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Construction Halted on Auschwitz Mall

March 23, 1996|From Times Wire Services

WARSAW — Authorities suspended construction Friday of a mini-mall across the street from the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz after protests by Jewish leaders.

Jewish organizations around the world have opposed plans by a Polish entrepreneur and a German financier to turn decrepit warehouses opposite the camp's main entrance into a shopping center with fast-food stands, clothing stores, a supermarket and a restaurant.

The protesters demanded that the government stop construction, which had begun in November with the approval of the Polish Culture Ministry, local authorities and the Auschwitz Museum Council.

But the government press office in Warsaw announced late Friday that the project had been suspended pending a review by federal officials.

Ignatz Bubis, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said a mini-mall does not belong at a place where about 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed and cremated by the Nazis.

The developers have defended their plan, saying the shopping center would serve museum visitors and improve the appearance of the bleak camp surroundings.

The mini-mall plan is just the latest source of conflict over Auschwitz in recent years. The Roman Catholic Church sparked controversy by locating a convent for Carmelite nuns at the site. And director Steven Spielberg caused friction when he briefly turned the camp into a movie set for filming "Schindler's List."

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