Hungary pledges funds for Auschwitz after criticism

Hungary said Wednesday it will contribute 120,000 euros ($160,000) towards the upkeep of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, following criticism that it was stalling on funds.

In May, Piotr Cywinski, the head of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation which maintains the memorial site -- told the French newspaper Le Monde that Hungary was reluctant to help pay for the preservation of the former camp.

Of the 1.1 million people killed in what has become an enduring symbol of the Holocaust, 400,000 were Hungarians, Cywinski said.

But while countries like Israel and France and even Australia or Turkey pledged money for the site's upkeep, Budapest put off promising any aid, citing the economic crisis, he added.

Wednesday's announcement was made by the foreign ministry.

So far, 23 countries have promised a combined 100 million euros to the Foundation, according to its website, with Germany providing the lion's share of 60 million euros, followed by the United States, Poland and Austria.

Next year, the Hungarian government is organising a Holocaust Memorial Year to commemorate the start of the mass deportations of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in 1944.

The Holocaust claimed the lives of some 600,000 Hungarian Jews. The country's Jewish community, thought to number at least 100,000, remains one of the biggest in Europe.