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Israel gets Auschwitz plans

August 28, 2009|Associated Press

BERLIN — Sketched on yellowing parchment, the 29 blueprints presented to Israel's prime minister Thursday lay out the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in chilling detail, with gas chambers, crematories, delousing facilities and watchtowers drawn to scale.

"There are those who deny that the Holocaust happened," Benjamin Netanyahu said as he accepted the documents as a gift for Israel's Holocaust memorial, where they will go on display next year.

"Let them come to Jerusalem and look at these plans, these plans for the factory of death."

Netanyahu lingered over the large sheets spread on a table. Stamped with the Nazi abbreviation for concentration camp "K.L. Auschwitz," one of the largest featured multicolored sketches, with barracks and even latrines drawn in detail. Other smaller sheets showed architectural designs of individual buildings, drawn from various angles.

The Israeli leader was accompanied by his wife, Sara, whose father was the only member of his family to survive the Nazi genocide that killed 6 million Jews during World War II. Netanyahu was in Germany for a visit that combined talks on the Mideast conflict with acknowledgments of the painful past that binds this country and Israel.

Axel Springer Verlag, the publisher of the mass circulation Bild newspaper, obtained the Auschwitz blueprints last year from a German man who said he found them when cleaning out an apartment in what was formerly East Berlin.

The publisher and Germany's federal archive have confirmed the documents' authenticity.

Germany and Israel, which was established three years after the Nazi defeat, today enjoy close ties. On Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel underlined Germany's special commitment, saying it was her country's obligation to "defend Israel always."

After those statements, she and Netanyahu shared a spontaneous and warm handshake.

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