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U.S. Holocaust museum to return barracks to Auschwitz

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will return a section of wooden barracks that was given on long-term loan by the Auschwitz museum 24 years ago.

The barracks, the centerpiece of the Washington museum’s permanent collection, will be replaced by another set from Birkenau to be owned by the museum.

The exhibition containing the barracks — half of a wooden building in which Jewish prisoners slept while imprisoned in the death camp — will be closed for five months beginning Tuesday to allow for the removal of the old barracks and the installation of the new ones. The second half of the barracks to be removed is located in the Auschwitz Museum and was completely preserved.

The U.S. museum borrowed the barracks in 1989; the contract was renewed in 1999 for another 10 years.

In 2003, Poland enacted a law barring the loan of Polish historical artifacts abroad for more than five years. The return of the barracks comes after several years of negotiations between Polish officials and Holocaust museum officials, according to the Washington Post.

Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, said the return of the barracks has built a solid foundation of mutual trust between the two institutions.

“Even in such sensitive and difficult issues, we can talk and reach for a common-sense finale,” Cywinski said, according to the Polish Press Agency.

In a statement, the U.S. Holocaust Museum said it was “grateful to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and our Polish partners for working with us to reach an agreement that satisfies Polish law and allows the Museum to keep an important educational artifact on display.”

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