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In January 2006, the Israeli government decided to act to renew the Jewish pavilion in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp museum. This decision followed the visit of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Auschwitz and the pavilion a short time earlier, and his impression that the display at the pavilion needed renewal. In the same government decision, it was decided to establish an inter-ministerial team to work to submit an outline for the renovation of the pavilion through Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.

Beginning in 2009, after the outline and budget were approved, Yad Vashem worked together with the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum to implement it.

In addition, an international committee headed by Elie Wiesel was established to discuss the contents of the new exhibition.

The budget for the project is provided by the State of Israel. The realization of the project in Poland on the grounds of the Polish National Museum required complex agreements with the Polish government and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, as well as with the planning and building authorities in Poland.

The planning of the exhibition was carried out by an Israeli team of planners headed by Studio de Lange, which won the competition to design the pavilion, in parallel with this team, a team of planners was activated in Poland to handle the building and infrastructure and obtain the necessary approvals from the various authorities, the Polish team was also operated and funded by Yad Vashem.

The project, which is not large in area, required very complex coordination between the wishes of the curators and exhibition designers, conservation limitations, different worldviews regarding the relationship between conservation and memory, as well as complex engineering, legal and statutory coordination.

All this in a project that was and still is the center of attention of political elements in Israel and Poland because of its important and sensitive content.

The pavilion was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Israel on June 13, 2013, and was opened to the public the following day.



Historical background on Auschwitz and pavilion 27:

Near the town of Oświęcim, on a site later called Auschwitz I by the Nazis, were 14 one-story pavilions that served as a refugee camp at the end of World War I and later as a military barracks belonging to the Polish artillery battalion whose headquarters were in Katowice.

, in January 1940, a committee from the Nazi extermination camps headquarters was sent to tour the site to examine its suitability for the establishment of a camp, which gave a negative opinion. In April 1940, another committee headed by Rudolf Höss was sent, and based on Hess’s report, Himmler approved the establishment of the camp on this site.

At first, about 1,200 refugees who still lived around the camp were evacuated in barracks and huts.

In May 1940, about 300 Jews from the nearby town of Oświęcim were brought there, and later 30 German criminal prisoners, all of whom were employed together as forced laborers whose job was to prepare the camp grounds.

In June 1940, use of the camp began with the arrival of the first transport of 728 Polish prisoners.

As the camp, the main concentration camp in occupied Poland, the capacity of the camp constantly increased. In response to the increase in occupancy, the Nazis worked to increase the area of the pavilions in the camp by adding a second floor to the existing pavilions, erecting additional pavilions, expanding the area of the camp’s interests (mainly factories that employed forced labor), and building additional roads and infrastructure around it.

Subsequently, the Nazis decided to establish Auschwitz II (Birkenau death camp) a few kilometers from Auschwitz I, Birkenau was built on the grounds of the village of Brzezinka, the main part of which was evacuated and erased.

After more than four and a half years of activity in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camps, in which over a million people, most of them Jews, were carried out, the camps were liberated by the Red Army on January 25, 1945.

The Germans did not have time to destroy the camp (as they did, for example, in Treblinka) and the vast majority of the buildings of Auschwitz I remained completely intact. In Auschwitz II, the Germans managed to blow up the crematoria and burn down the wooden barracks compound known as Canada, the ruins of the crematoria are still on the site today.

Historical background on the displays in the camp and in the Jewish pavilion – Block 27:

In the early 1960s, the Polish government decided to establish a national museum on the sites of the Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II extermination camps.

While Auschwitz II (Birkenau) itself remained almost without museum intervention (except for conservation work, a number of monuments and in recent years the erection of an exhibition in the sauna building) evidence of the industrialized murder that took place there, in Auschwitz I the founders of the museum chose to allow various countries to set up displays inside the pavilions while the outdoor areas were preserved without intervention.

Communist Poland in the 1960s did not maintain diplomatic relations with the State of Israel and therefore did not allocate a unique pavilion to the State of Israel, especially since the murder took place on European soil, and therefore the founders of the museum believed that if every country in Europe were represented in the museum and told the story of the Jews who lived there, there would be extensive documentation of the Holocaust of the Jewish people.

Protests by Jewish organizations all over the world forced the Polish government to erect a unique pavilion called the “Jewish Pavilion.”

The first exhibition was established in 1968 and a decade later in 1978 it was updated – both were established by the National Museum belonging to the Polish government.

In 2006, following Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the site, the government decided to renew the display with the budget and leadership of the State of Israel.

Milestones for the realization of the project:

  • May 2009 – Imposition of implementation at Yad Vashem.
  • Second half 2009 – formation of a management and planning team, formulation of a program, establishment of steering committees, etc.
  • November 2009 – Negotiations with Auschwitz-Birkenau begin.
  • January 2010 – Signing of an agreement of principles between Yad Vashem and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum during a visit by the Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Jerusalem to mark the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp, which is also designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
  • April 2010 – Signing of a detailed agreement between Yad Vashem and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, which includes a division of responsibility.
  • 2010 – planning the exhibitions and construction, coordination with the conservation and licensing authorities in Poland, coordination between the exhibition teams, Israeli and Polish consultants, and more.
  • February 2011 – Launch of an early selection tender for the preservation and reinforcement of the pavilion building.
  • June 2011 – Start of work at the pavilion.
  • 2012 – integration of electromechanical systems contractors after additional tenders and integration of finishing works and displays.
  • Mid-2013 – completion of construction of displays, graphics, multimedia, display accessories and runs.
  • June 2013 – inauguration of the pavilion in the presence of the Prime Minister of Israel, ministers from Poland and Israel and its opening to the general public the following day.

Division of roles and responsibilities between Yad Vashem and Auschwitz-Birkenau:

At the outset, in November 2009, it became clear that the issue of the division of roles and responsibilities between the State of Israel, through Yad Vashem and the Auschwitz-Birkenau National Museum, raises complex issues:

The building belongs to the State of Poland to the Auschwitz-Birkenau National Museum – to whom do the exhibits belong?

Who will be professionally responsible for planning and licensing?

Who will be responsible for meeting the strictest conservation standards?-The entire site is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Who is responsible for the guidelines for contractors?

Who will sign contracts with the various consultants?

Who will sign contracts with contractors?

Who will be responsible for the integrity and safety of the building during the construction period?

Who will be responsible for supervising the works?

How do you define all of these without creating two duplicate, expensive and cumbersome systems that neutralize each other?

In the end, after lengthy negotiations, extensive options were agreed upon, according to which the employment of planners or contractors is possible by either side, in which case the other side retains full authority for coordination and supervision.

The licensing consultants’ engagement was with the Auschwitz Museum, under the supervision and guidance of both sides.

The other advisors (both Israeli and Polish) had contracts with Yad Vashem, and most of the instructions were given by Yad Vashem representatives in coordination on certain issues with museum representatives.

All contractors and suppliers had contracts with Yad Vashem, and they were guided by Yad Vashem representatives in cooperation and coordination with museum representatives, mainly on matters related to conservation.

I will expand on this in my lecture, but in practice the model worked well with exceptional cooperation.


Budget and funding sources:

The full budget for the project was NIS 32 million from the State of Israel alone (no donations were raised).

The renovation of the façade of the building was carried out by a contractor on behalf of the museum with funding from the European Union as part of a budget for the preservation of the camp.




Many teams, Israeli and Polish, worked on the project for about four years.

The complexity of the project stemmed from both the exhibition content and the historical relationship to the existing physical infrastructures in the building and the site.

Along the way, it was necessary to find morning and evening the valley of equality between the strictest rules of preservation and the transmission of historical messages, between different approaches (both in Israel and abroad) regarding the messages one wishes to convey in such a place, and between sometimes different functional worldviews regarding the proper manner of promoting a project in general and this project in particular (to what extent it is possible to negotiate with the authorities, To what extent it is possible to deviate from rules that apply to other facilities at this site and in Poland in general, different worldviews for tenders and negotiations with contractors, and much more).

In light of all this, for me at least, it was a shocking experience in every sense but at the same time full of satisfaction.

Most important of all in the end is the success of the project beyond all expectations and the formation of special human and professional connections between all those involved in the craft in Israel and Poland (curators, designers, screenwriters, artists, planners, contractors and suppliers, many managers and employees at Auschwitz Museum and Yad Vashem, planning authorities in Poland, representatives of government ministries in Israel and abroad and much more).