Tourists pour cold water on Auschwitz ‘showers’

Israelis offended over installation of refreshing sprays for visitors at concentration camp

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Railway tracks lead to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland (photo credit: Serge Attal/Flash90)
Railway tracks lead to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland (photo credit: Serge Attal/Flash90)

Recent visitors to the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp in Poland were alarmed to see sprinklers installed at the entrance of the site, where over a million Jews were killed in gas chambers disguised as shower rooms.

While many refreshed themselves in the suspended pipes that sprayed a fine mist of cool water, Israeli visitors found the presence of “showers” at Auschwitz offensive.

“Youth groups that were there didn’t really notice and treated it like fun, but for me it was déjà vu of the selection and extermination in the showers,” an Israeli visitor, Meir Bolka, told Channel 2 in a report published Monday. “People came by and had a shower.”

Bolka took his misgivings to the main office at the site and told an employee of his concerns over the arrangement.

“She said that it was the solution that they found to cool off because of the heat,” he recalled.

The director of the museum knows that it's somewhat inappropriate, but they commented that people dying because of heat strokes would be less preferable than that. Due to popularity the waiting time for entrance has been increasing, and the museum can't take that many people inside

Temperatures in the region recently reached 37°C (98.6º F).

“She of course apologized that it made me feel that way, but beyond that they didn’t do anything,” Bolka said.

One million European Jews were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland in 1940-1945. More than 100,000 others, including non-Jewish Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and anti-Nazi resistance fighters, also died there, according to the museum.

Some prisoners were forced to enter gas chambers disguised as shower rooms, where poisonous gas was inserted through holes in the ceiling, killing the occupants.

AFP contributed to this report.

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