Plans for shopping complex under way near Auschwitz

The plans, according to accounts made public locally, call for a restaurant, bank, post office and souvenir shop across the street from a large parking area that serves the Auschwitz museum.

The refreshment stands and souvenir kiosks currently on the grounds of the museum would be removed.

Marszalek originally planned to build a mini-shopping center geared to serve local Oswiecim residents. The project was halted in 1996 after Jews protested that it would desecrate the memory of the more than 1.5 million people killed at the concentration camp by the Nazis.

Ninety percent of Auschwitz victims were Jews, from across Europe.

The Polish government has established a protected zone around Auschwitz and has been drawing up a development plan for the surrounding area.

Citing the more than half-million visitors who pay homage to Holocaust victims at Auschwitz each year, Jewish leaders of Poland say the services offered in Marszalek's new plan are necessary.

Nonetheless, the Auschwitz Museum and others have expressed reservations about the scheme.

"The restaurant, souvenir shop, etcetera are needed there, and indeed they do exist now inside or just at the entrance to the museum," said Stanislaw Krajewski, a Polish Jewish leader. "The Maja project would improve the situation."

At the same time, he stressed, "it is important not to build anything that is not part of the general development plan for the area."

This plan "is not ready yet, so the directors of the Auschwitz Museum are against the Maja project, and I, too, would support this position."