The Pilecki Institute, which studies the fate of Polish citizens in turbulent 20th century history, opened its first foreign branch in Berlin on Monday evening.
The opening ceremony was attended by representatives of the Witold Pilecki family, former Auschwitz prisoners, Poland's Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Gliński, presidential minister Wojciech Kolarski, Wojciech Kozłowski and representatives of the German world of science, culture and politics.
“The Berlin branch, located opposite the Brandenburg Gate, will consolidate the Polish presence in the cultural and scientific topography of Berlin," said Wojciech Kozłowski, the director of the Pilecki Institute.
“Our mission is also to operate outside Poland, so the opening of the Berlin branch is a natural step,” Mr Kozłowski said, adding that the Institute wanted to expand cooperation with German institutions in archival and documentary research and "share Polish historical experience with neighbours from across the border so that it can become part of German historiography and education."
Exposition dedicated to the Institute’s patron
The ceremony was accompanied by the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the Institute's patron, Witold Pilecki, a Polish wartime resistance hero who voluntarily infiltrated Auschwitz and informed the western Allies about the German genocide of the Jewish people.
“Witold Pilecki was chosen as the patron of the inaugural event not only as the patron of the institution, but also as a universal symbol of the fight against Nazi and communist totalitarianism, whose unusual history personifies the fate of Poland in the 20th century.,” said Piotr Gliński while visiting the exhibition.
The exposition will be on display until March 2020.
The opening of the Berlin branch of the Institute is a continuation of the cooperation with the Bundesarchiv on digitisation and the sharing of archive materials from the 20th century. As a result of this partnership, around 150,000 documents, including the files of the Gestapo Nazi secret police operating in occupied Poland have been digitised.