Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jenoff on Managing Memory: The Legal Status of Auschwitz-Berkenau and Resolving Conflicts in the Post-Communist Era

Managing Memory - The Legal Status of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Resolving Conflicts in the Post-Communist Era -- an interesting take on reconciling the various interests that come into play with memorialization -- has just been posted by Pam Jenoff, Rutgers School of Law Camden.  It appeared in The Polish Review, Vol. 46, No. 2, p. 131, 2001.  The abstract is very short, so here are is the Introduction:
Auschwitz
Of the many images that characterize the Holocaust in modern memory, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps (“Auschwitz”) are among the most recognized and enduring. From the “Arbeit Macht Frei” [Work Makes You Free] inscription on the gate above the entrance to Auschwitz to the gas chambers of Birkenau, these sites are universally identified with the Nazi atrocities and horrors of World War II.

Present day discourse is not, however, limited to the historical significance of Auschwitz. On-going and highly charged debate surrounds both the preservation of the concentration camp sites and protection of the surrounding area. These controversies affect not only the integrity of the former concentration camp sites, but also Poland’s development as a democratic state in the post-communist era and its relations with the international community.

Preservation of Auschwitz is an extremely sensitive and visible issue, involving international, national, local, and religious interests. Careful consideration of the historical and current legal status of Auschwitz provides a neutral and rational framework for discussing these multi-faceted and contentious matters. The key to resolving these issues lies in a comprehensive plan that takes into account international concerns while recognizing the sovereignty of the Polish State, the important role of the Catholic Church and the needs of the local community. Existing legislation and international agreements, if strengthened and enforced, provide a sufficient legal framework for the protection of Auschwitz.

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