Saturday, July 22, 2006

Auschwitz Keeps Name
by Alex Sholem - Friday 21st of July 2006

The campaign to have Auschwitz renamed to reflect that it was run by Nazi Germany suffered a setback after the UN asked Poland to hold further consultations.

The country’s government is keen for the official title of the concentration camp to be changed because it fears that references to the camp or its gas chambers as ‘Polish’ will lead future generations to believe it was set up and run by Poles.

On Friday Warsaw announced that the name of the site, where some 1.5 million people were killed, had been changed to ‘the Former Nazi German Concentration Camp of Auschwitz’. Culture Minister Kazimierz Ujazdowski hailed the decision as “a victory for both Poland and historical truth”.

But UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which oversees the world’s major cultural sites, was quick to point out that no decision would be made until Poland had held further discussions with those parties that objected to the change of name.

Ian Marciulionyte, Chair of the 30th WHC, said: “These consultations should enable us to ensure that if a new name is decided at the next session of the World heritage Committee it will do justice to the outstanding universal value of the site.”

Michael Turner, the Israeli representative on the WHC, said it the issue was too important for the committee to bow to pressure and change the name simply because it had been asked to.

But Poland is still confident that the name will be changed. A spokesman for Poland's Ministry of Culture told AP: “It's a procedural question, however the real issue is that today's decision means that formally in a year the name will be able to be written in agreement with the Polish government's proposal.”