Anywhere else and the sprinklers would have been a good idea, cooling off overheated visitors with a fine spray of water at the entrance to one of Poland’s busiest historical attractions.
But not at Auschwitz.
To the visiting Israeli tourists, the new showers outside the entrance to the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp brought images of Nazi gas chambers flooding back through their collective memories.
“As soon as I got off the bus I walked into the shower contraption,” Meyer Bolka to Israel’s Channel 2 television station. “I was in shock.
“It was a punch to the gut. I walked up to the reception and asked the worker there about the showers, she said it was a hot day.
“I told her: ‘With all due respect it reminds me of the gas chambers.’
“She told me she is very sorry.”
Safety of health of visitors is our priority during the period of extreme heat. More: https://t.co/Jub4wCUlyk
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 31, 2015
Six millions Jews died in the Holocaust.
Nazi death camps turned murder into a chillingly efficient industry.
One of the most deadly was Auschwitz, in occupied Poland, where more than a million people died. As well as Jews, victims included Romany gypsies, non-Jewish Poles, homosexuals and political prisoners. Soviet prisoners of war and anti-Nazi resistance fighters also died there, according to the museum. Prisoners arrived by train before being separated into those fit for work and those who would die immediately.
In many cases the victims were told they were being sent for a shower and delousing. They were ordered to undress before walking into the gas chamber, which was modelled to look like a shower room.
Some prisoners were given soap and a towel before the deadly Zkylon B gas flooded into the room.
The museum defended its decision and said the mist was offered as a safety measure at a time when temperatures had touched 100F.
“It is really hard for us to comment on some suggested historical references since the mist sprinklers do not look like showers and the fake showers installed by Germans inside some of the gas chambers were not used to deliver gas into them,” the museum said in a statement posted on The Times of Israel website.
“Zyklon B was dropped inside the gas chambers in a completely different way — through holes in the ceiling or airtight drops in walls.”