Sometimes “optics” are everything.
Administrators running the Auschwitz memorial in Poland are under fire after a poor attempt to keep tourists cool in unusually warm temperatures.
A group of Israeli tourists, who arrived at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland to pay their respects for the lives lost in the Holocaust, were outraged over what appeared to be “showers” spraying a cool mist near the entrance to the museum, saying it demonstrated a gross insensitivity considering the Nazis’ use of showers as part of the process used to exterminate millions of prisoners at the site, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“As a Jew who has lost so many relatives in the Holocaust, they looked like the showers that the Jews were forced to take before entering the gas chambers,” Meir Bulka, 48, told the Post. “All the Israelis felt this was very distasteful. Someone called it a ‘Holocaust gimmick.’”
The memorial’s management apologized to Bulka, explaining that the “showers” are not a permanent feature of the memorial and were not intended to stir up emotions.
“Among visitors there are many people who come from countries where such high temperatures as we have this summer in Poland do not occur. We have noticed cases of fainting among people,” a spokesman for the Auschwitz memorial told the Post. “Therefore we must do everything possible to minimize the risks connected with the heat and high temperatures and take care of the safety and health of our visitors.”
The local Jewish community and Holocaust victims’ advocates criticized the insensitive display, but said they believed the matter had largely been blown out of proportion.
“In retrospect, a more sensitive construction and location could have been found,” Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich said. “However, I am moved by the concern for the welfare of visitors shown by the administration.”
With recent temperatures in the 90s, it is understandable that the museum administration would take steps to protect the well-being of tourists.
But funneling visitors past a “shower” on their way into a site where showers were a central part of the systematic murder of more than 1 million people, probably wasn’t the most well-thought-out plan.
Especially in a world where everyone is looking to be offended by something.