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Poles welcome Israeli support for renaming Auschwitz

Written by: Staff
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WARSAW, Apr 21 (Reuters) Poland said it welcomed Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem's backing for its efforts to have Auschwitz concentration camp renamed to make clear Nazi Germans rather than Poles were to blame for it.

Poland asked the United Nations yesterday to change the name of its World heritage site from ''Auschwitz Concentration Camp'' to ''Former Nazi German Concentration Camp of Auschwitz''.

Warsaw is incensed by references in foreign media to the Nazi Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps as a ''Polish concentration camp'' or ''Polish gas chambers''.

''We thank the Israeli Institute Yad Vashem warmly for its support of our efforts,'' Culture Minister Kazimierz Ujazdowski said after meeting Israeli officials in Warsaw.

In a statement to Polish state news agency PAP, Yad Vashem said: ''Because many camps were built on Polish soil, many people, due to their ignorance, have put responsibility for their creation onto Poles. This is why Poles want to differentiate between the location of the camps and the identity of those who erected them and were responsible for their functioning.'' Some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were murdered at the site, which remains at the heart of sometimes tense but improving Polish-Jewish relations.

Maram Stern from the World Jewish Congress this month stirred controversy by accusing Poland of seeking ''to redefine history by changing the name''.

''Even though built and run by Nazi Germany, everyone in the area had known about its existence and workers were recruited from the Polish population,'' she said.

The Polish government denies these allegations. Most Jewish groups say that changing the name of the site will not change much.

REUTERS SC PM0452

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