BERLIN (JTA) — Germany will help pay for urgently needed conservation work at the Auschwitz concentration camp memorial in Poland.
A spokesperson for Germany’s Foreign Ministry told the German news agency DPA Wednesday that "we continue to see the task of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive as one of Germany’s central tasks."
The amount of Germany’s future contribution has not been revealed. Germany provided about $19 million conservation work in the 1990s, and reportedly Poland had pledged to carry ongoing costs.
Historian Volkhard Knigge, the director of the memorial at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany, told DPA that the Auschwitz site is badly in need of conservation rather than restoration. Every restoration destroys some trace of the past, he said, warning against any measures that might soften the brutal effect of Auschwitz’s structures and landscape.
Auschwitz memorial director Piotr Cywinski had requested international help last year to keep Auschwitz open. A total of $66 million is needed.
Poland provides about $3.2 million annually, and the same amount is brought in from book sales at the site’s shop, DPA reported, adding that the European Union is considering proposals to create an international foundation with an endowment of $157 million to support the memorial using accrued interest.
In related news, an online educational archive on Nazi Germany’s slave labor program is slated to open Jan. 22 at the German Historical Museum in Berlin.
The "Forced Labor 1939-1945" archive will include hundreds of audio and video interviews with survivors. The project is a combined effort of the museum, the Free University of Berlin and the Foundation for Remembrance, Responsibility and Future, a fund created with German federal monies and contributions from German
companies that used slave labor during the Nazi period.
More than 12 million people were forced to work for German firms, large and small, government and private.