New investor gets permission for disco near former death camp

WARSAW, Poland - An investor has obtained permission to operate a discotheque in a former tannery where Auschwitz inmates worked and died, an official said Thursday, and a TV report said it was already open for business.

''We have such a law that once an investor fulfills formal requirements, he will get permission,'' said Adam Bilski, the administrator for Oswiecim, the Polish name for the city of Auschwitz. ''One can consider whether it is moral or not, but that's another matter.''

The discotheque, in the southern city of Oswiecim where the Nazi camp was located during the German occupation in World War II, has been in operation for a week, according to a public Channel One TV news report.

The former tannery is just over a mile from the Auschwitz camp. The camp, where 1.5 million died in the gas chambers or from disease and starvation, is now a museum.

From 1942 to 1945, about 1,000 prisoners worked in the former tannery where many of them died. Museum historians say the building was also used to store property and hair of Jewish victims of the gas chambers.

Last year, an entertainment company, Art-Mix, received permission to open a disco in the former tannery.

A provincial governor revoked the permission after protests from the leaders of a nearby Polish-German center for international youth dialogue who said the disco would disturb visitors and disrupt its mission of reconciliation and understanding between Poles and Germans.

But now a new investor, represented by Zdzislaw Bieniek, has been granted permission for the disco, said Bilski, the city adminstrator. The name of the new investor has not been made public.

A development plan approved by the city council in 1989 says the former tannery can be used for various purposes, said Bilski. In the mid-1990s dining and entertainment were allowed for the building.

Museum officials have withheld comment on the planned disco, but the provincial governor could step in again to stop the project.

Leszek Szuster of the youth center told Channel One TV that the noise from the music disturbs the operation of the center.

In early August, the interior minister overruled a ban by local authorities on a project to build a commercial visitors center near Auschwitz, which Jewish leaders say would violate an agreement establishing a non-commercial zone around the notorious camp.

The developer plans to build a center with a bookstore, a self-service restaurant and a post office for the estimated 500,000 people who visit Auschwitz annually.


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