Auschwitz Memorial asks for donations as pandemic strains finances

FILE PHOTO: The site of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz is pictured during the ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp and International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day, in Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2020. REUTERS/Nora Savosnick/File Photo

WARSAW (Reuters) - The Auschwitz Memorial is appealing for donations after it was forced to close to visitors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, putting its financial situation under severe strain.

The Memorial preserves the Auschwitz death camp set up on Polish soil by Nazi Germany during World War Two. More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, perished in gas chambers at the camp or from starvation, cold and disease.

The Memorial has been closed to visitors since March 12. Last year it was visited by around 2.3 million people. It hopes to re-open at the beginning of July.

“In these difficult moments, we cannot squander our previous achievements or slow down our work to maintain and build remembrance that is the only remedy for future years,” the museum’s Director Piotr Cywinski said in a statement.

The Memorial said it needed donations to continue educational and research projects, after its 2020 budget “collapsed”. In 2019 it had a total budget of 113.9 million zlotys ($28.90 million).

The conservation of the camp has not been put at risk, the Auschwitz Memorial said, as this work is funded by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, which is doubling its financial support in 2020.

Reporting by Alan Charlish and Wojciech Zurawski; Editing by Alexandra Hudson