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Disagreements hamper Auschwitz-Birkenau museum from getting donation

Due to delays in a project caused by disagreements between the museum and city authorities, the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp museum will not get a US$750,000 (507,000 EUR).

Boston's nonprofit Grand Circle Foundation in 2003 had earmarked US$1 million (670,000 EUR) for converting the site's so-called "Old Theater building" - just across the fence from the museum - into an International Center of Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, said museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt.

But work has yet to get under way after the plan got bogged down by a general development plan - which also covers the Old Theater building - proposed by the city, of which the museum disapproves.

"A few weeks ago we were informed that some US$750,000 (507,000 EUR) of the amount will not be coming," Mensfelt said, adding that the Grand Circle Foundation was "very kind" to still allow the museum to use - for other purposes - the US$250,000 (170,000 EUR) that it received in the first installment in 2003.

The city's general plan for development calls for all business run by the museum - a modest canteen, bookshops and a car park - to be moved out of the museum area, across the street, and turned over to private businesspeople.

"It would be a suicide for the museum to accept the plan" Mensfelt said. "This commercial activity brings in half of the museum's budget."

Because of the museum's objections, the Culture Ministry has refused to approve the city plan - which has had the side effect of stalling the Old Theater building project.

The theater building served as a warehouse for the Nazis at the complex. Some 1 million people, primarily Jews, were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940-45.