The Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau was founded in 1996 by social activist and Zen teacher, Roshi Bernie Glassman. Roshi Glassman had visited Auschwitz previously and experienced a vision of thousands of souls trapped there in need of healing, remembrance and release. He vowed to return to Auschwitz to do this healing work. In November 1996, Bernie Glassman and the Peacemaker Community brought an international, multi-faith group of more that 150 peacemakers to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland for the first Bearing Witness Retreat.
The participants included survivors of Auschwitz and other concentration camps, children of survivors, and children of Nazi guards who worked in the camps. Many of the participants had lost family members, some their entire families, at Auschwitz-Birkenau and other camps. The participants were from many countries including Poland and Germany, Canada, England, France, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, and the United States. Among the participants were Buddhists, Christians, Jews and Muslims as well as people with a secular orientation. In later years a Native American elder from the Lakota Ogalala Nation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota attended the retreat. Since 1996, hundreds of participants in the annual Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland have discovered profound personal healing and transformation in service of creating a more just and peaceful world. The Peacemaker Community Poland (Polska Wspolnota Pokoju) is the local host and organizer for the retreat.
The Engaged Mindfulness Institute (as Peacemaker Institute) hosted the Auschwitz Retreat in 2007 & 2008.
For upcoming Bearing Witness Retreats, please visit our affiliate’s site: http://zenpeacemakers.org/