IX. International Workshop for professional officers
on dealing with the past of Auschwitz burdened by violence

A cooperation between the Maximilian Kolbe Foundation and the Zentrum für ethische Bildung in den Streitkräften (zebis) [Centre for Ethical Education in the Armed Forces]

Idea for the project

Within the framework of the workshop, 30 professional officers from Poland, France and Germany were invited to enter a joint process of learning on dealing with the experience of violence and its consequences in the analysis of the present significance of Auschwitz, and to express their willingness to reflect on the subject matter in a way which is appropriate to the ethical seriousness of the use of violence.

Analysing Auschwitz and its consequences – beyond the concrete case – gets an exemplary meaning for dealing with the experience of violence and its after-effects in general. Auschwitz stands for experiences having a lasting effect on the identity of our societies and on the identity of Europe. The different ways Auschwitz is remembered in the different contexts reflects the complexity of violent incidents.

At the same time the tensions created by the severely violent experience continue to exist in different forms, contents, functions and ways Auschwitz is remembered by various European societies. People must learn to understand this disposition to violence which has considerable explosive force. Only then it can be overcome and the prerequisites for a common European identity can be created which assimilates the differences without abolishing them.

The workshop was meant to invite the participants to jointly visualize the experiences made in connection with Auschwitz and to reflect on the different perspectives and contexts of experience and interpretation contributed by the participants.

Special attention was directed at the specific challenge of a military remembrance culture when dealing with the experience of violence. Soldiers in particular bear responsibility for dealing with means of violence. In addition, they are especially exposed to the effects of violence. The joint workshop of professional officers from France, Germany and Poland is a sign of the endeavours to find a common military identity.

Some impressions:

Guided tour through the main camp Auschwitz I (Photo MKS)
Guided tour through Birkenau (Photo MKS)
Conference (Photo CDiM)
Meetings with survivors Zdzisława Włodarczyk and Grzegorz Tomaszewski (Photo MKS and Vinzenz Kratzer)
Yuriy Zakal, Bohdan Chechotka and Roman Bohuta from the psychiatric clinic near Lviv in Ukraine talked about “The lasting impact of traumatisation” (Photo MKS)
Act of commemoration at Auschwitz Memorial (Photo CDiM)
Reading a joint declaration and a joint wreath-laying ceremony (Photo Vinzenz Kratzer)
Festive dinner with musical accompaniment (Photo Vinzenz Kratzer)