July 16, 2006

THE United Nations has agreed to rename Auschwitz concentration camp to stress that Nazi Germans, not Poles, were responsible for the world's most notorious death camp, Poland's Culture Ministry has said.

"Auschwitz Concentration Camp", a UN heritage site, will be renamed "the Former Nazi German Concentration Camp of Auschwitz", the ministry of culture said in a statement.

Poland asked the UN in April to rename Auschwitz, where 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died in World War Two.

Warsaw objects to references to "Polish gas chambers" at the "Polish concentration camp" in foreign media.

Nearly 3 million non-Jewish Poles died at Nazi hands, and Poles see themselves as victims of the war.

Because of this image, the role of Poles in the deaths of millions of Polish Jews, and at Auschwitz, is a sore topic.

This month, Jewish and Polish officials marked anniversaries of two massacres of Jews carried out by Poles before and after World War Two, and some accounts say Poles assisted the Nazis at Auschwitz, where 6,000 died every day during 1944.

But Poles say their fellow nationals risked their lives to hide Jews. Poles are the largest group awarded Israel's Righteous Among the Nations title for helping to save Jews.

Some Jews were angered that Poland's communist government portrayed Auschwitz as a place of martyrdom of Poles, too, in the 1940s and 1950s.

Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals and Russians also died at the camp.