Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum reopens

Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum reopens to the public after nearly four months under a coronavirus lockdown.

Elad Benari ,

Auschwitz watchtower
Auschwitz watchtower

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum reopened to the public on Wednesday after nearly four months under a coronavirus lockdown.

The museum on the site of Nazi Germany's most notorious death camp normally draws more than two million visitors from across the globe each year. This year's closure was unprecedented.

"We've reopened with several health precautions for visitors, namely smaller tour groups, social distancing, masks required indoors and the use of hand sanitiser," museum spokesman Bartosz Bartyzel told AFP.

He said that around 1,000 visitors, including Poles and people from abroad, had booked tours via the museum's website for Wednesday.

"Future bookings depend very much on how the pandemic evolves, the situation is still uncertain," Bartyzel added.

Poland reopened its borders with most European Union partners on June 13 after it introduced anti-virus lockdown measures relatively early in March.

Poland's culture ministry provided rescue funding for the museum in June after it hit a financial wall when it was unable to tap into revenues from ticket sales, he said.

Last month, Germany also doubled its share of a fund to preserve the former Nazi death camp to 120 million euros ($135 million).

Some 1.1 million people, including a million Jews from across Europe, were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau between 1940 and 1945.

In 2014, the museum said that a record number of more than 1.5 million people from around the world visited the grounds of the former Nazi death camp.

In 2018, a record 2.15 million people visited the site. This year marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial is particularly active on social networks, with over 330,000 followers on Facebook and more than a million on Twitter.