EU gives millions to preserve Auschwitz

Auschwitz conservation department head says €4.2m donation will help fund badly needed repairs.

Auschwitz holocaust barracks 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Auschwitz holocaust barracks 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
The European Union will give €4.2 million ($5.9 million) to help preserve Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp which more than six decades after the World War II is in a state of serious disrepair. Rafal Pioro, who heads Auschwitz's conservation department, said the EU recently promised 19 million zlotys (about €4.2 million) to fund badly needed repairs on the camp's structures. Museum officials and others are struggling to preserve Auschwitz, a vast complex of barbed wire, gas chambers, barracks and watchtowers, that stands as historical evidence and as a symbol of Nazi evil. The site gets about 1 million visitors per year. "(The grant) is significant and will let us get started on our complex work on the camp," Pioro said Thursday. But he estimated the total preservation project will cost about 200 million zlotys (€45 million, $64 million). Work is scheduled to begin this August. More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died in the gas chambers or through forced labor, disease or starvation at the camp, which the Nazis built after occupying Poland. The camp was liberated in January 1945 by Soviet troops. Officials at Auschwitz also announced Thursday they have reached a settlement with the son of a Holocaust victim over a suitcase that had belonged to his father before he was murdered in the camp. Michel Levi-Leleu had demanded the return of the suitcase, which bears a tag with his father's name and former address: "86 Boul, Villette, Paris Pierre Levi." The Auschwitz museum, however, argued that the suitcase was a key part of its collection and belongs there. The suitcase was lent to the Shoah Memorial Museum in Paris in 2005, and the settlement involves leaving it there on permanent loan. In exchange, Levi-Leleu has renounced his family's claim to the suitcase, Auschwitz said.