The City of Oświęcim is a unique place on the world stage because of its history. Our city was the place where the totalitarian Nazi system of hate tried to exterminate nations and cultures. And it is our city where the dialogue is becoming a calling for peace in the world. Oświęcim is a member of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities and received the title of the Messenger of Peace. Numerous cities, organizations and associations plan and realize their international peace projects in Oświęcim. The city is a host to institutions which run educational activities aimed at reconciliation, dialogue and tolerance. The City of Oświęcim is a venue for peace promoting events such as Life Festival Oświęcim, the International Amateur Film Festival and Photography Biennale “To Love a Man”. the International Artistic Contest “Let’s Give Peace to the World”. Since 2014 the city has been organizing meetings of human rights and peace experts called “The Oświęcim Human Rights Forum”, which was transformed into the Oświęcim Human Rights Institute in 2018.
At present, the City of Oświęcim is implementing another peace project called “The Alley of Memory Trees”. Not far away from the former KL Auschwitz concentration camp, an alley of trees was designed. The trees come from various places around the world whose inhabitants were particularly affected with cruelty. In our project, we used the symbol of a tree – a witness of events, a sign of revival, hope, knowledge and wisdom – because it is present in many cultures and it is a universal and commonly understandable message. The trees planted in the City of Oświęcim will be a living monument carrying a warning but also hope for the future and will be a symbol of revival.
The first tree in the Alley of Memory Trees was planted in 2017. It was the Liberty Oak from the Basque City of Guernica. The Oak from Guernica remains a symbol of protection of human rights and parliamentary democracy as well as respect for the rights of the nations and freedom that originates from the desire of peace. In 1937, the City of Guernica was the first place in the world which suffered mass bombardment of civilians. The tragedy of this Basque city was immortalized by Pablo Picasso in his famous painting “Guernica”.
In 2018, we planted the Lime Tree from Dachau. The Lime Tree comes from the Resistance Square in the heart of the Old Town of Dachau. The Resistance Square commemorates the Dachau uprising which took place on 28 April 1945. On this day, the prisoners of the concentration camp together with the citizens of Dachau recaptured the Town Hall from the hands of SS. The uprising was cruelly supressed by the SS units.
Soon a gingko tree from the City of Hiroshima will be planted in the Alley. The sapling dedicated to the Alley of Memory Trees comes from one of the Hibakujumoku trees – “the trees that survived” the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The original ginkgo tree is 200 years old and grows in the Shukkeien Garden in Hiroshima, near the hypocentre of the nuclear bombardment. Its trunk was tilted by the shock wave after the nuclear explosion, but the tree survived the fire after the explosion and sprouts to this day. The Hibakujumoku trees are a symbol of revival and hope for peace for the Japanese people.