March 17, 2013
0560 & 0561 POLAND (Lesser Poland) - Auschwitz Birkenau - German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (UNESCO WHS)
Nearly two years ago, when I started to be interested in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, I was surprised to find among these sites, alongside the Taj Mahal, Iguazu Falls, or the buildings constructed by Gaudi, for exemple, the nazi concentration and extermination camp from Auschwitz Birkenau. Of course that I searched the motivation on the UNESCO official website, and I found there that the site was included on the list in virtue of criterion VI, that means that it is "directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance", with specifying that "the Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria". In this case probably was not considered necessary.
More specifically, UNESCO considered that the site meets criterion VI because: "Auschwitz-Birkenau, monument to the deliberate genocide of the Jews by the Nazi regime (Germany 1933-1945) and to the deaths of countless others bears irrefutable evidence to one of the greatest crimes ever perpetrated against humanity. It is also a monument to the strength of the human spirit which in appalling conditions of adversity resisted the efforts of the German Nazi regime to suppress freedom and free thought and to wipe out whole races. The site is a key place of memory for the whole of humankind for the holocaust, racist policies and barbarism; it is a place of our collective memory of this dark chapter in the history of humanity, of transmission to younger generations and a sign of warning of the many threats and tragic consequences of extreme ideologies and denial of human dignity." Frankly, I wasn't convinced by the arguments. I don't think that if I would see in reality the camp's remains I would be more impressed than when I read certain books and I saw certain photos and movies or documentary about this subject. But that's just my opinion, which doesn't matter: Auschwitz-Birkenau is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Is known that during WWII Allies simply didn't believe that so-called Nazi labor camps were actually an extermination camps. What is less known is that the information which finally convinced them was provided by the Polish resistance, namely by the Secret Polish Army (Armia Polska Tajna) and the Home Army (Armia Krajowa). Much less known is that the first intelligence report on Auschwitz, the Witold's Report, which enabled the Polish government-in-exile to convince the Allies that the Holocaust was taking place, was drafted by Witold Pilecki, who volunteered to be imprisoned in the camp to provide information from inside and to organize a resistance movement there. He survived in the camp between September 1940 and April 1943, when he escaped, taking with him documents stolen from the Germans. After that he took part in the Warsaw Uprising. He survived again, but only to be executed in 1948 by the Stalinist secret police because he remained loyal to the London-based Polish government-in-exile. Until 1989, information on his exploits and fate was suppressed by the Polish communist regime.
Even though now are countless compelling evidence about the Holocaust, there are however people who still doubt it. That's not really a problem (because crazy, paranoid and fanatics existed and will always exist in the world), but becomes a problem when such people get into leadership positions. The latest example is Fathi Shihab-Eddim, a senior figure close to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, responsible for appointing the editors of all state-run newspapers, who declared in January 2013 that "The myth of the Holocaust is an industry that America invented. (...) U.S. intelligence agencies in cooperation with their counterparts in allied nations during World War II created [the Holocaust] to destroy the image of their opponents in Germany, and to justify war and massive destruction against military and civilian facilities of the Axis powers, and especially to hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb."
Mircea wrote on the postcard that sent it to me from Auschwitz "I hope not to repeat that." I'm sorry to disappoint you, Mircea, but it was repeated, perhaps with other methods, but with the same purpose and with the same result, whether it's about Rwanda, Bosnia or Cambodia, to give just a few examples. And in the last of them even on the same scale, because in only four years of government, the Khmer Rouge had exterminated in the Killing Fields and in 150 execution centers two million people (about one-fourth of the population). People don't learn anything from history and repeat the same facts, as the moths continues to fly to the burning candle, though an endless series of generations of moths have burned their wings previously, making the same thing.
About the stamps
On the postcard 0560
The stamp, depicting the convent of Jasna Gora, is part of the Polish Cities series, about which I wrote here.
On the postcard 0561
First stamp, depicting Sulphur tuft (Hypholoma fascicular), isn't really a stamp, but a vignette, because it has neither value, nor the name of the emitent. The serie from which is part, named Mushrooms in Polish Forests (1) and issued on August 31, 2012, consists of four pairs of stamps, each pair having on the left an edible species (on this stamp is specified the value and the country), and on the right a poisonous species (on this stamp is only a red "x", without value)
2012.08.31 - Mushrooms in Polish Forests (1)
• Russula virescens & Amanita phalloides (1,55 PLN)
• Morchella esculenta & Gyromitra esculenta (1,95 PLN)
• Macrolepiota procera & Amanita pantherina (3,00 PLN)
• Armillaria ostoyae & Hypholoma fasciculare (4,15 PLN) - It's on the postcard 0561
2014.07.29 - Mushrooms in Polish Forests (2)
• Cantharellus cibarius & Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca (1,75 PLN)
• Agaricus campestris & Amanita virosa (2,35 PLN)
• Russula vesca & Russula emetica (3,75 PLN) - It's on the postcard 2403
• Boletus edulis & Tylopilus felleus (4,20 PLN) - It's on the postcard 2100
The second stamp is part of Polish Mansion Houses set, about which I wrote here.
Auschwitz Birkenau - UNESCO official website
Witold Pilecki - Wikipedia
Egypt news official: Holocaust a U.S. hoax - UPI.com, 30.01.2013
Sender 0560: Mircea Ostoia
Sent from Oświęcim / Auschwitz (Lesser Poland / Poland), on 11.10.2012
Photo: Jaroslaw Mensfelt
Sender 0561: Patricia Krasnowska (direct swap)
Sent from Gdansk (Pomeranian / Poland), on 04.10.2012