Israeli tourists who arrived at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland on Sunday expressed shock and outrage over what appeared to be the placement of showers near the entrance to the site.
Asked about the outcry, a spokesman for the Auschwitz memorial told The Jerusalem Post that “no showers were placed at the parking lot of the museum.”
“Because of the heat wave in Poland, sprinklers which cool the air were placed near the entrance to the museum. They are located near the area where – in the open sun and without any possibility of hiding in the shade – a queue of people who collect the entry cards to the memorial site is formed. “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. Therefore we must do everything possible to minimize the risks connected with the heat and high temperatures and take care of the safety of health of our visitors. The sprinklers are installed on the days of highest temperatures and removed with the temperature drops.”
“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
According to Bulka, he was not the only one deeply disturbed by this unusual scene.
“All the Israelis felt this was very distasteful,” he said. “Someone called it a ‘Holocaust gimmick.’” Bulka decided to do something proactive about the situation rather than let it go. He went to the main office and asked the management for an explanation to the strange scene.
“The management decided that it was a good way to cool people off on a very hot day,” Bulka said. “They said they were sorry if I was offended, and I told them that there is no way to apologize to the victims of the Holocaust.”
Despite the outrage, however, the local Jewish community and Holocaust victims’ advocates indicated that they believe that the whole matter had been blown out of pro - portion, although they said the negative reaction was understandable.
“Temperatures reached 40 degrees C and the administration wanted to ensure the safety of their visitors,” Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told the Post .
“In retrospect, a more sensitive construction and location could have been found. However, I am moved by the concern for the welfare of visitors shown by the administration.”
Piotr Kadlcik, the immediate past president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, agreed.
“The Germans twisted the concept of shower – a source of cleanness and relief – into the equivalent of pure horror. We shall not follow this path,” he commented. “The unprecedented heat wave during this summer required proper measures. Its a sign of care for the visitors by muse - um staff.”
Colette Avital, the chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, said the gesture to sweating tourists was not thought out properly.
“We would expect people who deal with of the Holocaust, especially in a place like Auschwitz, to think before they act and to be more sensitive,” she said