Auschwitz Museum Launches Appeal After COVID-19 Lockdown

The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum was forced to launch an appeal for funding on Wednesday after two months under a coronavirus lockdown that saw revenue from visitors dry up.

The site of Nazi Germany’s most notorious death camp normally draws more than two million visitors from across the globe each year.

“We are calling for financial assistance from all those who consider it necessary to preserve memory,” the museum said in a statement published on its official website.

“The 2020 budget has collapsed,” it said, despite “special support” from the Polish Culture Ministry and the Auschwitz-Birkenau International Foundation, which will help maintain jobs and continue maintenance work to preserve the site.

But lost revenues from ticket sales means there is no funding for the creation of new exhibitions, education and publishing, it added.

The earliest possible date for the reopening of the Auschwitz Museum is the beginning of July.

“Our budget depends to a great extent on attendance. Only 19% of the initial budget and 21.9% of fixed costs come from a specified-entity subsidy for the year 2020. The museum remains in regular contact with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage to provide a comprehensive solution for the problem. However, in current circumstances, when schools remain closed, and students made up a significant proportion of visitors in May and June and with minimal possibility of traveling between countries, while 80% of visitors used to come from outside Poland, we would not be able to conduct our activity. The exact date of reopening depends on how the situation is going to develop and on when any touristic traffic will be made possible,” emphasized Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, the museum director.

On May 30 and 31, the museum said that it underwent a trial reopening for visitors. The primary goal was to test a new visiting format during the sanitary and epidemic restrictions. During this time, the memorial was visited by almost 400 people, which is less than 3% of the number of visitors visiting at the same time last year.

“We are, preparing among others, additional protective procedures at the entrances as well as solutions, making it possible to maintain the longest possible distance between visitors,” director Cywiński added.

However, it seems that the collapse in attendance will be of a long-term nature, the museum noted.

Works are currently in progress in connection with ensuring a new and safe mode for visiting the memorial site, taking into account the requirements of the epidemic conditions.

Created by the Germans in the southern town of Oswiecim in 1940, in what was then occupied Poland, the former camp has come to symbolize the murder of six million European Jews, Hy”d, in the Holocaust.