He told us of his experiences, his memories of the time in Auschwitz. Of hunger and thirst, of mortal fear. And also of the laughter, of the jokes and banter in his labour battalion. Of the people he met in Auschwitz, of friends and tormentors. And how he lived with the past that shaped his present life.
1995 was the first time we went to visit the memorial sites in Auschwitz-Birkenau with our name giver Stanislaw Hantz. He, the survivor, remembered life in the camp with a striking openness and made history accessible to us in a very personal way. Without ideologies and simplistic stereotypes of friends and enemies. He also saw behind what seemed obvious, included and pursued the contradictions. Consequently, in his view, perpetrators could also be afraid and victims could reveal their worst. Nevertheless there was a clarity that of course perpetrators and victims existed and these dividing lines do not disappear. With his way of looking at his past, Stanislaw Hantz quickly won our sympathies and has also shaped our work in this sense.
Stanislaw Hantz died in the summer of 2008.
For Bildungswerk Stanislaw Hantz e.V., engaging with the past in the country of Nazi ideologies and the perpetrators of the time is a matter of particular interest and places a certain responsibility on us. As part of the post-war generation, we are not concerned with personal guilt or involvement. Our priority is taking responsibility for German history, keeping the memory alive and allowing this knowledge to have an impact on the present.
In this respect, one aspect is an honest scrutiny of the facts and insights on the Holocaust, while another is transferring the mechanisms of the genocide to global present-day reality. Therefore, examining National Socialism is not reduced to a lesson in history for us but helps us understand the world of today and to act in it.
Traditionally, contacts with survivors of German concentration and extermination camps are of great importance for the activities of our educational organisation.
At our numerous events many survivors have told their stories. We want to continue doing that as long as it is possible.
Another field of attention are our publications of autobiographies and the organisation of exhibitions on aspects of the Holocaust.
By publishing the accounts of survivors we contribute to preserving their experiences for future generations.
Since 1995 we have taken interested persons to visit sites of the Holocaust: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Łódź, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, Lviv and Vilnius. Our educational trips are equally aimed at conveying information as well as providing an emotional approach, and they open up spaces for discussion and engagement for everyone involved. The objective is not only finding answers but above all the questions.
Meanwhile we organise educational trips in cooperation with European partners, mainly from Poland and the Netherlands. Within the context of our activities, numerous contacts and diverse forms of cooperation have developed in different places. Therefore, the discussion with people from other countries is becoming increasingly important for us. In this context the pivotal question for us is how the task of remembrance can be conducted in Europe against the backdrop of different histories of persecution and collaboration.
In the immediate future a big task for us will be remembrance work and its connection to everyday life in a time without survivors. It is becoming apparent that one way of realising this is the substantial expert knowledge of our consultants, always combined with the biographies of survivors.
For one part, our educational work depends on our voluntary commitment. For the other, it depends on numerous donations. But most of all, it thrives on a widely ramified network of supporters who make our work possible in the first place.
Further information can be found on our website: www.bildungswerk-ks.de