The Slovenia Times

Ex-Yu countries to remount joint exhibition in Auschwitz

The Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. Photo: Xinhua/STA

After years of negotiations, Slovenia and other countries of the former Yugoslavia have signed a funding agreement at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris to remount their joint exhibition at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in memory of the victims from the region who perished or suffered in the camp.

"This historic agreement fills in the gap, the absence of memory in the very place where these horrors took place," Audrey Azoulay, director general of UNESCO, said at the signing on 25 January.

Slovenia's Culture Minister Asta Vrečko underlined the importance of "keeping alive the memory of all those killed and of the suffering of Slovenians and members of other nations of the former Yugoslavia who were interned and experienced unimaginable horrors solely because of their nationality or political conviction".

Having signed the agreement, the six countries committed themselves to staging and co-funding the joint exhibition in an authentic place of remembrance that tells many personal stories, remains a part of family histories and the collective memory, and carries many important messages relevant now and in the future.

After 14 years of negotiations, the agreement to renew the exhibition in Block 17 of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was signed by Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

The ongoing renovation of Block 17 will include efforts to put on the joint permanent exhibition on the Holocaust in the former Yugoslavia, where about 66,000 out of the 80,000 Jews were killed during WWII, the French press agency AFP reported.

Nearly 20,000 Yugoslavs were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, including more than 2,300 Slovenians, of which more than half died there.

The countries share Block 17 as an exhibition venue with Austria, which in 2019 launched the renovation, whose costs will be shared among the seven countries. In 2021, Austria opened a new permanent exhibition on the ground floor.

Under the agreement, Slovenia is obligated to meet 16% of all expenses. The renovation of Block 17 has been estimated at €1 million, and the same price tag has been attached to the project of relaunching the joint exhibition. Maintenance costs in the future will be covered in separate bilateral agreements with the museum.

Last year, experts from Slovenia's Museum of Contemporary History and the Centre of Jewish Cultural Heritage - Maribor Synagogue prepared proposals to add to the concept of the Slovenian part of the exhibition.

The original exhibition was launched in 1963, and its venue on the first floor of Block 17 in Auschwitz I, the main camp, was known as the Yugoslav Pavilion. The venue closed in 2009, but the exhibition itself had been closed to the public even earlier.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January will mark 79 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.


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