Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Poland

September 2000


I attended the 2-day conference in Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Poland, of the 13th General Assembly of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities.

The organization was founded in the 1980s by the UN, who also named the cities to be Peace Messenger Cities. In the 90s, the link to the UN was obviously cut. Now, cities can apply to become members and the General Assembly decides on it.

I understood that currently about 70 cities from all over the world are members with Europe and the US being overrepresented. At this GA, only one representative from Togo/Africa was present. One delegation from Japan attended (a lady from Yokohama is vice-president, with a second vice-president from the US and the president from Geneva/Switzerland). One city representative from South Korea attended as guest - his city considers becoming a member. There were also delegates from Volgograd/Russia (better known by the name of Stalingrad where the long battle between the German and Soviet army had taken place in World War II), from Krusevac/Serbia, the ambassador of Argentina to Poland attended, there were also delegates from the US, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Finland, and some other countries. Some of them were mayors, some directors of municipal Peace Offices, others came from municipal authorities. The common ground is the role of cities in creating peace. The delegates cover a wide political spectrum - from christian democrats to fairly left.

About 50-60 people attended the conference the logistics of which had been jointly organized by the Mayor of Oscwiencim and four other Polish mayors. For them, it was a very important event. Oswiecim became a member to the organization only two years ago.

Due to several reasons, among them the language problem, the conference schedule was somewhat unclear. Thus, my presentation had not been announced to the conference. Nor had all on the executive board known I would be coming, so some opposed that I should speak at all. As the president's plane was late, they had to start without him and someone decided I should go ahead. I was the keynote speaker, in fact, the only speaker on a specific topic in all the conference, and the only one to speak who is not member to the organization.

I spoke on the "(Un-) Peaceful Use of Space", giving an overview from the V2 to ballistic missiles to NMD to the Space Command plans. There was no discussion afterwards. A resolution had been prepared on nuclear weapons and the militariziaton of space which was agreed on on the next day. (President Clintons decision came a few hours later and I heard about it only when I returned to Germany.) As soon as I get the text by e-mail, I will forward it to you.

Much of the conference time was spend with the business meeting of the organization. We were given a guided tour throught the town of Oswiecim. Other points included a meeting with the city council, 1 1/2 hours show with beautiful local dances and songs presented by local people, a reception by the Polish mayors. One afternnon we visited the Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps where my ancestors killed more than 1.5 million people, 90% of them Jews.

I have no idea who will pick up on the space topic. The Japanese vice-president of the organization was very interested. She will be hosting next year's General Assembly in Yokohama. Also, the delegates of Slovenia were very interested. They wanted a few extra copies of the little handout folder I had brought (which included my speech, articles on NMD and the missile freeze proposal, two color copies from US Space Command docuemnts as well as the latest Global Network letter, the GN flyer, and the GN newsletter about our Washington conference) and asked for permission to translate extracts into their language. The Korean guest seemed interested and I hope to stay in touch with him. Also, the Polish organizational staff and the interpreters were very interested and asked for additonal copies of the handout. One British delegate will contact our British GN representatives.

For me, the trip was extremely interesting. It was my first visit to Poland and I liked the country very much. It was interesting to meet the delegates from so many country. And the German history - with respect to the V2/space as well as to the Holocaust - made the trip a very special one for me.

Regina Hagen

The contents herein are Copyright 2000, Global Network/Bruce Gagnon, the article may be reproduced for non-profit purposes as long as the source is recognised, otherwise reproduction can be arranged through the Global Network.

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