Hungary Pledges Funds for Auschwitz Upkeep

Hungary pledges $160,000 towards the upkeep of the Auschwitz memorial, following criticism that it was stalling on funds.

Elad Benari ,

Jewish delegation at Auschwitz
Jewish delegation at Auschwitz
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Hungary said on Wednesday it will contribute 120,000 euros ($160,000) towards the upkeep of the Auschwitz death camp, following criticism that it was stalling on funds, AFP reported.

In May, Piotr Cywinski, the head of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation which maintains the memorial site, told the French newspaper Le Monde that Hungary was reluctant to help pay for the preservation of the former camp.

Of the 1.1 million people killed in what has become an enduring symbol of the Holocaust, 400,000 were Hungarians, Cywinski said.

But while countries like Israel and France and even Australia or Turkey pledged money for the site's upkeep, Budapest put off promising any aid, citing the economic crisis, he added, according to AFP.

Wednesday's announcement was made by the foreign ministry.

So far, 23 countries have promised a combined 100 million euros to the Foundation, according to its website, with Germany providing the lion's share of 60 million euros, followed by the United States, Poland and Austria.

Next year, the Hungarian government is organizing a Holocaust Memorial Year to commemorate the start of the mass deportations of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in 1944, reported AFP.

The Holocaust claimed the lives of some 600,000 Hungarian Jews. The country's Jewish community, thought to number at least 100,000, remains one of the biggest in Europe.

In July, the Hungarian government announced a deal with an American-based Holocaust restitution organization on reparations for Hungarian survivors living abroad, ending a year-long row over transparency and a freeze of payments to survivors.

Hungary signed a five-year agreement with the Claims Conference in 2007 for the distribution of $21 million (16 million euros) to Hungarian Holocaust survivors but broke off talks on an extension of the agreement last year.

Earlier this week, 98-year-old Nazi war crimes suspect Laszlo Csatary died while awaiting trial.

Csatary died of pneumonia in a Hungarian hospital after suffering from a number of medical problems, his lawyer said. He allegedly helped deport 15,700 Jews to death camps during the spring of 1944.

Csatary was named in 2012 by the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center as its most wanted suspect. Slovakia was seeking his extradition from Hungary so it could formally sentence him.