Auschwitz museum criticizes ‘tasteless’ ice cream stand near iconic ‘Death Gate’

Stall with pink logo placed 200 meters from the landmark structure in the notorious camp where the Nazis murdered 1.1 million Jews

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

An ice cream stand sits outside of the former Auschwitz camp in Oswiecim, Poland. (Dagmar Kopijasz of the Foundation of Memory Sites Near Auschwitz-Birkenau)
An ice cream stand sits outside of the former Auschwitz camp in Oswiecim, Poland. (Dagmar Kopijasz of the Foundation of Memory Sites Near Auschwitz-Birkenau)

Commemoration professionals in Poland have criticized the opening of an ice cream stand just outside the museum on the grounds of the Auschwitz-Birkenau former death camp.

The stand – its walls emblazoned with a drawing of an ice cream cone and a pink-colored logo reading “icelove” as well as the words “waffles” and “ice creams” – opened this month about 200 meters away from — and in plain view of — the iconic, red-brick Auschwitz II Historical Gate, also known in Poland as the “Death Gate,” with its double train tracks and overhead watch post.

A county official said that the stand had been erected without a permit and would be moved.

A spokesperson for the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum called the opening “an example not only of aesthetic tastelessness but also of disrespect for a nearby special historical site,” in an email to The Times of Israel.

“The trailer, however, stands outside the boundary of the protection zone of the Memorial designated by law, so unfortunately we have no influence over it. We trust that the relevant authorities will solve this embarrassing problem,” the spokesperson added.

Dagmar Kopijasz of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Site Foundation, a foundation that commemorates World War II and Holocaust-related sites that are near the Auschwitz museum but are outside the museum’s territory or jurisdiction, told the Gazeta Krakowska newspaper that residents were “upset because it looks awful.”

Paweł Kobielusz, a deputy county director in the city of Oświęcim near the museum, told the paper that the stand was erected without a permit and that officials had initiated proceedings to have it removed.

The Nazis murdered more than 1.1 million Jews at Auschwitz as well as 70,000 non-Jewish Poles, 25,000 Roma and some 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war. In some years, the site attracts more than 2 million visitors, whom the museum’s bylaws require to be appropriately dressed and respectful of the people who died there.

Still, perceived misconduct around the Auschwitz museum occurs regularly, ranging from visitors striking provocative or sexualized poses for selfies to the installation in 2015 of mist showers for relieving visitors from the summer heat, which some visitors found inappropriate because of the association with gas chambers that the Nazis disguised as showers.

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