Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Cracow on Saturday that the United States will support the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to the amount of $15 million (€12.2 million), bringing pledges to the Foundation to around €80 million—two-thirds of the required total of €120 million—in less than a year and a half since it was established. Clinton flew into Cracow for a meeting to mark the tenth anniversary of the Community of Democracies.
Contributions will be deposited in a special Perpetual Fund. The income from the Fund will finance a permanent long-term plan to preserve the authentic remains of the Nazi German Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp. Annual interest on the Fund should amount to €4 to €5 million.
At a special conference in Cracow, Clinton informed about the decision of the US president Barack Obama. “The United States strongly encourages other nations who have not already done so to follow suit and to contribute to the Auschwitz-Birkenau fund. In 2009 alone, more than 1.3 million people from around the world visited the museum and memorial. The preservation and continuation of Auschwitz Memorial is essential so that future generations can see for themselves why the world must never again allow a place of such hatred to scar the soul of humankind”—said Hillary Clinton.
Professor Władysław Bartoszewski, the former Auschwitz prisoner who came up with the idea of the Foundation, thanked President Obama and said that “today’s declaration is an expression of understanding for our initiative. It would be unthinkable for the United States to be lacking in this process. Auschwitz-Birkenau is the world’s largest cemetery without graves. That places us under an obligation.”
Dr. Piotr M.A Cywiński, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, who is also the president of the Foundation, thanked the Secretary of State personally. Commenting on previous declarations of support for the Foundation, he said that “things are going well. The reaction of the public and decision makers in many forward-looking democracies around the world, mindful of historical experience, gives us a good chance to preserve what remains at this Memorial. When we began working to set up the Foundation almost two years ago, I did not know how things would turn out. Today, I have a real hope that work financed by the interest on the Perpetual Fund will begin in 2012. I feel a great sense of satisfaction.”
The United States is the third country to declare substantial support to the Foundation since it was established last year. So far, the German federal government and the governments of the Länder (federal states) have jointly pledged €60 million, and Austria has pledged €6 million. Talks are also at an advanced stage on the subject of support for the Foundation by Belgium, the United Kingdom, France, and several other countries.