Stasi Prison Memorial Pleas for Financial Help

The memorial at the former prison run by Communist East Germany's Stasi secret police is deep in debt after being flooded with nonpaying visitors this year as Germany marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, an official said Monday.

Hubertus Knabe, director of the Hohenschoenhausen prison memorial, issued a plea for donations, saying this year was already euro70,000 ($100,000) over budget.

While adults must pay a nominal euro3 ($4.25) fee for tours of the
facility, schoolchildren are free and this year their numbers have
been overwhelming, Knabe said.

"We're happy that so many students are coming," he said. "But the costs associated with that are exceeding our financial capabilities."

More than 80,000 students have visited this year, already 17,000
more than in 2008, the memorial said.

In addition to asking the public for donations, Knabe said letters were being sent to organizations, companies and celebrities to ask for funds. He also suggested that school groups could voluntarily pay euro1 ($1.50) per student to offset costs.

Otherwise, he said by the end of the year the budget deficit could double.

Already late Monday, Germany's culture minister, Bernd Neumann,
said he would make euro70,000 (about $100,000) in emergency funds
available so that the memorial could keep operating.

"It would be unforgivable if this memorial did not have
sufficient funds to keep operating tours, especially on the 20th
anniversary of the fall of the wall," he said in a statement.

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