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The Warsaw Voice » Other » March 12, 2008
Germany in Poland
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German Award for Auschwitz Survivor
March 12, 2008   
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The lifelong work of actor and director August Marian Kowalczyk has been to tirelessly promote, often in an unconventional way, the development of German-Polish dialogue. In recognition of his great commitment, the deputy head of mission of the German embassy in Poland, Minister Jutta Frasch, on behalf of German President Horst Köhler, Feb. 26 awarded Kowalczyk the Cross of Merit, First Class, of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

As a young man, Kowalczyk was deported by the Nazi occupation authorities to the Nazi German-run Auschwitz concentration camp in southern Poland. In 1942, he managed to escape with a group of inmates, of whom not many survived. During World War II, he was a soldier of the Polish Home Army (AK). After the war, he did a course in Polish studies at the Jagiellonian University (UJ) in Cracow. At the same time, he started to work as an actor in the Rapsodyczny Theater in Cracow and the Polski Theater in Warsaw. Between 1962-1966, he was head of the Adam Mickiewicz Theater in Częstochowa. From 1968 until retirement in 1981, he worked as artistic director and directed plays at the Polski Theater in Warsaw.

For many years since retiring, he has traveled around Poland presenting to audiences, usually young people, his monodrama 6804, czyli z pamięci gawęda osobista Augusta Kowalczyka, byłego więźnia KL Auschwitz (6804: Personal Story by August Kowalczyk, an Auschwitz-Birkenau Survivor). 6804 was Kolwaczyk's prison camp number. His aim is to preserve the memory of the past and bear witness to history.

A joint initiative launched in 2000 to found the Auschwitz City Memorial Hospice Foundation also combines the aim of remembering the past with the idea of reconciliation. The memorial is a symbol of the former Auschwitz camp inmates' ties to the residents of Oświęcim and a token of gratitude for their spontaneous, life-saving help.

As an active member of domestic and foreign organizations of survivors of Nazi concentration camps, Kowalczyk, chairman of the National Council of the Polish Association of Victims of Nazism, maintains close working contacts with the International Auschwitz Committee and the international European Schools' Network in Hanover and Marienthal. He has also taken up work with the Against Forgetting, For Democracy organization.

Kowalczyk's untiring efforts and his sincere and prejudice-free readiness to communicate greatly contribute to the development of German-Polish dialogue, demonstrating that the past and historical guilt in German-Polish relations are not insurmountable obstacles to starting a new chapter and facing common challenges.

John Reyels
Press Attaché Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Warsaw
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