Auschwitz museum struggles to preserve site

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Museum authorities at the former Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland are struggling to save the enduring symbol of the Holocaust from the impact of time and the elements.

In the drive to stop the site falling into ruin and preserve the memory of the 1.1 million overwhelmingly Jewish victims who died here during World War II, they face tall odds.

"This is our last chance," warned Piotr Cywinski, director of the state-run museum.

The museum keeps going thanks to the Polish government, which covers around half of its costs, plus visitors' ticket fees. Up to five percent of its budget comes from the US-based Lauder Foundation and Germany's regional governments.

Last month it announced plans for a 120-million-euro (162-million-dollar) appeal to enable it to become self-financing.

Crucially, said Cywinski, it could then set aside some 5.0 million euros a year for conservation work.

The rudimentary buildings of the camp's Birkenau site, built by the prisoners on marshy land, are being battered by soil erosion and water damage.

"We have to finish conservation work on all these buildings within 10 to 12 years, so we need to start within three years at the latest," said Cywinski.

"The primary goal is to preserve the site's authentic nature and not to rebuild it, in order not to change the perception of this place," he added.

The museum devotes much of its time protecting the intimate traces of the prisoners' presence.

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Thaddeus Brodrick Noble - 4/6/2009

Bulldoze this crap into a landfill and build a super Wal Mart there.

This will provide employment to the local population, increase in tax revenue to the local goverment, infux of new goods to the country and a chance to see something positive for a change.

Those who travel there to whine and wimper can now reap fantastic sale bargains and always be "next in line" like the advertisment says.