October 7, 2019
On the 7th October 2019, a delegation of the Parliament in Nordrhein-Westfalen Germany, consisting of the President Andre Kuper (CDU), the Vice-President Carina Gödecke (SPD), the Vice-President Angela Freimuth (FDP) , the Vice-President Oliver Keymis and the Managing Director Dorothee Zwiffelhoffer, as well as the Consultant for Memorial Culture Dr. Matthias Schreiber, came to visit the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim. Their program included a visit to the former Nazi German concentration and Extermination camp Auschwitz 1 where they laid a wreath in remembrance of the victims. They also went to the Jewish Centre in the town and saw the last remaining synagogue. In the evening, the delegation met with groups of students from Bestwig and Werne who had accompanied them throughout the day. Many questions and opinions were exchanged which led to interesting discussions within the groups.
In one discussion, a student asked what had left a lasting impression on them. Some named specific exhibits that really shocked them. Others spoke about the overall difference from the preparation and expectation, to the actual experience of seeing the former Nazi German concentration and Extermination camp.
Dr. Matthias Schreiber responded that the comparison between the daily life of the surrounding town Oświęcim to the Memorial, stood out the most for him, creating surreal parallel worlds.
The participants were concerned especially about the political conflict of upcoming right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism in Europe. Andre Kuper suggested “action and dialogue” as a solution of that issue and the building of awareness for further student generations, as they would be the next politicians and the next voters. “Should it be an obligation for every student, to visit Auschwitz?”, asked the politician. The group had different opinions on that. On the one hand, it should be a fixed component of education, on the other hand, no one should be forced to visit the Memorial. They came to the conclusion, that the schools should have the duty to make it possible for everybody to visit, if they want to.
Angela Freimuth shared her opinion on that as well. “Democracy means, that everybody participates in it.” Therefore, she stressed the importance and responsibility of every single student, to take action against anti-Semitism and racism and to not close their eyes to it.
In conclusion it can be said, that it was an impressive day for both politicians and students and they will remember it for a long time. Hopefully it helped them to comprehend the perspectives and opinions of each other.