Auschwitz sign
People walk through the gate, with the words "Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets you free), of the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz. Photo by Reuters
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A record number of people visited the grounds of the former German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz - the world's most prominent Holocaust symbol - last year, officials at the Polish facility announced on Wednesday.

The Auschwitz memorial drew 1.38 million visitors in 2010, more than ever before in its 60-year history, a spokesman said.

Most of the visitors - more than 500,000 - came from Poland. Among foreigners, the British led the pack with 84,000 visitors, followed by 74,000 Italians and 68,000 Germans.

Young people, schoolchildren and students visiting Auschwitz to learn about the Nazi terror made up the lion's share at 850,000.

A decade ago, Auschwitz was drawing 500,000 visitors annually, a figure that had risen to 1.3 million by last year.

Nazi Germany built the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1940 while occupying Poland. Two years later, the Birkenau extermination camp opened nearby.

More than 1 million people had been killed in the Auschwitz- Birkenau complex by the end of World War II, most of them Jews, though Poles, Sinti and Roma, Soviet war prisoners and members of many other nations were also among the dead.

The memorial on the site of the camp was created in 1947. An international aid program, to which Germany contributed 60 million euros, has been set up to rehabilitate the historic location.