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Europe

Lack of Funds Threatens Auschwitz Death Camp Memorial

The memorial on the grounds of the old Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp could fall into disrepair due to a lack of funds, and organizers are looking to the international community for help.

Train tracks leading to the Auschwitz and Birkenau death camp

Keeping up the buildings at Auschwitz- Birkenau is costly

The spokeman for the museum on the site, Jaroslaw Mensfelt, told a Polish newspaper that without outside help, Poland could have trouble retaining Auschwitz as a memorial site, the DPA news agency reported.

Budget shortfall

According to the director of the memorial, Piotr Cywinski, some 200 million zloty (62.5 million euros, or $96.5 million) is currently needed for repairs. The budget the museum gets annually from the Polish government is 10 million zloty per year, and another 10 million is earned from the sale of books and fees for tours and parking. Help from abroad is currently a “symbolic” 600,000 zloty, he said.

Lit candles at the site where people boarded trains for Auschwitz

Candles were lit in 2005 for the Auschwitz dead

Cywinski told the newspaper, Dziennik Polski, that the international community, particularly the EU, should share the burden of keeping up the memorial.

Germany helped in the past

Mensfelt recalled Germany's financial engagement in the 90s, when the federal and state governments got together with private donors to provide some 30 million deutsche marks (about 15 million euros) in assistance. The monies were used to install heating and air conditioning units, as well as for renovations on some wooden barracks.

In 1940, Hitler's Nazi regime built first Auschwitz death camp, followed later by the Birkenau death camp, in occupied Poland. Some 1.1 to 1.5 million people were killed there, most of them Jews. After the war, a monument and museum was built on the site of the camps. Interest in the monuments has grown in recent years. In 2007, a record 1.2 million people visited the museum.

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