The United States plans to contribute $15 million (about NIS 58 million) to help preserve the Nazi German Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday in Krakow.
Clinton made the announcement of the planned grant to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation in a speech at a museum that was opened recently in the Krakow factory where, during World War II, German businessman Oskar Schindler saved the lives of some 1,200 Jews by employing them as workers.
The US grant "illustrates the significance of the Auschwitz-Birkenau site, helps commemorate the victims who perished there, and demonstrates America's commitment to Holocaust education, remembrance and research," the US State Department said in a statement.
The contribution will help to swell a "Perpetual Fund" set up by the foundation to carry out essential conservation work at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which grew from a Nazi German concentration camp for Polish prisoners of war to the largest death camp on Polish soil.
At least 1.1 million people, the vast majority European Jews, died at Auschewitz-Birkenau, where Nazi Germany built a killing factory of gas chambers with inter-connecting crematoria as part of its plan to exterminate European Jewry.
The Nazis destroyed the gas chambers and crematoria before the Soviet Red Army liberated the camp in 1945, and Birkenau's poorly built barracks have deteriorated over the years.
"The United States strongly encourages other nations who have not already done so to follow suit and to contribute to the Auschwitz-Birkenau fund to preserve the site for future generations," the State Department said.
"While there are hundreds of other historically important camps and mass grave sites, Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of the Holocaust," it said.
If the planned grant is approved by the US Congress, $15 million will be paid out to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, which was set up last year by former Polish foreign minister, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who was himself an inmate at Auschwitz during the war, over five years starting in 2012.
The US contribution will be added to the €67 million ($84 million) collected for the fund to date. Germany has contributed €60 million ($75 million).
Clinton was visiting Poland to attend the 10th High-Level Democracy meeting in Krakow.