Auschwitz-Birkenau, the only Nazi concentration camp designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, faces major preservation problems. Hundreds of buildings and ruins are in danger of collapse, and personal items that belonged to victims risk irreversible deterioration. An international financial effort is the only means to solve these problems.
A call for funds was made in 2009. To date, some twenty countries have contributed or pledged a total of approximately EUR 100 million. In January 2010, Switzerland made a first payment of CHF 100,000. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation and the Polish authorities have stepped up efforts to raise the approximately EUR 20 million still needed, and have stressed the urgency of measures to achieve the permanent preservation of this former camp, where more than one million human beings – the vast majority of them Jews – were exterminated. The issue was also raised by President Komorowski during his state visit to Switzerland in the autumn of 2012.
With this new payment, totalling one million euros, Switzerland wants to express its international solidarity and its respect for the victims of Nazism. To erase the very possibility that the truth would be known and people would remember, the Nazis destroyed some of their camps, such as Sobibor. Even to this day, Holocaust deniers contest the reality of what happened. Therefore, the permanent preservation of evidence of these crimes against humanity remains a political imperative.
With this gesture, Switzerland is also complementing at the federal level the efforts made in recent years by the cantons and Swiss Jewish organisations to support trips to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where our countrymen and women also lost their lives. These trips, which are becoming increasingly popular among teachers and students, enable young people to learn about the atrocities committed in the name of a racist and anti-Semitic ideology, raise their awareness, and help them think about the necessary work of remembrance.
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