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Auschwitz in Poland was the largest concentration and extermination camp instated by the German Nazis, responsible for driving more than 1.1 million Jews to their systematic demise. After the end of the World War II and the holocaust, the area was turned into a museum and memorial site to serve as a collection of post-war relics, documents and archives. But more than anything, it is a symbol of genocide and a notorious reminder of what the human race is capable of.
Yet, increasingly visitors to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp are seen displaying a degree of insensitivity to the site’s tragic past. A number of posts tagging Auschwitz on various social media platforms have revealed pictures of people walking on the old Railway tracks at the site as if it were a balancing beam, or taking happy selfies against the backdrop of the camps.
Noticing this behaviour, the museum issued a plea last month, requesting the visitors not to be disrespectful towards the memories of the lives lost in the Holocaust. The complex turned into a museum, is visited by more than a million people each year. Although the authorities look forward to the clicking and sharing of photographs by these travellers as they help masses become aware of the emotional history of Auschwitz, a certain sense of decorum and decency is expected of them.
When you come to @AuschwitzMuseum remember you are at the site where over 1 million people were killed. Respect their memory. There are better places to learn how to walk on a balance beam than the site which symbolizes deportation of hundreds of thousands to their deaths. pic.twitter.com/TxJk9FgxWl— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) March 20, 2019
This is not the first time tourist trends on social media have drawn criticism for their behaviour at heritage sites. To tackle this, in 2007, Berlin-based Israeli artist, Shahak Shapira juxtaposed frivolous selfies and photographs taken at Holocaust memorials on to Nazi images from the Second World War.
While the memorials are open to the public for people to have an enlightening experience, it is important to understand the values, feelings and horrific stories associated with the landmark. It is, after all, a memorial with a brutal past and not an attraction.
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