Some of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps, now run as museums, could soon demand an entrance fee from visitors to help to finance educational facilities, the British newspaper The Times reported Thursday morning.
According to the report, one of the sites considering charging an entrance fee is Dachau, located in a northern suburb of Munich.
Pieter Dietz de Loos, president of the International Dachau Committee, believes that there is no choice but to charge visitors. He says that the museum cannot meet its obligation to educate the young about the horrors of the Holocaust.
Dachau is visited by 800,000 people each year but the camp museum can only afford to pay one full-time educational assistant. “In five years we will be completely broke,” Dietz de Loos said.
Museum officials at Buchenwald and Ravens-brück have also given warning of cash shortages, and the idea of an entry ticket to the camps has outraged the Central Board of Jews in Germany, The Times reported.
“These are graveyards,” a spokesman said. “You do not pay to mourn the dead.”
But according to The Times, what appears to be the violation of a taboo is actually an argument about historical memory. There is no point, many camp museum directors argue, in preserving the sites of the Holocaust if staff are not present to explain how and why people were killed there.
“Between a third and a half of all requests for guided tours and educational support are having to be turned down,” said Günter Morsch, who supervises the memorial sites in Sach-senhausen, Ravensbrück and Brandenburg.
According to the report, former concentration camps in Germany are funded by both the federal and regional governments but the money, directors insisted, just about covered operating costs. Morsch said that there was no extra funding for special exhibitions or seminars; the publication budget stretched to only two catalogues a year.
Auschwitz, the biggest Nazi concentration camp, in southern Poland, receives more generous subsidies and has gained the support of Ron Lauder, the American philanthropist, to help to restore the splintering wooden barrack rooms of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The camps in Germany, in contrast, have attracted little private sponsorship: companies do not want their brand associated with the Holocaust, the report said.