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Auschwitz, Holocaust museums wrangle over barrack ownership

The Auschwitz museum said Tuesday it was demanding that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum return a barrack from a former Nazi German death camp used during World War II to hold prisoners.

The Polish museum said the Washington D.C.-based Holocaust museum was loaned the barrack in 1989 on a temporary basis, but the U.S. museum insists the 20-year loan is subject to renewal, adding that the ageing wooden Holocaust artifact could sustain damage if transported back to Poland.

“Under Polish law, the American side is obliged to return this object to us. The time limit has passed,” Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt told AFP Tuesday.

“Due to the barrack’s size and the complexity of its installation, removing and transporting it to Poland presents special difficulties, including potentially damaging the artifact,” the Holocaust Memorial Museum said in a statement obtained by AFP Tuesday.

In order to comply with new Polish legislation regulating historic artifacts the U.S. museum also insisted it had “returned thousands of artifacts” and had “re-negotiated new loans for similar or identical items” with Polish partners.

The barrack at issue was originally located in the Birkenau camp, a sister camp of the nearby one at Auschwitz.

“A respectable museum always returns objects borrowed from others. It’s the basic rule among museums,” Auschwitz Museum director Piotr Cywinski told Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily.

Both museums said talks were under way aimed at resolving the barrack issue. (AFP)