Volkswagen continues its partnership with the International Auschwitz Committee and the International Youth Meeting Center in Oświęcim/Auschwitz which started some 30 years ago.
Diess visited the former Birkenau extermination camp and the former Auschwitz concentration camp and signed the guestbook of the memorial site. At the ash pond, he honored the memory of the European Jews murdered at Birkenau. At the main concentration camp, Diess, accompanied by eight apprentices, laid a wreath at the wall of death and lit candles. At the International Youth Meeting Center, Diess informed himself about the memorial site project “Auschwitz – Remembrance and Future”. Apprentices from five Volkswagen plants reported on their experiences, impressions and encounters from their two weeks of work on the repair and restoration of the memorial site. The apprentices excavate former pathways in the camp or the foundations of occupants’ huts, repair barbed wire fences and clean eroded roofing tiles. They restore the enamel crockery and preserve the shoes of the victims.
Herbert Diess, CEO of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, said: “At a time when anti-Semitism and the radical right are again gaining ground, it is important for us to keep alive memories of the incredible degree of contempt for humanity which exceeds the bounds of our present imagination. This is especially important for Volkswagen. I would like to thank both our many apprentices, who now come from several different countries to work on the conservation of the memorial site, and the organizers. These are very important activities for Volkswagen.”
Herbert Diess: “My conversation with Zofia Posmysz, a survivor of Auschwitz, will leave a deep and lasting impression. She told us about how and under what circumstances she came to Auschwitz and how she was incredibly fortunate to survive two and a half years. What are her messages? Do not trust any ideology. Although she is very religious herself, she says that you should not trust religion, either. The many young people from throughout the world, including people from Volkswagen, who visit this horrific place give her reason to believe in a better future.”
Zofia Posmysz, who survived Auschwitz and Ravensbrück concentration camps, said: “We survivors see the commitment of the Volkswagen apprentices in a very positive light. I would like to thank the young Germans and Poles for coming here together and wanting to know about what Auschwitz means for us and young people in the two countries – back then, we were as young as they are today.”
The Vice President of the International Auschwitz Committee, Christoph Heubner, said: “the Volkswagen Group’s memorial site work is modest and unpretentious and has been unique in German industry for 30 years. This is an exemplary commitment at a time where knowledge of the Holocaust in Europe is apparently fading and the ghosts of the past are knocking on our door. Especially through these projects, young people can experience for themselves the meaning of democracy, tolerance and responsibility.”
Note: A report on Memorial Site work with interviews, images and films as well as this text and the latest photos are available at www.volkswagen-newsroom.com.