Police detonated explosives on a lot bordering the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp yesterday and detained a conservative Catholic activist who has rallied others to erect crosses on the site.
    The activist, Kazimierz Switon, said earlier that he mined the site to prevent a wooden hut consecrated as a chapel there from being demolished. A day earlier, the local municipality ordered the hut torn down because it was built illegally.
    The 68 year old has threatened to set himself on fire if a 26 foot wooden cross from a 1979 papal mass at the Birkenau extermination camp is removed from the lot next to Auschwitz, as demanded by Jewish groups.
    The cross was erected on the lot in 1988 to honor 152 Polish Catholics slain there by the Nazis in 1941.
    The Catholic church and the government have called this week for the removal of the smaller crosses, but say the papal cross should remain. Jews say the crosses violate the memory of more than 1 million Jews who died in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
    Switon last year urged conservative Catholics to plant the smaller crosses next to the papal cross.
    AP 1:23pm 28/5/99


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