Auschwitz memorial: Germany gives $80m for preservation

Image caption,
Many buildings on the memorial site are crumbling

Germany has agreed to contribute $80m (£51m; 60m euros) towards a fund aiming to preserve the Auschwitz Nazi death camp as a symbol of the Holocaust.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Fund, set up in 2009, says $120m is needed to preserve the site in southern Poland.

The barracks, gas chambers and other buildings that are part of the memorial are in need of urgent repair.

More than a million people were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz.

"Germany acknowledges its historic responsibility to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to pass it on to future generations," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Wednesday.

Germany is one of several countries contributing to the fund to maintain the main concentration camp, Auschwitz, and the nearby satellite camp of Birkenau.

The US has pledged $15m and Austria $6m, with smaller amounts promised by other countries, including the Netherlands, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, a spokesman for the Auschwitz memorial said.

Auschwitz and Birkenau was operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II, and opened as a museum in 1947.

If it manages to collect $120m, the Auschwitz memorial says, "for the first time in its history, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial has a real chance of creating an ongoing, long-term conservation programme that will make it possible to safeguard the remains of the camp for future generations".

Many of the structures are decaying, with the 45 brick barracks of the women's camp in the Birkenau section being the building in most urgent need of repair.

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