BERLIN (JTA) — A decision by the Sachsenhausen concentration camp memorial to levy a fee on commercial tour guides has received strong support from Jewish leaders and survivor representatives, contrary to initial reports.
Sachsenhausen reportedly is the first memorial in Germany to impose a fee. Individuals and school groups, as well as non-commercial volunteer guides, will still enter free.
Private commercial guides will be required to pay an annual fee of $108 for training and certification. Also, as of June 1, the private guides — who reportedly charge fees averaging about $20 per person for their services — have had to pay about $1.43 per person to the memorial, according to Horst Seferens, spokesman for the Brandenburg Memorial Foundation.
In contrast, the memorial offers guided tours with its own trained pedagogues for a total fee of about $20 for 15 people, and more for tours in languages other than German.
The decision to charge commercial tour guides, made in January, was based in part on feedback from survivor groups and Jewish leaders, Seferens said.
"Survivors found that some of these guides from the tourism firms … did not really know their history — the history of survivors," Sonja Reichert, general secretary of the International Sachsenhausen Committee, told JTA in a telephone interview from her home in Luxembourg. The Paris-based organization played an advisory role in the decision.
Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the council also supported the memorial’s decision. A council representative was on the advisory board.
"Some outsiders commercialize the tours without really delivering quality education," Kramer said in a text message to JTA. "We need to charge them."
Although Sachsenhausen is the only such memorial in Germany to charge fees to commercial guides, Seferens said that others have supported the decision and may follow suit.