The Auschwitz concentration camp has long been a historical landmark that represents the horror and cruelty of the Holocaust – where more than one million Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and prisoners of war were slaughtered between the years 1942 and 1945. The camp still stands today as a testament to “never forget” as well as serve as a place to mourn and pay respect to those affected by the incessant tragedies that took place. But what happens when a site of mourning and respect transforms into a budding tourist attraction? Surely not everyone who visits even understands what happened within these walls – especially younger folks who have come armed with selfie sticks and beaming smiles on their faces.
Well… this is what happens.
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 31, 2015
The new installation of misting showers towards the entrance of the camp has angered many Israelis, claiming they are reminiscent of the “showers” used for mass murder. It is known that a large portion of the executed were fooled into thinking they were entering a mass shower but instead were gassed with the fatal Zyklon B.
But these misting showers do not resemble the “showers” within the camp. Operations say tourists have fainted in the extreme heatwave in Poland this summer and this was a way to keep visitors comfortable as well as safe. In a statement on their Facebook operators wrote:
The sprinklers are installed on the days of highest temperatures and removed when the temperature drops.
But that’s the issue. There is a split between tourists and those who come to pay respect. Unfortunately for the operators at Auschwitz, you can’t please everyone. The real discussion that should come out of this issue is the attempt to define what constitutes a tourist trap and what sites should be deemed untouchable as a sign of respect to the departed. A seemingly fair solution would be to designate certain areas for misting showers, selfies and gift shops. Maybe don’t put the misters at the entrance where it’s inevitable to see and make connections to the gas chambers.
“In retrospect, a more sensitive construction and location could have been found,” Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland, told the Jerusalem Post. “However, I am moved by the concern for the welfare of visitors shown by the administration.”
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