The UN cultural watchdog updated its name for the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland on Thursday to reflect its German Nazi role, and designated a Shiite holy city in Iraq where mosques have come under attack a world cultural treasure. The Sydney Opera House was also named a world cultural site on Thursday, along with the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine in Japan, Parthian Fortresses of Nisa in Turkmenistan, and The Red Fort Complex in Delhi, India, said Roni Amelan, a spokesman for UNESCO's World Heritage Committee.
Auschwitz will now be known as "Auschwitz-Birkenau. German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)," Amelan said. The committee agreed to update the name on its list from "Auschwitz Concentration Camp" at its meeting in New Zealand following a request from Poland, and the change is effective immediately, Amelan said.
Auschwitz, where the Nazis killed more than one million people, has become a symbol of the Holocaust. Birkenau was the neighboring camp and the site of the main gas chambers and crematoriums. Poland, which was subjected to a brutal Nazi occupation, sought the name change to ensure people understand it had no role in establishing or running the camp.
Among the new sites inscribed on Thursday on the World Heritage List were archaeological remains in the Iraqi city of Samarra. The committee did not mention the war in its statement on new sites, but said it had immediately been added to its list of sites "in danger.
"Samarra, considered a holy city by Shiite Muslims, is home to some of Iraq's richest cultural treasures including majestic ruins stretching along the eastern bank of the Tigris river and the 9th-century Great Mosque, with a 170-foot-tall spiral minaret. Holy sites in the city have been the targets of attacks by insurgents, including the June 13 bombing of minarets at the Askariya shrine.
The committee said the huge site, 41 kilometers (25.6 miles) long and eight kilometers (five miles) wide, "testifies to the architectural and artistic innovations that developed there and spread to the other regions of the Islamic world and beyond." Other sites added to the list include Gabon's Lope-Okanda landscape, the Richtersveld mountainous desert region of South Africa, Namibia's Twyfelfontein that is rich in rock carvings and artefacts, and 1,800 fortified tower houses in China's Guangdong province.
The Teide National Park on the island of Tenerife and ancient beech forests in central Europe were also named, and an already heritage-protected area of Switzerland's high Alps site of Jungfrau-Aletsch Bietschhorn was nearly doubled in size. The committee, meeting in the southern city of Christchurch, is still considering dozens of other applications for additions to the World Heritage list.