About

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

Who we are

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation (ABMF) envisions a world in which societies do not allow any forms of bigotry, xenophobia, or racism to permeate the social fabric but rather respond to political, social, and other challenges with the assumption of shared humanity among all people.

Our mission

Our Mission is to safeguard the memory of Auschwitz-Birkenau through the preservation of its original artifacts and bringing lessons of Auschwitz to every American student. Under the leadership of our chairman, Ronald S. Lauder, our efforts cultivate intercultural and international dialogue, encouraging positive cooperation between the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Poland and our supporters here in the United States.

As the generation of Holocaust eyewitnesses passes away, we are the only organization in the US that works to promote and financially support the preservation of and education about Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial Foundation (formerly “Friends of Auschwitz Birkenau Foundation”) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization established in 2012.

Board of Directors & Staff

chairman
Ronald S. Lauder

International philanthropist, diplomat, public servant, entrepreneur, investor and patron of the arts, Ronald S. Lauder is deeply committed to his Jewish heritage and has worked tirelessly to help the Jewish community, worldwide, through a wide range of philanthropic and professional endeavors.

In 1983, Mr. Lauder began his public service career when he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Affairs.

In 1986, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Austria, by President Ronald Reagan. Upon his return from Vienna in 1987, he established The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, which now maintains 35 Jewish schools, kindergartens and summer camps throughout 15 countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

Over 7,500 children are enrolled in these schools today, and 2,500 children attend the summer camps. Over the years, the Foundation has educated more than 30,000 children in a region that was sadly devoid of Jewish learning during the Communist era and this has, in turn, helped build thriving Jewish communities throughout this area.

In June 2007, Mr. Lauder was elected to lead the World Jewish Congress, and has served as the organization’s President ever since. In this capacity, Mr. Lauder meets with heads of countries, diplomats and religious leaders around the world, representing Jewish communities in 100 countries.

In 1986, Mr. Lauder visited Auschwitz-Birkenau for the first time and was shocked to see that the camp had fallen into a terrible state of repair. Worried that the artifacts were disintegrating and would not be available for future generations to see, he immediately brought conservators from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to help preserve these historic objects. Mr. Lauder spearheaded the international campaign that raised $40M for the preservation of the remaining barracks of Birkenau, as well as the mountains of shoes, suitcases, eyeglasses and other personal item that the Nazis took from Jewish inmates before they murdered them. Mr. Lauder believes this effort is of utmost importance in an age of Holocaust deniers and growing anti-Semitism throughout the world. Soon, the last eye-witnesses of the Holocaust will no longer be with us and the camp will stand as the only testament to what took place. For all these reasons, Mr. Lauder believes the integrity of the camp must always be maintained.

Vice-chairman
Joel Citron

Joel Citron is Co-CEO and Principal of Tenth Avenue Holdings, LLC (TAH). Prior to founding TAH in 2008, Mr. Citron spent 24 years as an executive of several operating and investment companies. Mr. Citron has served on the Board of Directors of many public and private companies in Europe and the United States.

Mr. Citron is currently Chief Investment Officer of TAH Management, LLC, Chairman of the Board of Tenth Avenue Commerce LLC, Avenue Income
Credit Strategies Fund (NYSE: ACP), Avenue Mutual Fund Trust (Avenue Credit Strategies Investors ACSAX and ACSBX). He also serves on the Board of Evolution Gaming Group AB (SS:EVO), Attivio, Inc., Hello Products, LLC and Boulevard Acquisition Corp II.

Mr. Citron is actively involved in philanthropy. He is the past President and current executive committee member of the Board of Trustees at the Abraham Joshua Herschel School in New York (Nursery through 12th grade).

Mr. Citron is a board member of the Birthright Israel Foundation, the USC Shoah Foundation, Paideia – the European Institute for Jewish Studies, and Starfall Education Foundation. Mr. Citron holds an M.A. in Economics and a B.Sc. in Business Administration from University of Southern California.

 

members of the board

Gail Becker
Clifford Brandeis
Andrea Cayton
Joseph Finkelstein

Lewis Gantman
Andrew Intrater
Martin Karlinsky

Harry Krakowski
Kathy Rocklen
Howard Unger

Staff

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Dr. Maria Zalewska

Dr. Maria Zalewska is a nonprofit executive, Holocaust educator, media scholar, and author with an 11-year track record of strategically planning, developing, and funding cross-institutional Holocaust educational projects, as well as developing media projects from pre- to post-production. Her academic work has focused on the relationship between interactivity, visual studies, and Holocaust memory. Her research develops new directions in Holocaust studies and innovative responses to the challenges facing Holocaust education in the digital age.

After receiving her M.Phil. in Russian and East European Studies from University in Oxford, Dr. Zalewska has provided operational and strategic leadership to ABMF while completing her Ph.D. and teaching undergraduate students at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Dr. Zalewska has developed strong strategic partnerships between Holocaust educational institutions in the United States and Europe. She currently holds the title of the Honorary Consul of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in the United States of America.

In addition to her professional appointments, Dr. Zalewska wrote and produced a film that premiered at the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz and was broadcast live on over 250 channels in over 50 countries. Dr. Zalewska served as a member of the Peabody Awards screening committee for six consecutive years (documentary media category); in 2019, she was the head organizer of Visible Evidence XXVI, the international conference on documentary film and media.

Maria was born and raised in Warsaw. Her great-grandfather was killed in Auschwitz.

EDUCATION
Gosia Szymanska Weiss

Gosia Szymanska Weiss is a not-for-profit professional and consultant who specializes in Polish-Jewish relations. She grew up in Lodz, Poland, and belongs to the generation of Polish Jews who discovered their Jewish roots in the early 1990s, following the fall of communism.

Before permanently moving to the United States, Gosia was Managing Director of Beit Warszawa, a progressive Jewish community in Warsaw, and was on the board of the Polish Union of Jewish Students. More recently, she served in leadership roles at American Jewish Committee (AJC) as Associate Director of the Los Angeles Region and nationally as Senior Associate for Polish-Jewish Relations.

Gosia is a graduate of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion and the University of Southern California with a double master’s degree in Jewish Nonprofit Management and Public Administration.  She is the recipient of the Knight Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.

DATABASE MANAGER AND PROJECT COORDINATOR
Leah Cruz

Leah Cruz is an Operations and Data Management specialist with over 15 years of experience working with nonprofits and small start-ups. She is originally from the Lower East Side of New York City, and credits the diverse and vibrant neighborhood with installing a love of creativity and art within her.

After graduating from the University of South Florida with a degree in journalism, she returned to New York to open a photography studio. Selling her studios, she decided to enter the corporate world. She transferred her skillset into working in operations and site management, then into the field of databases and CRM management.

Leah is active in the artist communities in New York, Florida, the Carolinas, and Maryland; and has received local and international acclaim for her multimedia artwork. She is a lifelong baseball fan and console gamer.

 

COMMUNICATIONS
Sara Bakerman, Ph.D

Sara Bakerman, Ph.D., is a media scholar and historian specializing in female stardom, aging, and US cultural memory after World War II. Dr. Bakerman earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in 2020, where she also received graduate certificates in Visual Studies and Cinematic Arts Archiving and Preservation. Previously, she earned her Master’s degree in Critical Studies from USC and a BA with honors from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Dr. Bakerman hails from Massachusetts and West Palm Beach, Florida, where she grew up in a lively reform Jewish community. As a teen, she was active as a board member in TiBToFTY, the youth group at Temple Beth Torah, where she led an ongoing fundraiser for underprivileged youth and participated in numerous social outreach programs. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, classic television, and exploring her new neighborhood in New York City.