Crosses will go from Auschwitz

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The Independent Online
POLAND'S PRESIDENT has signed into law a bill allowing the government to remove controversial crosses put up near the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, the presidential palace said yesterday.

The government intends to leave only one cross in place but needs to consult the Roman Catholic episcopate before any action, said a government spokesman. He declined to speculate on when the removal could take place.

Jews regard the crosses as a desecration of the biggest cemetery of European Jewry and say that to preserve its memorial character no religious symbols should be erected there. The issue chilled relations between Poland and many Jewish groups. Radical Polish Roman Catholics had put up nearly 300 crosses in a field just outside the camp.

The government and mainstream Polish Catholic authorities want to remove all except a 20ft (6m) cross at which the Polish-born Pope John Paul prayed in 1979.

"The intention of the government is to keep the papal cross but to remove the others in line with the new regulations," said the spokesman.