Germany donates EUR 60 million to Auschwitz upkeep

17th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

The money will help to preserve the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland as a permanent memorial to the Nazis' victims.

Warsaw – Germany has donated EUR 60 million to a global fund that aims to preserve the site of the Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland, authorities said Wednesday.

In a statement, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum said that the money represented half the total it needs to ensure the future of the World War II site as a permanent memorial to the Nazis' victims.

"This is a great day! The plan for the long-term preservation of this memorial is becoming a reality," said Piotr Cywinski, director of the state-run museum and head of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation which was launched earlier this year.

Auschwitz survivor Wladyslaw Bartoszewski -- a former Polish foreign minister who is considered a moral authority in his country and set up the foundation -- hailed Germany's sense of "responsibility with regard to history".

The Nazis initially set up the camp for Polish resistance fighters in a former barracks, nine months after their September 1939 invasion of Poland. They gradually expanded it, until it was liberated by Soviet troops in January 1945.

Around 1.1 million people perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau -- 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.

It was one of six death camps set up in Poland -- home to pre-war Europe's largest Jewish community -- by the occupying Germans, who murdered six million Jews during the war.

The camp's other victims included non-Jewish Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and anti-Nazi resistance fighters from across Europe.

Each year EUR 4-5 million are needed to maintain the site. Most is covered by the Polish state and revenues from publications and guided tours.

In 2008, more than one million people visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, which encompasses 200 hectares with 155 buildings and 300 ruins. Growing visitor numbers have placed additional pressure on the aging site in recent years.

AFP / Expatica

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