Film still from "Berlin-Birkenau", 2012; © Lukasz Surowiec


Planting of the birches in Berlin-Neukölln, Photo: Artur Żmijewski


by Łukasz Surowiec

The project Berlin-Birkenau brings a few hundred young birches from the area around the former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to Berlin, where they have found new places to root all over the city. These trees, taken from soil that contains the traces of countless deaths, become a "living archive" that shifts something growing and breathing to Berlin. The birches have been planted from autumn 2011 through spring 2012 in public parks and spaces such as Wuhlheide Park in Treptow-Köpenick or the newly established park in Spandau, on the grounds of schools, and also in places that have a historic connection to the Holocaust and deportation, like the memorial site Gleis 17 in Grunewald. In each location, a plaque with the following inscription can be found:


"In November 2011, the Polish artist Łukasz Surowiec brought 320 birches from the area around the former concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau to Berlin, to work against forgetting. The trees are spread over the whole city. They were planted with support from the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art."


Surowiec’s project performs a symbolic gesture of bringing back to Germany a part of its national heritage. Visitors can travel to the sites where the birches are located, as well as see the installation of thousands of seedlings at KW, which were grown for the exhibition. If you promise to take care of a seedling, you can bring one home with you. The birch seedlings create an intimate and self-initiated memorial, which depends on its owner for survival. Instead of a monument made from steel or stone, there is a living entity next to you, which embodies a part of the traumatic past.


by Artur Żmijewski and Zdravka Bajović


Łukasz Surowiec is a Polish artist whose works engage with social and political issues and explore the impact that art can have on reality.


Supporters of the project:

Alexander-von-Humboldt Oberschule

Atelier Le Balto


Berlin International School

Berlin Metropolitan School

Bezirksamt Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg von Berlin

Bezirksamt Lichtenberg von Berlin

Bezirksamt Marzahn-Hellersdorf von Berlin

Bezirksamt Reinickendorf von Berlin

Bezirksamt Spandau von Berlin

Bezirksamt Treptow-Köpenick von Berlin



Freiwilligen-Initiative WikiWoods

Gartenarbeitsschule Ilse Demme

Gartenarbeitsschule Tiergarten/Schulgarten Moabit

Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen – Stiftung niedersächsische Gedenkstätten


Grünauer Schule (Gemeinschaftsschule)

Grünflächenamt Charlottenburg


HTW Berlin


Ruth-Kohn-Schule, OSZ Sozialwesen

Staatskanzlei des Landes Niedersachsen beim Bund


Technische Universität Berlin


Universität der Künste


More about Łukasz Surowiec

Speech by Hilla Metzner

On occasion of the planting of two birch trees at the Ruth-Cohn-School in Berlin. More >
Speech by Hilla Metzner

Interview with Łukasz Surowiec

I created a monument that not only needs to be protected from destruction, but is something that you need to actively care for; by watering, by cultivating. More >
Interview with Łukasz Surowiec

Here you will find all places at which the birches were planted

Here you will find all places at which the birches were planted “Berlin-Birkenau” by Łukasz Surowiec The project »Berlin-Birkenau« brings a few hundred young birches from the area... More >
Here you will find all places at which the birches were planted

“Berlin-Birkenau” – public planting at KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Two birches, which are part of the artistic contribution »Berlin-Birkenau« by Łukasz Surowiec, will be planted in the courtyard of KW on Friday April 20. More >
“Berlin-Birkenau” – public planting at KW Institute for Contemporary Art
10th Berlin Biennale