Auschwitz museum appeals for funds

Management of death camp museum says it needs 100 million dollars to maintain the vast site.

Auschwitz 224.88 courtes (photo credit: Courtesy)
Auschwitz 224.88 courtes
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The management of the Auschwitz death camp museum said Wednesday that it needs millions of euros (dollars) to maintain the vast site, saying that the ruins of the gas chambers and the wooden barracks that held inmates are under threat. "The financial needs are urgent," museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt told The Associated Press by telephone. "The ruins of the gas chambers and the barracks are disappearing due to acid rain, frost, wind and subsoil waters." Director Piotr Cywinski said in comments posted on the museum's Web site that it currently needs some 200 million zlotys (US$100 million) to maintain the 472-acre (191-hectare) expanse of the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, built by the Nazis in occupied Poland. Some of the wooden barracks in the Birkenau part of the complex already have been closed to the public out of concern for the safety of the roughly 1 million annual visitors, Mensfelt said. Exhibits of victims' belongings are also in need of preservation work. Cywinski complained that the international community expects the 61-year-old museum to preserve the complex faithfully but has failed to provide adequate financial support. "The museum is appealing to the nations of Europe and of the world to show sensitivity and responsibility," he was quoted as saying in Wednesday's edition of the Dziennik Polski daily, which the museum posted on its site. Cywinski suggested that if foreign governments provided longterm loans, the money could be banked for a period of years and the museum could use the interest to take care of the repairs, before eventually paying back the loans. "Any method is good if it brings help to this site," Mensfelt said. The museum, set up in 1947, receives 10 million zlotys (US$5 million) annually from the Polish government and earns another 10 million zlotys by publishing survivor accounts, screening documentaries to visitors and from guide fees. Only some 750,000 zlotys (US$370,000) per year come from private donations from abroad. More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died in the camp's gas chambers or through forced labor, disease or starvation. The camp was liberated in January 1945 by Soviet troops. ___ On the Net: