Since 1996 the Zen Peacemakers have been returning for the past twenty-two years to continue to bear witness to oneness in diversity, in this place that became a mythic symbol of humanity’s tendency toward intolerance. Much has been written about these annual retreats; at least half a dozen films have been made about them in various languages. Not confined to Buddhists, Zen Peacemakers members, or only those who have been affected by the history of the holocaust, the retreat is open to all; it is multi-faith and multinational in character, with a strong focus on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Taking Action.

Most of each day is spent sitting by the train tracks at Birkenau, both in silence and in chanting the names of the dead. We walk through the vast camps and perform vigils and memorial services inside the women’s, men’s and children’s barracks. Participants meet daily in small Council groups designed to create a safe place for people to share their inner experience, and evening programs are specifically designed to address the needs of the whole.

Throughout the years, the Auschwitz Retreat, Zen Peacemakers’ flagship annual event, has become the gathering place of Zen Peacemakers from around the world.

Retreat Dates: November 5-11 2018

Regular retreat fee is $1,600
For young adults age 18-26, $1,200
For returning participants, $1,200

Click here to visit the registration page.

Your fee finances the administrative and logistical costs of the retreat such as transportation, lodging, food, tour guides, and travel of staff, as well as towards the year-long administration of the retreat by ZP staff. It contributes to honorariums and travel costs needed to bring select guests, scholarships for local participants, those of diverse backgrounds and those with limited means.

For Travel Purposes:

TRANSPORTATION: Your Fee includes all transportation starting Monday 11/5/2018, 8:00 am (beginning of retreat in Krakow) and ending on Saturday 11/10/2018 with transportation from retreat center to Krakow airport, train station and main square).

LODGING: Your fee includes room and board starting with lunch on Monday 11/5/2018 and ending with breakfast on Saturday 11/10/2018. Your room at the Dialogue Center in Oświęcim, where we will stay during the retreat, is fully included in your fee. 

Your fee does not include travel to Krakow or lodging in Krakow before (11/5) or after the retreat (11/10).

In general, Bearing Witness Retreat fees pay for:

  • Accommodations and meals during the retreat
  • Transportation during the retreat
  • In some cases, such as the Native American Retreat in South Dakota USA, building materials for the construction of facilities like toilets, showers, sewage, roads etc.
  • Council facilitation training for locals, including people serving the retreat and for sustained post-retreat work with the local community
  • Honorariums, travel and lodging costs of key figures and presenters
  • Travel and accommodation costs of new presenters for the Auschwitz Retreat
  • Scholarships for local participants
  • Scholarships for potential leaders at future bearing witness retreats and those with limited means
  • Pre-retreat planning and development trips for first-time retreats
  • Logistical and administrative costs of international staff (some staff work as a volunteers and are unpaid)

Profits from our Bearing Witness Retreats are used to cover the costs of other retreats with loss, split with other participating organizations, or towards future and ongoing projects of the Zen Peacemakers.

Zen Peacemakers encourages everyone to fundraise their participation by reaching out to close ones and friends and by that to include others in what otherwise may be a very personal journey. You will also raise awareness for whatever causes or issues attending this retreat will address for you.

2,500 years ago, it was the practice of the lay congregation to support monks through donations of food and clothing. Shakyamuni Buddha led his monks each morning in the practice of begging for their daily food. Each day’s offering was received with thanks regardless of its nature or size. In this way the Buddha encouraged simplicity, the generosity of both giving and receiving, and undiscriminating appreciation.

We continue this begging practice by raising support for our work by assembling a mala, or beads that are strung together and worn like a necklace. Each bead represents a person who supports that member’s vision and work, and the entire mala represents the Member’s community of support.

This is a practice of giving and receiving. By asking for support from family, friends, and associates, we acknowledge that as individuals, we are limited in what we can do. We depend on the generosity of others to increase our membership, train more peacemakers, and develop and support more programs. This is one more way in which we bear witness in the interdependence of life.

Another important aspect of mala practice is the incorporation of the ministry of money in our program. The assembly of malas ensures that money management and fundraising are not seen as foreign to peacemaking work; instead, the give-and-take of money is the compassionate, unobstructed flow of energy that nourishes and transforms our activities.

Mala practice also gives us the opportunity to share our work with our families, friends, and associates. Most of us lead professional work lives and have families. By raising money for our Socially Engaged Buddhist work, we publicize its activities, and most important, our own commitment. By wearing the beads we have assembled, we take our supporters with us in our peacemaking endeavors and on Bearing Witness retreats such as at Auschwitz, thus making family and friends an intimate part of this peacemaking journey.

Assemble a mala (not from your personal funds) consisting of 18 small beads and one Buddha (large) bead or one of 108 beads and dedicate each bead to each of your donors. Beads from individuals or from groups or families are equally appreciated. When they offer a bead, they will be working, training, studying and traveling with you wherever you go.

If the retreat is canceled by Zen Peacemakers, inc., registrants will receive full refunds of the paid registration fees.

If a registration is canceled by the participant by October 6th, 2018, more than one month (31 days) prior to the retreat start date, ZP will refund all but $100 of the paid fees – a cancelation fee to cover administration expenses.

If a registration is canceled by the participant by October 21st, 2018, 15-30 days before the start date of the workshop, ZP will refund all but $300 of the paid fees – a cancelation fee to cover administration expenses.

Fees are non refundable if a registration is cancelled by the participant after October 22nd 2018, within two weeks (14 days) of the start date of the retreat.

All refunds will be processed within 60 days of notification of cancellation.

If you roll-over your tuition from one year to the next, a refund will not be given if you decide not to attend the following year.

2018Participants attend registration check-in evening on Sunday November 4th in Krakow, leave Krakow Monday morning November 5th to Oświęcim and return to Krakow on Saturday morning November 10th, 2018. Your retreat tuition covers all lodging, food and travel from the beginning of the retreat itself on Monday November 5th: lodging/food for the night of November 4th is not provided. Please arrive to Krakow for the Sunday 11/4 registration check-in and make travel arrangements to leave from Krakow no sooner than 12pm on November 10th. You are encouraged to arrive a few days before to adjust after your travel, explore beautiful Krakow and to leave at least a day later to allow integration of your retreat experience before returning home.

You are encouraged to make travel arrangements no sooner than May 1st 2018, to comply with any unlikely changes in this schedule.


When you participate in a Bearing Witness retreat, you enter a carefully crafted container held by various teams:

Spirit Holders learn and listen to the pulse of the retreat during the retreat, and adjust the schedule accordingly. This role is specific to the retreat they have been chosen for. They review the retreat structure and schedule and make recommendations for changes. The Spirit Holders include (1) individuals whose lives are deeply infused with the place and theme of the retreat, (2) Zen teachers or Masters with extensive experience in the practice and teaching of the Three Tenets and (3) Those with a particular role, such as Head of Logistical Staff and Head Council Trainer.

Staff serves the needs of the retreat and its participants by translating the direction of the spirit holders into action. Half of our staff consists of local people with a personal connection to the place of the retreat; the other half are highly trained ZPO members.

Council Facilitators lead the daily council groups- sharing circles that give space for sharing one’s experience of the retreat with others. These facilitators have trained with the Center for Council and are under the guidance and supervision of the head council trainer.

Elders are past retreat Spirit Holders who have transmitted their role to another and hold years-worth of insight from experiencing, practicing and leading at ZPO Bearing Witness retreats. They participate informally and offer the retreat administrators and current spirit holders feedback on the flow and pulse of the retreat. They are available to everyone as a resource before, during and after a retreat.

The Administration team develops, plans and manages the budget, marketing and schedule for each retreat from its inception to the actual start of the retreat. They continuously evaluate and determine whether a retreat is financially feasible.

Dialogue Center Staff maintains our lodging facilities, prepares and serves our hearty and healthy meals.

Celebration of diversity has been a hallmark of the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreats and in particular at Auschwitz-Birkenau, once a symbol of extreme intolerance towards others. Through the years the Zen Peacemakers have hosted countless nationalities, faiths and ethnicities on the retreat. Donations towards this fund will be extended towards those from diverse backgrounds to contribute to the multifaceted experience of the retreat. Donation towards this fund will also ensure the attendance of those challenged financially to gather the cost of tuition. 

Scholarships are available to individuals on a personal basis, are reviewed by ZP Staff and usually become available 60 days before the retreat.

Memorial Candles are available for suggest donation of $18 per candle. During the retreat, there will be a dedicated time to receive and present your candle.

Donation can be done online on our Donation Page. Please add ‘Candle & Diversity Fund’ in the comments. 

Zen Peacemakers, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization for your tax purposes.

We recommend you tour Krakow before or after the retreat to add to your experience. Self-guided tours or guides are available – the tours are not included in your fee.

Krakow Tour – 

  1. Main Square, including: Sukiennice (the Cloth Hall), the old city hall tower, and the houses around the square
  2. Mariacki Cathedral and square next to it with a fountain.  Every hour you can hear the Mariacki bugle-call
  3. Take Grocka Str. and from there turn into Kannonicza Str.
  4. Wawel Hill with the castle and the cathedral, and the dragon cave nearby
  5. Take the path through Blonia (green park around the Main Square) along Święta Gertruda Str. (Saint Gertruda Str.) till Sienna Str. turn to Mały Rynek (the Small Square) and follow Florianska Str.
  6. Go to the end of Florianska Str. and go to Florianska Gate: there you can see the old city walls
  7. Barbakan
  8. Go back to ĹšwiÄ™tego Jana Str. (Saint John Str.) – Czartoryski Museum with Leonardo da Vinci painting “Lady with the Ermine”
  9. Świętego Tomasza Str. (Saint Thomas Str.) and Szczepanski Square with The Old Theatre
  10. Collegium Maius of Jagiellonian University, 15 Jagiellonska Str.

Special attractions:

1. Rynek Undergroung permament exhibition (two hours’ tour)

2. “Wieliczka” Salt Mine (half a day trip; 30 min by car to Wieliczka town)

3. Sanctuary of Misericordia Cracow-Lagiewniki (3 hours) 

To get there: tram line number 8 or 10 from the city center


Restaurants & Cafe recommendations (around the Old Town):

Hawelka, 34 Main Square

Chimera, 3 Święta Anna Str. (Saint Anna Str.)

Wedel Cafe, 46 Main Square (hot chocolate specialty)

Camelot, 17 Święty Tomasz Str. (Saint Tomas Str.)

Jama Michalika, 45 Florianska Str.

Pod Różą, 14 Florianska Str.

Charlotte, 2 Szczepanski Square

Prowincja Nowa Cafe, 3-5 Bracka Str.

Karma, 12 Krupnicza Str. (veggie bar & cafe)

Pod Norenami, 6 Krupnicza Str. (veggie)

Bona Cafe, 11 Kanonicza Str.


Jewish History Path – 1 day tour, but if you do not have much time you can just visit the most significant places (marked in bold )

Kazimierz District:

1. The Old Synagogue, 24 Szeroka Str.

2. The Small Synagogue (Popper Synagogue), 16 Szeroka Str.

3. The New Synagogue (Remu Synagogue, the only active synagogue) with the old Jewish cementery, 40 Szeroka Str.

4. The new Jewish cementary, 55 Miodowa Str.

5. The Temple Synogogue, 24 Miodowa Str.

6. Jewish Square (Plac Żydowski) take Estery Street

7. The Kupa Synagogue, 8 Warszauera Str.

8. The Izaaka Jakubowicza Synagogue, 16 Kupa Str.

9. The High Synagogue, 38 Jozefa Str.

10. Galicja Jewish Museum, 18 Dajwor Str.

Take: Saint Wawrzynca Str., Gazowa Str. and Podgorska Str. to 11

11. Kladka Bernatka Bridge, Podgorska Str.

Podgorze District:

12. Plac BohaterĂłw Getta – Square of the Heros of the Ghetto

Take Jozefinska Str. and Targowa Str.

13. Museum “Apteka pod OrĹ‚em” – The Pharmacy under the Eagle

18 Plac Bohaterów Getta 

Take street: Na ZjeĹşdzie, KÄ…cik and Lipowa to

14. Schindler’s Factory Emalia – Museum, 4 Lipowa Str.


Restaurants & Cafe recommendation:

Kazimierz District:

Mlynek Cafe, 7 Wolnica Square – highly recommended – (vege & jewish)

Momo, 49 Dietla Str. (vege)

Alchemia, 5 Estert Str.

Polakowski, 39 Miodowa Str.

Singer Cafe, 20 Estery Str.

Kolory Cafe, 10 Estery Str.

Mleczarnia Cafe, 20 Meiselsa Str.

Artistic Cake Gallery Cafe, 22 Bozego Ciała Str.

Marchewka z Groszkiem, 2 Mostowa Str.

Vanilla Cafe, 13 Brzozowa


PodgĂłrze District:

Cafe Rękawka, 4B Brodzinskiego Str.

Makaroniarnia, 3 Brodzinskiego Str.

Zakładka, 2 Józefinska Str.

Cava Cafe, 1 Nadwiślańska Str.

For more information, please contact: [email protected]

Hotel Royal offers a special discount to our retreat participants. This will also be the central home-base for our retreat in Krakow and we recommend you stay there. When you register, please indicate if you’d like to join our group reservation, and we will place you according to our best effort. Participants are responsible for paying their own bill before departure from the hotel.

Hotel Royal Krakow
26-29 Saint Gertruda Str.
phone: +48 12 421 35 00

Other hotels (no special discount):

Hotel Campanile Krakow
34 Saint Tomas Str.
phone: +48 12 424 26 00

13 Grodzka Str.
phone: 0048 662 099 640

Hotel Pollera
20 Szpitalna Str.
phone: 0048 12 422 10 44,kontakt.php

Hotel Polski pod Białym Orłem
17 Pijarska Street
phone: 0048 12 261 38 30

Hotel Wenzl
19 Main Square
phone: 0048 12 430 26 64

Cafe Młynek B&B
7 Plac Wolnica, Kazimierz District
phone: 0048 12 43 06 202

Budget Lodgings:

Goodbye Lenin Revolution Hostel
9 Dolnych MĹ‚ynĂłw Street, Kazimierz District
phone:  0048 12 421 20 30 or 0048 12 341 46 66   

Trzy Kafki Hostel
29 Aleje Slowackiego
phone: 0048 12 632 94 18

Many, many books have been published concerning the Holocaust. Those listed below are particularly recommended because they are very powerful personal accounts of bearing witness and/or raise complex moral and spiritual issues. For first time attendees, we highly recommend that you read at least one of the following books before attending the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat:

Personal Testimonies

Ka-Tzetnik 135633, Shivitti: A Vision (A must read – recommend by Bernie Glassman)

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (also published as If This Is a Man)

Elie Wiesel, Night

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941- 1943

Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After

Claude Lanzmann, Shoah – An Oral History of the Holocaust

Jean-Francois Steiner, Treblinka

Wladyslaw Szpilman, The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945

Ka-Tzetnik 135633. Kaddish

Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess

Essays, treatises, contemplations

Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

Jean Amery, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities

Helen Epstein, Children of the Holocaust: Conversations with Sons and Daughters

of Survivors

Lawrence L. Langer, Admitting the Holocaust: Collected Essays

Lawrence L. Langer, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory

Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness


Laurence Rees, Auschwitz: A New History

Literary Works

Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

Yaffa Eliach, Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Nicole Krauss, The History of Love

Bernhard Schlink, The Reader

Ursula Hegi, Stones from the River


Again, a lot of films have been made connected to the holocaust. This selection is personal. We have tried to include films made in various countries.

Son of Saul (László Nemes; Hungary 2015)

Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg; USA 1993)

The Pianist (Roman Polanski ; Poland, France, Germany, UK 2002)

Elle s’appelait Sarah (Sarah’s Key) (Gilles Paquet-Brenner; France 2010)

La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful) (Roberto Benigni ; Italy 1997)

Lore (Cate Shortland; Australia, Germany, UK 2012)

Au revoir les enfants (Goodbye, Children) (Louis Malle; France 1987)

Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage (The Final Days) (Marc Rothemund ; Germany 2005)

Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) (Alain Resnais ; France 1955 – documentary)

For more information, please contact Lilli Mösler in Germany at [email protected], Tel: (+49) 173-776-6255


Rami Efal in the United States at [email protected], Tel (+1) 413-367-4090



  1. […] three different occasions, including the inaugural one in 1996, Matthiessen participated in a “Bearing Witness” meditation retreat at Nazi Germany’s notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination site, at which at least 1.1 million […]

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