Former BP chief executive John Browne has made a donation to a University of Cambridge college in the UK in honour of his late mother, who was a Hungarian survivor of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp.

The £2 million ($2.78 million) gift to the Murray Edwards College in memory of his mother Paula will help the institution acquire a building to turn into the Paula Browne Building to house and educate students at the women-only college.

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Browne, who led UK supermajor BP as chief executive from 1995 to 2007, told the Jewish News publication that his mother “always believed in women being themselves, not just appendages to men they were married to, and she was always very keen on people getting on in life”.

In a statement released by Murray Edwards College, Browne said: "It is a special college, part of an extraordinary university to which I owe a great deal.

"My mother was an uncommon woman who cared enormously about granting women equal access to opportunity – because it was something that was denied to her."

Before meeting her husband, Paula and her family were sent to Auschwitz in Poland. Of her five sisters, only two survived, as well as her brother, the UK’s Daily Mail publication reported.

Browne — born in Hamburg, Germany, and also known as Lord Browne of Madingley — told UK’s Daily Mail: “So many people knew my mother, but very few were aware of her story until after she died.

“This donation is a small way to remember her, in support of an institution with a mission that meant a great deal to her.”

The donation was made through the Lord Browne Charitable Foundation, which was founded two decades ago to support causes associated with John Browne’s life as an engineer, businessman, patron of the arts and son of a Holocaust survivor.

Before the Murray Edwards College donation, it had distributed more than £2 million in five main areas: the natural environment; engineering; higher education; visual and performing arts; and human rights.

John Browne received third level education from both Cambridge University in the UK and Stanford University in the US.