Poland asks EU for $150m. to help preserve Auschwitz

$150 million needed for badly needed restoration work at the sprawling former Nazi death camp.

Auschwitz holocaust barracks 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Auschwitz holocaust barracks 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Poland's prime minister has appealed to leaders of EU countries for help raising €120 million (about $150 million) for badly needed restoration work at the sprawling former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz. The camp - a 495-acre (200-hectare) expanse with 155 buildings and 300 ruins, including barracks and gas chambers - was set up by the Nazis in occupied Poland during World War II. More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died in the camp's gas chambers or through forced labor, disease or starvation. Polish Premier Donald Tusk said in a letter sent to EU leaders earlier this month and obtained by The Associated Press on Friday that the former camp's museum plans to set up a foundation to finance and oversee "urgent" conservation work. Tusk said the fund needs a minimum €120 million (about $150 million) to operate. "Saving Auschwitz-Birkenau means saving the memory of the millions who suffered and were bestially murdered," Tusk said. "The extermination cannot become merely a faded chapter in the history of human kind." In the letter, dated Feb. 10, Tusk noted the fundamental and symbolic role of Auschwitz in preserving the memory of the Holocaust, and stressed that the museum alone cannot bear the financial burden for the upkeep of the crumbling camp buildings and exhibitions. 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, the museum has said. Exhibits of victims' belongings are also in need of preservation work. On Friday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the government will donate €1 million ($1.3 million) for Auschwitz restoration work. "Germany will not shirk its responsibility," he said, adding that Berlin would contribute more in the next budgetary year, as well as encourage German businesses and private foundations to donate.