On Wednesday 13 October representatives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust State Museum in Auschwitz visited Žilina. They were welcomed at the town hall by the town administration and members of the Žilina Beskids 2026 team.
The Žilina Beskids 2026 team had a joint work meeting with the museum director Andrzej Kacorzyk and the head of the volunteer department Katarzyna Marcak on the planning and implementation of several projects within the Žilina Beskids 2026 candidacy for the title of European Capital of Culture. The projects are related to the difficult theme of the Second World War, the Holocaust and escape of the Vrba-Wetzler couple from the Auschwitz concentration camp.
One of the projects is the creation and delineation of a specific route in honour of Vrba and Wetzler.
The Vrba-Wetzler route follows the steps of two heroes and creates a path where individuals and groups – schools, students, adults – can learn their story and not only learn and talk about the Holocaust, World War II and Jewish historical experiences in a unique way but also reflect on the broader message of their heroism; and that hope, human dignity, goodness and courage within us can overcome the seemingly omnipotent evil and hatred.
The intention is to mark and create the route by 2024 and to officially open it on the 80th anniversary of the Vrba and Wetzler escape. Activities will not end when the route is opened; they will continue during the following years. Through an open call, artists will be able to realize works of art from the fields of fine arts, sound and music, poetry, dance and literature directly at selected important places of the route in open space and in nature. The exhibition on the route will also include carefully selected works of art and collections from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum related to the Holocaust.
The first two route markings are already placed in the village of Skalité thanks to the initiative of the municipality and partners of the candidacy project Žilina Beskids 2026 – Vrba Wetzler Memorial and ICEJ Slovakia – who have been working with the topic for a long time and since 2014 they have been organizing an annual march from Auschwitz to Žilina in footsteps of Vrba and Wetzler.
Other projects are also planned.
In addition to delineation of the Vrba, Wetzler and partners escape route, several other related projects are planned such as the permanent Vrba-Wetzler exhibition in Palárik’s house in Čadca or Literary and Translation House in Žilina on Hollého Street which houses the recently opened Vrba and Wetzler room.Equally interesting is the project of an exceptional musical performance which will feature original music composed by Central European Jews during the Second World War, performed by the State Chamber Orchestra of Žilina.
The Žilina Beskids 2026 team believes that the town together with partner cities and the Beskids region will become the European Capital of Culture and that projects that deepen cross-border cooperation and bring important issues of the past closer to the public will be implemented.