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Outrage at concentration camp entrance fee

A ONE euro charge to visit a notorious concentration camp in Germany where thousands of Nazi opponents died has incensed survivors and the country's Jewish organisations.  
The Sachsenhausen camp on the outskirts of Berlin is the only one among the hundreds of Nazi concentration, labour and extermination facilities that litter Europe to levy an entrance fee.  
The money is payable from those who take a guided tour; the state charges the guides and the guides were told to begin charging the tourists on June 1.  
"A concentration camp should set up no barriers to visitors," sauid Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council for Jews in Germany.  "I think it is simply wrong." Camp survivors are planning a protest letter to the authorities decrying the measure.  
Some thirty thousand of the 200,000 inmates incarcerated in the camp from 1936 until 1945 died in it. A further seven thousand died on forced marches instigated by the S.S. in the last days of the war.  
The Soviets ran the camp as a prison for political opponents immediately after the war; another 12,000 of their enemies died within its barbed wire.  
Berlin-based Irishman John O'Leary, founder of the Insidertour group which takes around 2,500 people on Sachsenhausen tours each year, said; "We just received a vague letter at the start of the month telling us
we had to charge everyone an extra euro.  
"Aside from the moral issue, that places such as these should be open to all to remember what took place in them, I think the charge itself will put people off.  
"Of course I can pass on the costs to the visitors but it is hardly the point. I think it's plain wrong."  
The foundation that runs Sachsenhausen says the entrance fee is necessary for the upkeep of buildings that currently cost close to five million pounds a year to maintain.  
"We are under more and more pressure," said Guenter Morsch, head of the memorial site. "As a public institution we are very poor. How long can one beg for assistance? We had to do something."  
Other concentration camps in Germany are astonished at the levy. "I never thought I would have heard such a thing!" said Sandra Siegmund who works in the media centre at the site of the Buchenwald camp near Weimar.  
"We have a responsibility to inform. People who arrived here to visit Buchenwald would be shocked if they had to pay to enter."  
The tour guides themselves are now being forced to attend mandatory two-day seminars to "bone up" on the history of Sachsenhausen that costs them time and 70 pounds in fees.  
Nick Gay, who runs another tour group taking visitors to Sachsenhausen, said; "The end result of this will be fewer people willing to go to Sachsenhausen." Currently the foundation which preserves the site said around 100,000 visitors a year take guided tours - money for which it is keen to get into its coffers.

German Herald

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