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Posted Thursday, March 18, 1999

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March 9, 1999

Poland To Protect Death Camp Sites

By ANDRZEJ STYLINSKI Associated Press Writer

WARSAW, Poland (AP) - The Polish government on Tuesday backed a proposal that would establish a 100-yard protection zone around the sites of former Nazi death camps.

The proposed law was developed after conservative Catholics erected hundreds of crosses just outside of the former death camp at Auschwitz. Jewish organizations have protested the crosses, which they say insults the memory of Jews killed there.

The measure, which is expected to go to parliament this month, will restrict business and building activity around the camps, as well as limit public gatherings at the sites.

The bill also is designed to allow government to maintain an atmosphere of peace and dignity at the sites, a government communique said Tuesday.

Jewish organizations also protested earlier plans to build a mall across from the Auschwitz museum. The project has since been limited to a visitors center.

More than 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, perished in Auschwitz and the adjacent camp of Birkenau in 1940-45.

Besides Auschwitz, the bill covers the sites of former Nazi death camps at Majdanek, Sobibor, Belzec, Treblinka, Gross Rosen, Sztutowo and Chelmno. Some 6 million European Jews, half of them from Poland, perished in the Nazi Holocaust, and the majority of death camps were set up in occupied Poland.

The bill also concerns the camp at Lambinowice, where the Nazis held Polish prisoners of war. After the fall of the Third Reich, Poles used the facility to keep Germans awaiting resettlement.

Residents of cities near the camps have criticized the government for its plan. They claim the broad zones would drive away investors and jobs.

© Associated Press, 1999

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