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 neighbors in the 20th century and human rights


11.06.2010 | Friday | Udostępnij na Facebooku

This display focuses on an important but little-known event. In 1957 Henry Moore was appointed head of the jury of an international competition to build a monument to commemorate the victims of Fascism, which would be installed in the former concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Oskar Hansen, Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz, Julian Pałka, Edmund Kupiecki and Zofía Hansen, a group of Polish artists, submitted a competition entry entitled Road Monument. They proposed the construction of a black asphalt road about one kilometre long and 70 metres wide which would run diagonally across the camp. The idea behind the project was to preserve all the buildings and remains of the camp which lay within the boundaries of this road, while leaving everything outside to decay over time and sink back into the nearby forest. The main entrance gates to the camp were to be closed so that no one could follow the path once taken by the camp inmates.

The competition organisers, a group of former inmates of Auschwitz, rejected Road Monument, and it was never built. Despite this, it remains a challenging and thought-provoking proposal to create a fitting memorial to those who had perished in the concentration camp.

The competition tells us much about divergent attitudes to commemorative sculpture, as well as the distortion of memory for political ends. Questions about how to commemorate an event of such enormity as the Holocaust remain as relevant today as they were in Cold-War Europe.

The display (until 13 June 2010) has been organised by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in cooperation with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, as part of Polska!Year.

It was also an occasion for a conference ”Politics of Memory” organised on 9 June by the Imperial War Museum and the Polish Cultural Institute, with support from The Henry Moore Foundation. It brought together artists, cultural historians and museum professionals who debated on some of the implications of the Auschwitz competition, as well as the broader subject of the manipulation of memory. Speakers included: Zygmunt Bauman, Miroslaw Balka, David Cesarani, James Young, Margaret McMillan, Antony Gormley.

Source: Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Tate Britain