Thursday, 30 September 2010

Memorabilia Peddlars Cash in While Sites Erode

There is an article in the Scottish Daily Express ('Ghouls cash in on Auschwitz as death camp crumbles away', Sunday September 26, 2010) about meeting the costs of the conservation of the remains of sites like Auschwitz. It starts with a discussion of collectors who pay large sums for Nazi death camp memorabilia:
The figures [for the money] changing hands in the ghoulish industry are in stark contrast to the financial health of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum for, while there is money to be made by ruthless profiteers, the memorial and museum is running out of cash. The upkeep of a site that was by definition not meant to last, costs considerable amounts of money. As a visitor attraction, it is massively popular and more than a million tourists pay their respects every year. However, because the Polish government rightly classifies the grounds as a cemetery, entry charges are forbidden.
The Nazi death camps are a special case which illustrate a wider phenomenon. The costs of looking after historic monuments and ancient sites, management, conservation, preventing theft can be astronomical, and not every community and nation can find the resources to do this to the degree that each site and monument in their territory requires. Since the cultural heritage is a common heritage, to what degree should it be the norm that that the costs must be borne just by the community in whose territory a site or monument now lies? Should this not be an international effort, and to what degree and how?

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