Restaurant in Italy cancels Holocaust Memorial Day Polish theme dinner

The menu included spicy pumpkin soup, kasha cooked “in the oven.”

By JTA
January 25, 2018 11:59
1 minute read.
Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Nazi slogan "Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets you free) is pictured at the gates of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland January 27, 2017.. (photo credit: AGENCY GAZETA/KUBA OCIEPA/VIA REUTERS)

 
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After a wave of protests on social media, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy cancelled a “Polish menu” theme dinner it had scheduled to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day.

“On the Day of Memory, the menu is Polish,” an ad for the January 27 meal stated – with the text of the menu superimposed on a background photo featuring Auschwitz-style barbed wire and a rose.

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International Holocaust Memorial Day is marked on January 27 – the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945. In Italy, the date is commemorated with educational programs, lectures, concerts, exhibits, publications and other initiatives, including school trips to Auschwitz.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, located in southern Poland, was established and run by the Nazis, and Poles are adamant that it not be referred to as Polish.

The restaurant of the Centro Natura wellness center, which serves organic vegan and vegetarian food, offered the Polish menu as one of its Saturday night “themed dinners.” The menu included spicy pumpkin soup, kasha cooked “in the oven,” vegetarian seitan cooked like pork and served with potatoes, and cheesecake.

Centro Natura's Polish theme menu for Holocaust Memorial Day. (Screenshot)

A website for Poles in Italy, http://naszswiat.it, first wrote about the dinner, and the story was picked up by media in Poland, sparking a wave of angry comments on social media, including on the restaurant’s Facebook page.



“Once you are convinced that commercialization of Auschwitz memory reached its limits and nothing new can be invented by humanity, there always comes a big ‘surprise,” Tomasz Cebulski, a Polish scholar in Krakow whose PhD work was on post-Holocaust Auschwitz, wrote on his own Facebook page.

On Wednesday, the restaurant posted an apology on its Facebook page, saying it had been taken aback by the comments and that its aim in offering the menu had been misunderstood. It then announced on Facebook that the event had been cancelled. Natura Center, the statement said, “has always had respect as its founding principle.” Proposing a Polish menu to mark Holocaust Memorial Day had provoked “in good faith, a most unfortunate misunderstanding,” it said. “The dinner is cancelled to confirm that it was not our intention to offend anyone. We apologize to everyone.”

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