Has Auschwitz Become the Disneyland of Misery?

Sometimes, a picture just composes itself right there and then in front of your camera.  You don’t have to do anything except perhaps spot what’s about to happen, shift a little to the left or the right, point your lens and click.  There it is.

The Auschwitz tour is a sobering experience.  Most people who walk out of it are rattled, subdued, unsettled and quiet, as I was myself the first time I visited, but not these Israeli kids.  They might just as easily be posing for the camera outside Disneyland.

Auschwitz Arbeit macht frei


I found it strange seeing groups of people walking around Auschwitz waving a national flag.  Given that the Nazis attacked the Jews, it didn’t seem appropriate that these young people would be using a political emblem that many Palestinians see as a symbol of oppression, and of course, while we have to make allowances for the fact that teenagers can be idiots, we can make no such allowances for the adults who supervised them.

Waving any national flag in Auschwitz is a highly-charged political statement.   It stakes a claim over the site of the crime and in the case of the Israeli flag, it makes two contradictory statements: this must never be allowed to happen again, and we will crush anyone who stands in our way.  Auschwitz has come to symbolise the location where human beings committed an enormous obscenity against other human beings.  This is the absolute heart of darkness, and it is not a place for political flag-waving, in my opinion,

Thankfully, we’re still permitted to have an opinion in these things, now that the Nazis have been defeated.  Aren’t we?

Nobody owns the franchise to the Holocaust.

Auschwitz - Birkenau


39 thoughts on “Has Auschwitz Become the Disneyland of Misery?

  1. Yes Bock – people should never again be koralled into ghetthos – with the exception of Gaza maybe ……..

  2. Bock, having visited Auschwitz myself, I fall into the “rattled, subdued, unsettled and quiet” category myself, upon leaving the camp. I cried. I am a grown man and I have to admit that I tried to commit every face I saw on the walls to memory, lest the world forget the human suffering that happened there. I wanted to acknowledge, I wanted to say “we will never forget you. I will never forget you”.
    Regarding this photo, it is not clear if young people are leaving or entering the camp. I think unless you know something that you have not shared, you may yourself be guilty of a despicable act of illusion.
    I myself entered the camp in high spirits and snapped the infamous “Arbeit macht frei” (“work makes (you) free” (not my translation)). Please tell me this is not a cheap shot at youth, Israeli youth? Tell me you you know that these children have just visited the camp and that this photo depicts their state of mind after the event? Can you tell me that Bock? Can you?

  3. Frodo, thanks for the translation. I always thought it meant “Free Fish n Chips”. Seriously, why would it matter if these kids were entering or leaving the camp? It is disgusting. “A despicable act of illusion”? Seriously? I think you may have strayed too far from the Shire.

  4. I’ve been there Bock and I just felt very emotional,and I somehow forgot to take any photos.Maybe that was good thing,and certainly didn’t feel like posing and smiling even though I was with another person.Very odd.

  5. Well done Cap’n Zzzz in completely missing the point. Of course it matters if these kids were entering or leaving. I would bet you have not visited the camp yourself.

    Bock, I agree they do not appear to be walking backwards but neither do they appear to have just visited that place.

    Do you know who took the photo? Was it yourself?

  6. A very disturbing photograph indeed. Irreverent to say the least.

    Not sure if anyone recalls the chilling World at War television series that was on on Sunday afternoons during the seventies, narrated by Laurence Olivier. I was a child then and found it very sobering.

    Hard to excuse the insensitivity displayed here. No doubt the awful photos will go straight up on their Facebook accounts. Is it that they just don’t get it?

  7. Frodo, there’s only one person missing the point here. Let me just have a look at your comments here but firstly, let me tell you that I have indeed visited Auschwitz and I approached my visit with trepidation, knowing the atrocities that occurred there. I knew it would be difficult and I certainly didn’t enter the camp as you did, in “high spirits”. Were you thinking, “I can’t wait to see the gas chambers”. Did you have a sing song on the bus? “We’re going to Auschwitz. We’re going to Auschwitz”. Jesus fucking wept, did you know anything about the place when you were entering it or were you just informed while inside and then cried? Seriously, Frodo, if you’re arguing for the sake of it, just go away. Your argument makes absolutely no sense. Were they entering or leaving? Fucking hell. It’s Auschwitz!

  8. Frodo, you are some fucking moron.

    I can’t believe what I am seeing in those photographs. I don’t know which of the two is the more despicable.

  9. to Paulie:
    ‘I can’t believe what I am seeing in those photographs. I don’t know which of the two is the more despicable.’
    Well, Paulie, what would you expect from those ‘fecking Israelis’? I am sure all teenagers from around the world enter and leave Auschwitz silently, wiping off tears out of their eyes. But look at the ‘fecking Israelis’! They have almost turned the camp into a dance hall!

    The all article makes me sick not because of few stupid teenagers, but because it shows that some of us are always ready to fight for ‘the right thing’, specially when we can show how nasty the Israelis are. Even when they are at their teenage years… pathetic – in my opinion.

  10. Regarding your question Bock,if the top photograph is anything to go by,the answer is yes. And I think it’s an awfully sad reflection on those Israeli youths.

  11. Decorum is required when entering such a place. I was aged about 14 when I read a book about the liquidation camps, entitled The Scourge of the Swastika, by Lord Russell of Liverpool. It had many gruesome b/w photos showing the atrocities. Over the years I’ve read other books and many articles and I realize that 6 million Jews were murdered and 5 million other categories, including Slavs, Gypsies, mental defectives, social democrats, communists, Catholic priests and Lutheran pastors, conservative politicians and others.

  12. Could it be that maybe the kids are displaying the flag outside the camp as a sign that they camp was built to exterminate Jews, but “here we are flying an Israeli flag outside this very camp. We have survived and thrived!”.

    It’s tasteless in an environment such as that though.

    Replace the Israeli flag with a Union Jack somewhere, and you’ll be sure to get folk offended. The Union Jack is a symbol of oppression to many, but I couldn’t give a flying f*ck about it.

    In fact, I couldn’t care less about flags or nationalism etc. Nationalists usually try to claim credit for sh*t they didn’t do, and weren’t around for.

    I am more concerned about a job than what flag is over the town hall…

  13. There was no such thing as Israel during the Holocaust. This flag is a nationalist symbol, and we all know what nationalism has brought to Europe, including murder factories like Auschwitz. Incidentally, they were carrying the banners inside the camp.

  14. Maybe, as kids who do stupid things, they thought flying an Israeli flag at a death camp was something to be proud of, that the Israeli flag is something that the Nazis would never have wanted to happen etc. and so on, and flying it at the camp was a “f*ck you” to the people who once ran the camp.

    I agree. Nationalism is/was a dangerous thing. A bit weird that they were allowed to carry the flags at all inside or outside. It’s like waving a flag in a graveyard or something…

  15. It appeared to be organised. They were all supervised by leaders who, I presume, were teachers. These adults gathered the teenagers around them at various places, sitting on the ground, and seemed to be delivering lectures. The flags were an integral part of the exercise.

  16. I have met a few Israelis who were sound as a pound. I have met others who ironically thought of themselves as the master race. An arrogant bunch.

  17. Regardless of what Israelis are like, is it appropriate to wave nationalistic symbols in an evil place created by nationalism?

  18. No, I would say not. I wonder what people would say if American, Russian, British, or indeed German tourists brought their flags with them.

  19. ive read that Hitlers camps consumed the lives of a total of 11 million people, if this figure is correct then that means that 5 million of the victims were christians, because its accepted that 6 million jews perished in those dreadful places, my question is, how come when commentators write of the holocaust they mean the 6 million jewish people and never a mention about the non jewish victims? is it just lazy journalism or could it be possible that they might be accused of being anti-Semitic?

  20. Cap’n P what’s with all the foul language? I visited the camp as a kid on a school tour. I knew of Auschwitz from history books only. My point is this… for all that I read, I was in no way prepared for what I saw there. Yes I took a group photo under the gate, on the way in, the one and only snap I took that day. I was prepared to give these kids the benefit of the doubt because of my own experience. I made the point that they may have been entering the camp. Bock has clarified that they were in fact leaving the camp and frankly, I am without words to justify their demeanor nor would I have any interest in doing so. So.. I made my point from personal experience. I am taking the time to explain this to you despite your condescending tone and foul language.

  21. Frodo — What fucking foul language are you talking about? I didn’t see Cap’n P advocating hatred against anyone. Is there some other fucking kind of foul fucking language?

  22. I don’t get the furore over this at all. It’s a simple act of pride cum defiance. And above all people in this place above all places, surely they’re entitled ? I mean, the Irish had their backs turned to all this, now we’re out lecturing them how to behave ? I think their word for this is chutzpah.

  23. And some of the sentiments in your post come perilously close to the ” above all people , the Jews should etc etc ” . In other words the victims should have learned all the lessons , while the perpetrators walk away. Last time that was used in Ireland was when the teachers Union passed a boycott motion. As for what the Palestinians view the flag as, Abbas wrote his thesis on the dubious provenance of the Holocaust so it’d be pretty hard to offend them here in Auschwitz.

  24. Pretty much joined at the hip don’t you think ? Well who do people mean to refer to when they mention Israelis or Zionists ? And Zionism, since it’s conception in the late 1800’s ,was meant to be a means for a refuge for Jews. I certainly don’t mean evangelical Rapturists. I mean, when the Jews- should- learn- from trope is brought up, it’s always in the context of criticism of Israel/Zionism.

  25. Many people were murdered in Auschwitz, Maidanek, Sobibor and Treblinka. Millions of Jews were murdered, and also Roma, homosexuals, not to mention Polish intellectuals. However, no Israelis were killed.

    The Israeli flag is a nationalist symbol, and nationalism is what gave us the likes of Auschwitz. I refer you to Jacob Bronowski for a far better statement of this position than I could ever provide.

  26. How many people or nations or countries live life according to Bronowski ? And if the Israeli did, would all around allow them to. Sophistry.

  27. Wow!!!! The best part is that the NAZIS HAVE BEEN DEFEATED!
    Half the bloggers online would be thrilled to hear that!

  28. “There was no such thing as Israel during the Holocaust”…”Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:3-10, NASB)…Israel has always existed for Jews…

    “It stakes a claim over the site of the crime and in the case of the Israeli flag”..so which religious group was murdered there in mass? Jews? nobody helped the Jews when they were murdered, nobody helped the Jews only the Jews/

    The Star of David as its official symbol, and from the 17th century on the six-pointed star became the official seal of many Jewish communities and a general sign of Judaism. Why are Jews not allowed to fly the Star of David?

  29. They can fly the star of David till the cows come home, as far as I’m concerned. Jews are perfectly entitled to commemorate the crimes inflicted on them by the Nazis.

    My objection is to flying the Israeli flag, which, as you know well, is not the same thing as the star of David.

    Auschwitz is not a place to celebrate nationalism.

    And as for your “house of Israel nonsense”, this discussion is about modern nation states, not about the bible. (Which of course, you also know perfectly well).

    Don’t try to pull that sort of bullshit here.

  30. It’s startling in a most uncomfortable way. I caught sight of the large flags there in front of traveling teenagers on tours.

    It reminded me of the officials leading in Olympic athletes into stadiums during opening ceremonies on the Telly over the years.

    I had the same reaction you did. It was truly one of the most sobering places on earth and groups of young people filtering through covered in Isreali flags on their matching shirts taking selfies walking behind another teen carrying the flag felt like the wrong place for a display of national pride.

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