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International Auschwitz Council to Discuss Future of Former Camp

An international council will hold its first meeting this month to chart the future of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum at the site of the death camp, which more than any other has become a universal symbol of the Holocaust.

Its guidelines will be an extensive list of proposals formulated by Jewish intellectuals from nine countries who met in England last month.

One proposal would bar unilateral changes at the site of the camp without consultations.

It is clearly aimed against the repetition of such arbitrary acts as the establishment of a Carmelite convent on the Auschwitz grounds and the erection of religious symbols there.

Another proposal is that the museum’s displays and monuments make clear that over 90 percent of the 1.6 million men, women and children who died at Auschwitz-Birkenau were Jews, and that except for Gypsies they were “the only people condemned to torture and death for the mere crime of existing.”

But the proposals stress that the museum must acknowledge the “very large numbers” of non-Jewish victims and must recognize the camp’s key role in the Nazi campaign to destroy Polish nationhood.

Stanislaw Krajewski, the Polish representative of the American Jewish Congress, who is a member of the new panel, reported that the Polish Ministry of Culture has just formed an Auschwitz Foundation to attract foreign donors to the Auschwitz Museum.

“So far, all maintenance and other costs have been covered by the Polish government,” Krajewski said.

Foreign members of the international council for the Auschwitz Museum include Israel Gutman of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, who is a Warsaw Ghetto survivor; Rabbi Michael Berenbaum, head of the program committee, of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington; Professor Antony Polonsky of the London School of Economics, who is director of the Oxford Institute of Polish-Jewish Studies; Theo Klein, former president of CRIF, the council of French Jewish institutions; and Austrian scholar Herman Langebein.

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