OŚWIĘCIM, Poland — When the management at the Auschwitz Memorial installed sprinklers outside the former Nazi concentration camp in Poland, they thought they would create some cool comfort for visitors. Instead, it sparked a red-hot controversy.
Offended Jewish visitors over the weekend likened the misting stations to the “showers” used to exterminate members of their faith at the camp during World War II, Israeli media reported.
That was never the intent, museum management said.
“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 Auschwitz Memorial Facebook page said. Temperatures soared to the low 100s over the weekend.
The misters were placed near a ticket line at the entrance of the museum.
“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 told the Jerusalem Post.
“All the Israelis felt this was very distasteful,” he said. “Someone called it a ‘Holocaust gimmick.'”
While some say museum management should have been more sensitive, officials at Auschwitz don’t see a connection.
“It is really hard for us to comment on some suggested historical references since the mist sprinkles do not look like showers and the fake showers installed by Germans inside some of the gas chambers were not used to deliver gas into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 Facebook page said.
Auschwitz was the largest of the Nazi concentration camps. It was here that the Nazis perfected their method of mass murder, using Zyklon B gas pumped into rooms that had fake showers.
Estimates vary, but about one million Jews are believed to have been executed at Auschwitz.