NEW YORK (Apr. 23)
The controversy over a partially constructed minimall across from the former Auschwitz death camp in Poland appears to have come to an end.
The shopping complex investor this week decided to drop the project and the Polish foreign minister said the existing structure would be demolished.
The shopping center, which was to house a supermarket, a home and garden center and a fast-food restaurant, among other businesses, had drawn condemnation worldwide from groups ranging from Jewish organizations to the European Parliament.
During World War II, nearly 2 million people were murdered, 90 percent of whom were Jews, at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The developer, Janusz Marszalek, who had argued earlier that the mall would create jobs in Oswiecim, the town of 45,000 where Auschwitz is located, reportedly said this week that all work on the project was halted and that it would not be resumed.
But Marszalek added that he would seek compensation in court for work completed and loss of earnings.
He said part of the earnings from the mini-mall were to be donated to local orphans through Maja, the developing company that he heads which is linked to a children’s charity of the same name.
Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati, speaking at the Polish Consulate in New York on Monday, made it clear that a supermarket adjacent to Auschwitz would not see the light of day.
The Polish government issued a decision forbidding construction at the site, Rosati said.
“This is a place of special emotional importance for so many people,” he said.
Before this week, other Polish officials, including President Aleksander Kwasniewski, had denounced the project.
The foreign minister also spoke Monday of a recent amendment to an existing Polish law that “gives special protection” to Auschwitz.
Under the amendment, “no one can establish” or organize “political activity” at the site, said Rosati, who spoke to journalists and Jewish leaders.
Auschwitz is “only a place for commemoration,” Rosati said, adding that the amended law would extend to other similar sites in Poland.
The move came in response to a demonstration at Auschwitz earlier this month by about 100 nationalist skinheads who supported construction of the shopping complex.
Kalman Sultanik, the vice president of the World Jewish Congress who has closely followed the mini-mall issue, met privately with Rosati on Monday.
“I hope and I believe that it will be demolished,” Sultanik, himself a Holocaust survivor, said of the shopping complex.
Sultanik will head to Poland next week to participate in a meeting of the Auschwitz Museum Council, the body charged with protecting the integrity of the Auschwitz grounds.
A 547-yard protective zone had been established in 1979 to preserve that area’s character and mood.