In a symbolic gesture, the Vatican has donated the sum of €100,000 ($127,000) to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, becoming the 31st country to contribute to the fund.
In his accompanying letter, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote: “Considering the significance of the goal of the Foundation and the support it received from the Polish government, the decision to send support in the amount of 100 thousand Euro has been taken. This sum is so modest due to the limited possibilities. However, this is an expression of full support for the project of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.”
The foundation wishes to keep up the historical memory of the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and has fixed a goal of 120 million Euro in its capital campaign. The profits from this endowment would be able to sustain the work of the foundation in conserving the camp and protecting it from deterioration over time.
The director of the Auschwitz Memorial, Dr. Piotr M.A. Cywinski, said that the Vatican support is a very important signal. “In it,” he said, “I see a deep belief about fundamental role of experiencing Auschwitz and the Shoah for the contemporary man, for his choices, problems, and responsibilities. I see hope that our current look into the past may bring us distinct ethical instructions for the future.”
Last year, the value of the work done through the fund amounted to $1.1 million but the museum says It must reach $1.65 million this year and $2.2 million next year.
So far, 67 million euros have reached the fund of some 102 million promised. The German government has promised 60 million euros.
Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of the Holocaust, and the museum there estimates that one million Jews died at the camp between 1940 to 1945. Others who died were Poles, Roma, Soviet POWs and anti-Nazi resistance fighters.
Pope Benedict XVI visited the camp in May of 2006, saying that he had come “as a son of the German people–a son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises… but also through terror and intimidation.” I could not fail to come here, he said. “I have come here today to implore the grace of reconciliation.”
The Auschwitz memorial receives more than a million visitors each year.