events related to Holocaust Memorial Day.

Since 2004, Pedagogical University of Cracow conducts Postgraduate studies on Roma culture and history within the framework of governmental Program for Roma benefit, with a component devoted to Roma Genocide.

Since 2013, International Youth Meeting Center in Oswiecim/Auschwitz is organising a seminar “Roma and Sinti in Europe  - identity, history, memory” devoted, among others, to the process of gradual elimination of Roma and Sinti from the society in Nazi Germany.

2.5 Remembrance day

In Poland, the Roma and Sinti Genocide is officially commemorated on 2nd August.

3 Official contacts and resource persons

3.1 Responsible person in the Ministry of Education

According to the available information, there is no designated responsible person in the Ministry of Education.

Departament Jakości Edukacji (DJE)/ Department of Education Quality (DEQ)
Tel.: 0048 22- 34-74-792
E-mail: secretariat.dje@men.gov.pl

3.2 Resource persons - list of experts and historians

Adam Bartosz, curator of the Ethnographical Museum in Tarnów
Natalia Gancarz, County Museum, Tarnow; E-mail: etnografia@muzeum.tarnow.pl
Slawomir Kapralski, professor, Pedagogical University, Cracow; E-mail: s_kapralski@hotmail.com
Malgorzata Rozycka, PhD, Ministry of Administration and Digitization, Warsaw; E-mail: dwimn@mac.gov.pl
Agnieszka Gajewska, Ministry of Administration and Digitization, Warsaw; E-mail: dwimn@mac.gov.pl
4 Initiatives of the civil society

4.1 Relevant projects having a real impact on the people and/or the wide public

Educational activity „Rescue from the oblivion” devoted to Roma and Sinti Genocide is organised annualy for pupils of Elblag municipality. It comprises competition, exhibition, theatre performance, films’ presentations etc.

Institute of Romany Heritage and Memory and Holocaust’s Victims, established by the Polish Roma Union in 2001, is a documentation and scientific unit, which conducts research on holocaust, long-lasting persecution of Roma, their culture and social history with an emphasis on their extermination during the Second World War.

5 Point of view of the Roma community - including survivors' testimonies

Institute of Romany Heritage and Memory and Holocaust’s Victims established and run by Polish Roma Union is situated placed in Szczecinek. The Institute is collecting the copies of documents concerning the Roma Genocide. Few articles are available on the site.

Roma Historical Institute is placed in Oswiecim, and run by Stowarzyszenie Romow w Polsce, The Association of Roma in Poland that collects materials, including victims testimonies. They are available on the site: http://www.stowarzyszenie.romowie.net/Romski-Instytut-Historyczny-13.html

On the 2nd August 2014, ternYpe- International Roma Youth Network, the Association of Roma in Poland and the Documentation and Culture Centre of German Sinti and Roma gathered around 1 000 young Roma and non-Roma from over 25 countries to participate in the Commemoration ceremony of the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the “Zigeunerlager” in the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. The programme included the visit of young people and survivors to the Auschwitz Birkenau Museum, and a commemoration ceremony at the monument of the murdered Roma and Sinti. The ceremony took place at the Roma and Sinti Extermination Memorial.

The Roma Genocide Remembrance Initiative, organised by ternYpe network since 2010, aims at raising awareness among young Europeans, civil society and decision-makers about the Roma Genocide as well as about the mechanisms of anti-Gypsyism in a challenging context of rising racism, hate speech and extremism in Europe.

Another project that involved young Roma and non-Roma participants from Poland called Pravde Jakhenca (With Open Eyes) took place from 24 July to 04 August 2013 in Krakow/ Żywiec (Poland). 60 young Roma and non-Roma from Albania, Germany, Macedonia and Poland came together in Zywiec, Poland, to learn more about the Roma Genocide during World War II and to fight antigypsism and racism in the present.

Virtual Testemonial of Krystyna Gil who was able to escape the mass execution at Szczurowa.

In his speech during 2015 Roma and Sinti Genocide Remembrance Day ceremony that took place at the former German Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau, the German Roma Siegfried Heilig, who lost eleven members of his family in Auschwitz and who survived the war in hiding, appealed primarily to the young generation never to forget the untold sufferings and persecutions that have become part of his community. "The youth of today is faced with the challenge to ensure that the events from the past will never be repeated", he stressed.