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Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appealed at the 10th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau foundation last Friday, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel was present too, to the Austrian Government to purchase the last remnants of KL Gusen I now!

The former KL Gusen complex was much bigger and had significantly more victims than the related KL Mauthausen twin installation but never became an adequate memorial site. More than 50% of 71.000 (!) inmates were murdered at the KL Gusen death camps by Nazi Germany. Of these 27.000 (!) citizens of Poland were murdered at Gusen. Gusen as indeed the 2nd Katyn.

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The Polish Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom lined up an new set of interpretive plaques at the entrance into the “Bergkristall” Underground Memorial of former Concentration Camp KZ Gusen II at St. Georgen/Gusen in December 2015. This new set of plaques was developed together with the Austrian Ministry of the Interior, the Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft, Plattform Johann Gruber, and the Institute for Contemporary History of the Universtiy of Vienna upon proposal by the Gusen Memorial Committee and the Community of St. Georgen/Gusen. These plaques give now basic information about this huge former underground complex of KZ Gusen II to visitors in the languages German, English, Polish, and Italian. We thank especially the participating institutions of the Republic of Poland for financing these important new interpretive plaques that will serve many nations in the upcomming years.

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A new plaque was inaugurated on September 20, 2015 in the court of honors of the KZ Gusen Memorial to remind to the early death of Polish composer Jan Sztwiertnia and all the other victims of the Lutheran Church of Poland.

Inauguration of commemorative plate for Jan Sztwiertnia at the KZ Gusen Memorial

Inauguration of plaque for Jan Sztwiertnia at the KZ Gusen Memorial

The new plaque was inaugurated in the presence of the son of Jan Sztwiertnia by the Ambassador of Poland in Austria, Mr. Artur Lorkowski, together with the Superintendent General of the Lutheran Church in Poland, Bishop Jerzy Samiec, the head of the Lutheran Diocese of Cieszyn, Bishop Pawel Anweiler, the head of the Lutheran Community of Wisla, Waldemar Szajthauer, and the major of the Town of Wisla, Mr. Tomasz Bujok.

Jan Sztwiertnia was born in 1911 as a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Town of Wisla in the District of Cieszyn in Southern Poland and soon became an outstanding teacher, musician, and composer. Like thousands of other Polish intellectuals he was deported already in 1940 to Concentration Camp Gusen I where he was murdered after only a few weeks in August 1940.

Oecumenical service in memory of Jan Sztwiertnia at the Parish church of St. Georgen/Gusen.

Ecumenical service in memory of Jan Sztwiertnia at the Parish church of St. Georgen/Gusen.

Just a few hours before this inauguration, an impressive ecomenical remembrance service was held with the local population in the parish church of St. Georgen/Gusen, assisted by the Superintendent of Upper Austria, Mr. Gerold Lehner, and the Roman-Catholic Parson of St. Georgen/Gusen, Mr. Franz Wöckinger. Special solemnity was given to this service with music performed by the choir of the Lutheran Diocese of Cieszyn and the grand Polish organist, Mr. Tomasz Orlow. Even pieces composed by Jan Sztwiertnia came to our ears.

In the evening of Saturday, September 19, 2015 this choir performed a good number of pieces composed by Jan Sztwiertnia and other composers of the Cieszyn region under the direction of Mr. Jean-Claude Hauptmann in the parish church of St. Georgen/Gusen. Promising artists like Sabina Oldrich (sopran), Hubert Miska (tenor), Urszula Mizia (cello), Zenon Mojzysz (violin), Marlena Janik (violin), and Tomasz Orlow (organ) played that music in honor of its creator in the highest artistic perfection at this great church concert.

Concert in Memory of Jan Sztwietnia at the Parish church of St. Georgen/Gusen

Concert in Memory of Jan Sztwietnia at the Parish church of St. Georgen/Gusen

On Friday, September 18, 2015 Professor Zenon Mojzyz of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Silesia in Katowice had given a lecture about the life of Jan Sztwiertnia and the musical traditions of the Cieszyn region to supplement a small exhibition that was presented too. In addition, Ms. Martha Gammer of the Gusen Memorial Committee informed about the bad situation so many Poles had to face at KZ Gusen since 1940. That evening was furthermore topped by showing a TV documentary “Music and Silence” in which students of the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music at the University of Silesia in Katowice follow the traces of Jan Sztwiertnia under the very professional supervision of Polish film director Dagmara Drzazga.

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