Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
The Belzec Memorial
It was not until 1961 that the Polish authorities decided to clean up the site of the former death camp and erect a monument to the memory of the victims.
This work was completed and the area of remembrance and memorial officially opened on the 1 December 1963. The monument showed two emaciated figures, and a number of concrete plinths that marked the supposed mass graves.
There was also a row of monumental concrete urns, symbolising ever-burning fires, on the west side of the alley to the left of the former gas chamber building.
Over the years the monuments and surrounding wall and fence fell into disrepair and littered the site, human remains were visible and the site was totally neglected, and a poor memorial to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were murdered there.
In 2002 in Warsaw, the Council for the Protection of Monuments to Fighting and Martyrdom, acting on behalf of the Polish government, and initially in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, later in conjunction with the American Jewish Committee, created a new and more suitable area of remembrance on the site of the former Belzec death camp.
To achieve this in May 2002 the crumbling Communist built monuments and walls were finally demolished and the remaining pieces of rusting fence removed.
The following spring work started on the construction of the new area of remembrance designed by Andrzej Solyga, Zdislaw Pidek and Marcin Roszczyk.
The complex consists of a memorial to the victims of the camp and a museum in which is presented an exhibition about the history of the Belzec death camp.
The new memorial site at Belzec was opened at a moving ceremony on the 3 June 2004 by Aleksander Kwasniewski, the President of Poland, accompanied by representatives from the Polish and foreign governments, the American Jewish Committee, the United States Holocaust museum and other Jewish organisations, and a unit of 200 troops of the Israeli armed forces.
Among the large crowd were many relatives of the victims who had travelled to Belzec from many countries around the world, as well as local villagers some of which had helped construct the camp in 1941, or worked for the Ostbahn.
The museum currently maintains educational and research programmes, entrance to the museum is free, but is closed on notable state and religious holidays.
Additional information about the Belzec Memorial can be found [here]
Belzec – The Unknown Death Camp of the Holocaust by Michael Tregenza – Revised and updated version 2006.
Belzec – The Nazi Death Camp – Belzec Memorial Museum
Holocaust Historical Society
Photos: The Chris Webb & Cameron Munro collections
*Special thanks to Robert Kuwalek
Copyright: 2008 H.E.A.R.T