It should be a fairly safe assumption to make that most everyone visiting the site of Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland would know the terrible history that encompasses the buildings and grounds there. From 1940 until the end of World War II in 1945, over 1.1. million people lost their lives in Auschwitz, making it the most deadly of the Nazi-controlled camps throughout Europe in the war.
Most people are respectful of the location, walking quietly and somberly through the remains of the camp that is nowadays a museum, taking in just how horrific it would have been to have been living in a time when it was active. Then there are others visiting the site, those who, according to The New York Post, have decided the railway tracks leading into the camp are the perfect place to pose for a selfie.
Those self-same railway tracks are the way in which the nearly 1 million Jews who were killed by Nazi occupiers during World War II were brought into Auschwitz. Those tracks would have been the last breath of freedom many people crossing them would ever take.
With that in mind, it seems a highly inappropriate place to be posing for a selfie complete with a big grin on your face.
Auschwitz visitors urged not to balance on railway tracks for photos https://t.co/uuogIjAhrj— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 20, 2019
Management at Auschwitz appears to agree with that assessment and recently released a statement via their Twitter account requesting that visitors to the site please refrain from taking disrespectful photos and realize the gravity of where they are.
“When you come to @AuschwitzMuseum remember you are at the site where over 1 million people were killed,” the museum wrote. “Respect their memory. There are better places to learn how to walk on a balance beam than the site which symbolizes deportation of hundreds of thousands to their deaths.”
People responded to the request by reaffirming its necessity.
“This is a very necessary post, our picture taking habits are completely out of control. I may be visiting in the summer. I will make sure I am aware of your photography policy,” one person wrote, with another adding, “I don’t understand why people use Auschwitz as a photo op or how they take cheerful selfies at a site that saw the murder of thousands of innocent people.”
The account then tweeted a second message about photographs, offering up a more somber alternative for photographers who wished to document their visit while remaining respectful to the many who lost their lives there.
Photographs taken at @AuschwitzMuseum by visitors can commemorate the victims & help us to educate about the #history of #Auschwitz. Indeed "a picture can be worth a thousand words."— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) March 21, 2019
We search through @Instagram to find those great examples. See it here: https://t.co/zg7dI2tfJs pic.twitter.com/CNiaIxI8AR
Somehow, this is not actually a new trend. It was first slammed by social media users in 2014 when an American teenager posted a selfie of herself smiling away in front of a barracks at Auschwitz to Twitter. In 2017, again, the trend seemed to be doing the rounds, this time with British tourists the subject of the criticism, according to Metro UK.