West German, Polish officials open Auschwitz youth center
WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ In a gesture of reconciliation, West German and Polish officials opened an international youth center Sunday near the site of the Nazis’ Auschwitz death camp.
The West German delegation, including representatives of all four political parties in the Parliament, toured the former concentration camp, now a state- run museum and memorial, and participated in ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the new international meeting center for youth organizations..
Providing the organization for the center were the Polish veterans association Zbowid, and Action Mark of Atonement, a West Berlin volunteer organization that has been active since the 1950s in civic and social projects in Israel and countries occupied by the Nazis during World War II.
The head of the West German delegation, Rita Suessmuth, minister for youth, health and social affairs, said the fate of the millions of Auschwitz victims ″will remain for us a live warning.″
″All the people who suffered so much at the hands of the Germans - first of all, the Jews, Poles and Russians - should know that we will not put aside this history and we will not forget its victims,″ she said.
An estimated four million people, including more than 2.5 million Jews - perished at Auschwitz between 1940-45. The youth center is located between the camp and the town of Oswiecim in southern poland.
The ceremonies coincided with the anniversary of the signing of the Dec. 7, 1970, treaty normalizing Polish-West German relations.
The Polish delegation head, Mieczyslaw Rakowski, deputy speaker of Parliament, said the West German group’s activities represented ″a considerable contribution″ toward building confidence between Poles and Germans.
″We want to believe that the present and future generations of Germans and Poles will nurture the memory of the people gassed, shot and hung .... To build a lasting groundwork for peaceful, good-neighborly and friendly co- existence,″ he said.
West German states and companies donated about 4.2 million marks ($2.1 million) for the construction of the youth center, which includes a hotel and meeting rooms.
A joint Polish-West German board will run the center and organize seminars for youths aimed at working towards reconciliation by keepling alive the memory of Auschwitz.