UNESCO Committee Renames Auschwitz

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 28, 2007; 2:21 AM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- UNESCO officially renamed the Auschwitz death camp in Poland Thursday to reflect the German Nazi role, and added seven new sites to its world heritage registry, including ancient ruins in Iraq.

The U.N. agency's World Heritage Committee did not mention the war in Iraq but said it had listed ruins in the city of Samarra as "in danger." Considered a holy city by Shiite Muslims, Samarra has been the target of attacks. Earlier this month insurgents blew up the minarets of its Askariya shrine.

Auschwitz now will be known as "Auschwitz-Birkenau. German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)," said Roni Amelan, a spokesman for the committee. Previously the camp was listed on UNESCO's world heritage registry as the "Auschwitz Concentration Camp."

Poland requested the change to ensure that future generations understand it had no role in the camp established by Adolf Hitler's forces during their brutal occupation of the country.

Polish officials have complained that Auschwitz is sometimes referred to as a "Polish concentration camp," a phrase they fear may be misleading to younger generations who may not associate the camp with Nazi Germany.

The Nazis killed more than 1 million people at the camp outside the city of Oswiecim and nearby Birkenau, the site of the main gas chambers and crematoriums.

Most of those killed were European Jews, although Poles, Gypsies and others also were gassed or died from starvation, disease and forced labor during its roughly five years of operation.

The camp was made a World Heritage site by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1979.

The ruins in Samarra stretch along the eastern bank of the Tigris river and include the 9th century Great Mosque with its 170-foot-tall spiral minaret.

Measuring about 26 miles long and 5 miles wide, the huge site "testifies to the architectural and artistic innovations that developed there and spread to the other regions of the Islamic world and beyond," the committee said.

The other sites include the Lope-Okanda landscape of Gabon, the Richtersveld mountainous desert of South Africa, the rock carvings of Namibia's Twyfelfontein region and 1,800 fortified tower houses in China's Guangdong province.

Three natural sites _ the Teide National Park on the island of Tenerife, ancient beech forests in central Europe and Switzerland's high Alps site of Jungfrau-Aletsch Bietschhorn _ also were named.

The committee, meeting this week in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, was considering dozens of other applications for additions to its list of natural and cultural treasures.


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