In a special letter addressed to Simone Veil, the former Auschwitz prisoner and honorary chair of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, French Prime Minister François Fillon has announced that his country will support the creation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Perpetual Fund to the amount of €5 million. The sum will be paid over five years beginning in 2012.
“Auschwitz-Birkenau as a place is taking on special importance and significance. The undiminished debt that France owes to the tens of thousands of people deported from our country to that camp cries out for our full support for the creation of the perpetual fund that is intended to ensure the continuing maintenance of that place so that the remembrance of the victims will be passed on from generation to generation,” wrote Fillon.
It is worth remembering that the personal engagement of the French prime minister also contributed to the inclusion in the European Union budget for the years 2011-2012 of a special grant of €4 million for conservation work at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial.
“France is a country where a complicated past has created very powerful links between historical experience and the collective identity. Holocaust remembrance has a very high profile in France today in the public space, in education, and in numerous social initiatives. This is due in no small part to the work of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, created by France in 2000 with funds confiscated from Jews as a result of the Holocaust,” said Dr. Piotr M.A Cywiński, director of the Museum and president of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.
In 2011 the Paris-based Fondation underwrote the administrative costs of the functioning of the office of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation during a difficult period of intense activity dedicated to amassing the Fund, before the amount collected so far had begun to generate income. “The aid of French institutions during those crucial stages was an expression of a shared understanding of the onerous responsibilities and challenges facing our postwar generations,” said Cywiński.
Some French cities have also been the first municipalities in the world to appropriate funds in support of the Perpetual Fund. Fillon expressed the conviction that grants from French local authorities will also supplement the contribution from the French government.
Following the French decision, the total of all paid and declared donations to the Perpetual Fund, which will generate income to finance a long-term program for the conservation of the Memorial, amounts to €97 million. A further €23 million remain to be raised. Work financed by the Foundation will begin in 2012.
In 2010 the Auschwitz Memorial was visited by 63 thousand visitors from France.