Polish developer plows ahead with building Auschwitz mall

NEW YORK — Polish lawmakers have ordered Polish police to halt renewed construction of a controversial mini-mall across the road from the Auschwitz death camp.

Both Jewish and Polish officials were "shocked" to learn this week that construction had begun again, said Israel Singer, secretary general of the World Jewish Congress in New York.

Singer, who reported the federal order, was meeting Monday in Washington, D.C., with Marek Siwiec, secretary of the office of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, when both men learned that construction of the mall had resumed.

The mini-mall, which was to house a supermarket, a home-and-garden center and a fast-food restaurant, among other businesses, drew condemnation from groups all over the world ranging from Jewish organizations to the European Parliament.

The developer, Janusz Marszalek, originally argued that the mall would create jobs in Oswiecim, the town of 45,000 where Auschwitz is located. In April, Marszalek announced that all work on the project was halted and that it would not be resumed.

Foreign Minister Dariusz Rosati, who spoke in April at the Polish Consulate in New York, said a supermarket adjacent to Auschwitz would not see the light of day.

Singer and Siwiec discussed restitution issues concerning Poland during their meeting, said Singer, who is also the chairman of the executive board of the World Jewish Restitution Organization.

In Washington, Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-N.J.) is expected to offer an amendment to the foreign aid bill advising Poland that Congress opposes "all commercial construction at the [Auschwitz] site."

The amendment, which is expected to be approved without significant opposition, also points out that Poland is due to receive about $70 million in U.S. aid this year.

Zimmer was one of dozens of lawmakers who earlier protested the mini-mall.

During World War II, nearly 2 million people, 90 percent of them Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

"This is not a place for people to do anything they want," Singer said Tuesday.