Polish PM, German chancellor attend Auschwitz foundation anniversary

Friday's ceremony took place in the so-called central sauna building within the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp, where the Nazis registered the incoming inmates, depriving them of their names and replacing them with numbers. Andrzej Grygiel/PAP

Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and three former inmates of the Nazi German death camp Auschwitz on Friday attended ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation at the former camp's site.

The two heads of government and a former Auschwitz prisoner are expected to make speeches after the ceremony. Later on, the three former inmates will meet with Angela Merkel.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation was set up in 2009 with a mission to gather EUR 120 mln in an endowment fund. The annual interest payments on the capital collected this way should allow the foundation to carry out systematic conservation work on the site of the death camp.

Nearly 40 countries as well as individual donors have already supported the fund, with declared contributions exceeding EUR 100 mln. Germany has contributed EUR 60 mln and is expected to offer another EUR 60 mln. Poland has paid in EUR 10 mln.

Friday's ceremony took place in the so-called central sauna building within the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp, where the Nazis registered the incoming inmates, depriving them of their names and replacing them with numbers.

Angela Merkel is the third German Chancellor, after Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl, to visit Auschwitz.

The Nazi Germans established the Auschwitz camp in 1940, initially for the imprisonment of Poles. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was established two years later and became the main site for the mass extermination of Jews. There was also a network of sub-camps in the complex. The Germans killed at least 1.1 million people at Auschwitz, mainly Jews, but also Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.

The camp was liberated by the Red Army on January 27, 1945. In 1947, the camp site was declared a national memorial site.