WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s prime minister said Friday his government wants to buy from Austria the site of the former Nazi German death camp Mauthausen-Gusen where tens of thousands of Poles were killed during World War II.
Premier Mateusz Morawiecki said the intention is to preserve the memory of some 120,000 of the camp’s victims, who included many Polish intellectuals.
Set up in 1938 in Austria, Mauthausen-Gusen was the first death camp that Nazi Germany operated in a country that it had occupied. Until its liberation by Allied troops in 1945, some 335,000 people had been held there in conditions that led to massive deaths. The inmates included critics of Nazism, communists, homosexuals, Polish intellectuals, Spaniards and Russian POWs.
Poland’s history-minded government says that contemporary housing developments and business firms that cover a part of the site do not befit its nature. Warsaw has offered to buy the site from Austria in order to preserve it for history, Morawiecki said, but did not explain how the purchase could be carried out.
“We cannot allow this site of a former annihilation camp to be turned into some site not worth memorializing,” Morawiecki said.
Morawiecki spoke at another former Nazi German death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, during the first ever visit there of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nazi Germany built Auschwitz-Birkenau in occupied Poland in 1940 and until 1945 killed some 1.1 million people there, mostly Europe’s Jews.