Austrian authorities presented plans Wednesday to restore and revamp the former Mauthausen concentration camp, calling it an important contribution to preventing the resurgence of Nazi sentiment.
The Nazis shot, gassed, beat or worked to death about half the 200,000 inmates in the main camp or its affiliates around the villages of Mauthausen and Gusen, located near the city of Linz. It is now a site for commemorating Holocaust victims and learning about the horrors of history. About 200,000 people _ including many students _ visit Mauthausen each year.
Projects include an exhibit about mass extermination, expanding educational programs and the creation of a new space specifically for the remembrance of those who died, the Interior Ministry said.
"With this, we are sending a signal that the republic is assuming its national and international responsibility to commemorate the victims of the Nazi regime," Interior Minister Maria Fekter said in a statement. "We are also sending signals against intolerance, racism and anti-Semitism."
The first phase of the revamp is expected to cost euro1.7 million ($2.4 million) and be completed in early 2013.
A Jewish group welcomed the announcement.
"The preservation of this site is a solemn tribute to the innocent victims of the Nazi 'extermination through labor' policies," Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement. "It will serve an important commemorative and educational role for the youth and future generations of Austria".