The Memorial Hospice Oświęcim stems from an initiative of the Auschwitz inmate August Kowalczyk. Kowalczyk was interned as a 19-year-old in December 1940. He was able to escape in June 1942, with the help of a resident of the town of Oświęcim. His initiative in founding the hospice was to show his gratitude to the town and its residents for their help.
The hospice provides places for 20 residents and is close to the former extermination camp. On the 21st of June 2012, it was officially opened by Federal Minister Bahr and his Polish counterpart, Bartosz Arlukowicz, in the presence of government representatives from Poland, Germany, Japan, Italy and Switzerland.
In his address, Federal Minister Bahr turned directly to August Kowalczyk and thanked him for his contribution to Polish-German reconciliation. “The hospice is more than a memorial”, said the minister, “it is a symbol of the esteem for life in this place that is so much connected with death and destruction. I am especially pleased that this joint project benefits people at the end of their lives.”
The collaboration between the hospice in Oświęcim and the Berlin Lazarus Hospice can be seen, among other things, in training courses that Ms. Lydia Röder gave, to develop structures for the volunteer and full-time staff.
So far there were five training sessions about self-perception and self-reflection, sensitization for the situation and the feelings of others, and exercises in sensitive communication (verbal and non-verbal), as well as recognizing and respecting one’s own limits and the limits of others.
To date, a total of 40 volunteers and 20 caregivers have been trained.
Alongside the training sessions there were meetings between German and Polish volunteers in Berlin and in Oświęcim.
After one such meeting a volunteer from Berlin wrote: “It only became clear to me there, that not only is the former Auschwitz concentration camp here, but also that Oświęcim is just a normal town with 40,000 residents and a train station and trains like everywhere. Having said this, due to the particular history, this infrastructure also has a whole other dimension that one cannot ignore. However, I learn to distinguish between Auschwitz and Oświęcim. The horror that is connected to Auschwitz is ever-present. All the same, Oświęcim is a place of hope, a place where people live, work and now have a hospice.”