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Poland asks E.U. to help with Auschwitz upkeep

ROME (JTA) — Poland formally asked the European Union for help in maintaining the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote a letter to leaders of fellow E.U. member states asking for the creation of a special fund to help carry out much-needed repair and restoration at the camp, Polish media said.

"Saving Auschwitz-Birkenau means saving the memory of millions who suffered and were bestially murdered," Reuters reported Tusk as saying. "It is the responsibility and duty of entire Europe."

The letter was dated Feb. 10 but not made public until now, according to Reuters.

The 200-hectare Auschwitz-Birkenau complex is operated as a state museum and memorial that attracts 500,000 to 1 million visitors each year.

The museum has launched an appeal for international aid, saying that the complex, which includes hundreds of original buildings, exhibits, memorials and the remains of crematoria, as well as precious archival material, had fallen into serious disrepair.

Last month, the International Auschwitz Council set up a special foundation aimed at helping raise a Perpetual Fund of $150 million to finance repairs and restoration.

"The amounts needed for conservation are enormous," museum director Piotr Cywinski said at the time.

Cywinski said he was hoping that the annual dividend from the fund would reach 3 million to 5 million euro, about $3.8 million to $6.3 million.

"This will be a guarantee for us that financial considerations never stand in the way of the conservation and preservation of the memorial," he said. "We are doing everything in our power to make sure that 20 or 30 from now, the Auschwitz site will continue to be accessible and comprehensible for visitors."

In response to Tusk’s plea, Germany on Feb. 27announced that it would give $1.3 million for restoration work at the death camp. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Germany will pledge more in the next budget year and will urge German businesses and foundations to donate as well.

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