Not wasting any time, upon leaving the airport we were taken straight to our first meeting, with Anna Miszewska, Director General of the Auschwitz Birkenau Foundation. The Foundation is responsible for preservation of the camp, and in recent years has taken a more proactive approach to preservation, rather than simply reacting to signs of decay. Part of this effort involved creating an endowment, with contributions from democratic governments. Of the $120 million raised, $60 million came from Germany, $15 mil from the US, and $12 mil from Poland, with the rest in smaller donations from other European countries. It was noted that Auschwitz survived the war far more intact than other camps in Poland, which the Nazis tried to destroy during their retreats.
After the meeting, we were taken to the Warsaw Rising Museum, which commemorates the 1944 uprising of the people of Warsaw against the Nazi occupiers. Note, this is not the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943. The Warsaw Ghetto had been liquidated when the uprising commemorated in this museum started. The larger Warsaw Uprising began on August 1, 1944, and was led by the Polish Home Army/Resistance, with the thought that the Soviet Army would enter Warsaw within a week. However, The Soviets halted their march into the city, which allowed the Germans to regroup. The fighting lasted for 63 days, and ended with 200,000 Poles killed and most of the city destroyed. There is some debate now about if and how the Uprising should be commemorated, whether it was a noble act of resistance or if the Uprising simply led to additional death and destruction.
Next stop was the Jewish Historical Institute, which sits in the Main Judaic Library, which was attached to the Great Synagogue at Tłomackie Street. The Nazis destroyed the Great Synagogue during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but the library remained relatively intact, and now houses the Ringelblum Archive, which is a collection of documents and written testimonies of residents of the Warsaw Ghetto. Knowing what fate awaited the Ghetto, a secret group known as Oneg Shabbat collected any and all records they could of life in the ghetto, sharing them with the West through the Polish underground, and storing them underground so that they may be found by others after the Ghetto was destroyed.