Survivors and some tourists are reportedly angered by the decision of the Auschwitz Memorial to install mist sprinklers at the entrance of the site. Once visitors enter the outside premises of the site, they will be sprayed on with waters to cool them off. The outdoor showers may have been installed in good faith; nevertheless, it was distasteful, the people said.
“They looked like the showers that the Jews were forced to take before entering the gas chambers,” Meir Bulk, who lost many relatives in the Holocaust, told The Jerusalem Post. Bulka added that “all the Israelis felt this was very distasteful,” adding that “someone called it a ‘Holocaust gimmick.’”
The controversy had already made headlines across international media. The management of the Auschwitz Memorial explained their side with an official statement posted on its official Facebook page. The sprinklers, according to the statement, were installed in good faith – that is, to cool down visitors who are not used to Poland’s extreme temperature.
The management explained that “because of the extreme heat wave we have experienced in August in Poland, mist sprinklers which cool the air were placed near the entrance to the Museum.” The statement further explained that the sprinklers were near the area where a queue of people who collect the entry cards to the Memorial is formed. The place, according to the statement, is in the open sun and “without any possibility of hiding in the shade where sometimes you need to stand for quite a long time since the Memorial is visited by thousands of people every day.”
“The sprinklers are installed on the days of highest temperatures and removed when the temperature drops,” the statement highlighted. There have already been many cases of tourists fainting and losing consciousness due to extreme heat that the management deemed something has to be done.
The management further explained that most of the tourists coming in the museum are from countries where high temperatures are very rare occurrence. “The safety and health of visitors are our priority during the period of extreme heat,” the statement said.
The management highlighted that the mist sprinklers are in no way similar to the “fake showers” installed by the Germans. The museum also explained that “Zyklon B” was not really dropped through the fake showers but “through holes in the ceiling or airtight drops in walls.”
Tourists who previously visited Auschwitz testified about the almost unbearable temperature. Most of the Facebook comments below the statement thanked the museum management for its installation of the sprinklers.
Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich agreed that the museum had obviously wanted to ensure the safety of the visitors. However, the rabbi said “a more sensitive construction and location could have been found.”
Piotr Kadlcik, the immediate past president of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, agreed that a more thought-out plan should have been made. “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 told the Jerusalem Post.
“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,” added Colette Avital, the chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel.