Auschwitz museum aims to create fund to preserve death camp

27th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

The state-run museum currently has an annual budget of around 5.5 million euros, half of which is covered by the Polish government and most of the rest from visitors' entrance fees.

Warsaw -- Museum authorities at the former Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland said Monday they aim to create a 100-million euro (129-million-dollar) fund to help preserve the aging site.

"We'd like to set up a 100-million-euro endowment fund, to finance a 15-year maintenance plan for the museum," spokesman Pawel Sawicki told AFP on the eve of ceremonies marking the 64th anniversary of the camp's liberation. "This could provide us with 4.0-5.0 million euros per year extra income needed for maintenance works."

"The Birkenau part of the museum is in particular need of renovation. The prisoner's barracks there stands on marshy ground. The foundations are cracking during each spring thaw," he said.

The state-run museum currently has an annual budget of around 5.5 million euros, half of which is covered by the Polish government and most of the rest from visitors' entrance fees.

The Nazis set up Auschwitz mostly for members of the Polish resistance, nine months after invading Poland in 1939.

The original camp was located in a former Polish army barracks on the edge of the southern town of Oswiecim -- known in German as Auschwitz.

Two years later the occupiers greatly expanded the site at nearby Brzezinka, or Birkenau, creating a combined 191-hectare (472-acre) killing zone.

Around 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945 -- one million of them Jews from Poland and elsewhere in Nazi-occupied Europe -- some from overwork, starvation and disease, but most in the notorious gas chambers.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, which has become an enduring symbol of the Holocaust, was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945.

It was one of six death camps, also including Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek and Belzec, created by Nazi Germany during World War II to kill Jews from across occupied Europe.

Non-Jewish Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war were among the other victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau and similar death camps.

The camp museum, which was set up in 1947, last year drew 1.13 million visitors compared to half that number in 2001.

Most were Poles, followed by citizens of Britain, the United States, Germany and Israel.

In recent years, museum authorities have stepped up efforts to preserve the site, where the pressure of rising visitor numbers has compounded the impact of the passing of time on the camp's buildings.

AFP/Expatica

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