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Thread: Is it right to treat Auschwitz as a Tourist Destination?

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    International Coach HeathDavisSpeed's Avatar
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    Is it right to treat Auschwitz as a Tourist Destination?

    I'm heading to the UK soon, and I'm planning a trip in Europe. Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Wroclaw and Krakow.

    Now, as we're visiting Krakow, there's a debate going on between myself & my missus about visiting Auschwitz - which is only half an hour or so from Krakow. I find myself thinking it's a bit distasteful to visit an extermination camp when we personally have no connection with the place. Auschwitz gets thousands of visitors every year, but isn't it really a bit vulgar. Wartime wrecks are treated as unvisitable for divers, so why aren't places like Auschwitz not treated with a bit more austerity. I guess the argument is that it's a lasting reminder of the mistakes of previous generations.

    On the other side of the coin, I was hoping to see some memorial to the Prague Spring in, well, Prague and there appears to be nothing to commemorate that period in Czech history. So, I find myself wanting to visit the grave of Alexander Dubcek in Bratislava, as he was a bit of hero of mine growing up. But is it really in good taste to visit the grave of someone you've never known and has never had a direct impact on you.
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    The Wheel is Forever silentstriker's Avatar
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    I'm not sure avoiding history is the right way to go. It's a place of historical importance, quite clearly. It's like the battlefield at Gettysburg. A lot of people died there, and you should treat it with respect for those who died, but I would most certainly want to see the place if I were in the area.

    I am not sure what the downside is to treating it as a museum really. In fact, you'd want a lot of people come. So few are interested and knowledgeable about history as it is, having more knowledge is never a bad thing.
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    It depends on how its presented IMO, a museum sort of atmosphere that is respectful is fine.
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    Cricketer Of The Year Burpey's Avatar
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    If tourists treat it with respect and solemnity, then it's fine.

    I remember being at the Australian War Memorial and seeing these Japanese tourists taking photos of them making stupid faces and laughing and mucking around while at the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier. Could have throttled them.
    Last edited by Burpey; 23-04-2010 at 08:04 PM.


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    Back what the others have said, I say go.
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    International Coach HeathDavisSpeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burpey View Post
    If tourists treat it with respect and solemnity, then it's fine.

    I remember being at the Australian War Memorial and seeing these Japanese tourists taking photos of them making stupid faces and laughing and mucking around while in the Tomb of the Unkown Soldier. Could have throttled them.
    Good point. I remember some British schoolboys acting like larrikins in cemeteries at Ypres when I was over there a few years back.

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    From speaking to people who have been, its not so much a tourist destination but a bloody strong reminder of the horrors that went on there. The atmosphere is unbelievably eerie. From what I gather the whole place is treated with the reverence it needs, and people go to be educated, not to take gharish snaps.

    Don't go just to say you've been, go if you want the slightest inkling of how unimaginable the suffering was there. I've been told you come away feeling very strange, on one hand feeling upset at the place, on the other knowing you couldn't possibly imagine how bad it really was, and your tears really are nothing in comparison......
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    Yeah, as long as it's treated the right way by those visiting, then definitely go. The governments and organisations involved with it obviously want it visited to serve as a reminder and increase awareness of it all. I went to the The Killing Fields and the S-21 Prison in Cambodia a few years ago it was set up very respectfully and every in turn treated it that way. It was certainly a sobering experience, but definitely worth it.
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    Hall of Fame Member Son Of Coco's Avatar
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    I'd say go too mate. I've been to Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camps and neither of them are 'tourist attractions' in the same way the Eiffel Tower or the Trevi Fountain are. The atmosphere is very respectful and you are educated about what went on there.

    There is a film room where you can watch a short movie about the camp before either walking around it on your own or taking a guide (if you know a bit about it already I'd probably give the guide a miss - the guide I had seemed intent on whisking us around everything at the speed of light). Birkenau (where the train tracks go through the archway into the camp) is about a kilometre or so away from the main camp so you might want to take a shuttle bus. I tried to walk it and got lost...

    I took pictures when I was at both camps too. I think if you do it in a respectful way and nobody's posing like an idiot or taking photos where they've been asked not to then there's no issue.

    Would also recommend going to Oskar Schindler's office in Krakow (there's a walking tour you can do yourself around the area of town the Nazis held the Jews that takes you past it). As well as hanging out in the town square, which is beautiful, and making your way down to the river. There are some really great bars and restaurants around the area near the river where the Jewish Synagogue is. Pretty vague directions I know! If I had a map of Krakow handy I could be a little more specific.

    And if you're in Vienna on a Sunday get up early and go to a small church in the royal palace and you can get into the service for free and hear the famous boy's choir singing.
    Last edited by Son Of Coco; 23-04-2010 at 09:16 PM.
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    Hall of Fame Member Furball's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeathDavisSpeed View Post
    I'm heading to the UK soon, and I'm planning a trip in Europe. Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Wroclaw and Krakow.

    Now, as we're visiting Krakow, there's a debate going on between myself & my missus about visiting Auschwitz - which is only half an hour or so from Krakow. I find myself thinking it's a bit distasteful to visit an extermination camp when we personally have no connection with the place. Auschwitz gets thousands of visitors every year, but isn't it really a bit vulgar. Wartime wrecks are treated as unvisitable for divers, so why aren't places like Auschwitz not treated with a bit more austerity. I guess the argument is that it's a lasting reminder of the mistakes of previous generations.

    On the other side of the coin, I was hoping to see some memorial to the Prague Spring in, well, Prague and there appears to be nothing to commemorate that period in Czech history. So, I find myself wanting to visit the grave of Alexander Dubcek in Bratislava, as he was a bit of hero of mine growing up. But is it really in good taste to visit the grave of someone you've never known and has never had a direct impact on you.
    Not strictly true, in Wenceslas Square there's a plaque which commemorates the deaths of Jan Palach and Jan Zajic in 1969. There's also a monument in front of the National Museum at the top of Wenceslas Square.

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    Hall of Fame Member Furball's Avatar
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    Has anyone else been to Auschwitz-Birkenau btw?

    What did you make of the atmosphere at both camps?

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    Hall of Fame Member Son Of Coco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GingerFurball View Post
    Has anyone else been to Auschwitz-Birkenau btw?

    What did you make of the atmosphere at both camps?
    I think there were more people at Aushwitz than Birkenau when I went. I spent a lot of time at the Auschwitz camp though and got over to Birkenau a little late in the afternoon. Everyone was very respectful. There were a lot of school kids from Israel there when I visited and some of them were pretty upset. Probably the most harrowing part for me was seeing huge pile of shoes leftover from people who were at the camp as well as the suitcases with people's names on them. The basement-level punishment area was horrible too.

    Turns out the day after I was there was a memorial march for the survivors of the camps. I was very tempted to go back again as seeing people who had survived those camps would have been quite an experience.

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    RTDAS pasag's Avatar
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    No reason you shouldn't go.
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    International Coach HeathDavisSpeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GingerFurball View Post
    Not strictly true, in Wenceslas Square there's a plaque which commemorates the deaths of Jan Palach and Jan Zajic in 1969.
    I'm aware of that, but it seems a bit odd to me that there's no memorial to the 50+ people that died in the Warsaw Pact invasion. Palach and Zajic immolated themselves after the Spring itself had been quashed. The Prague Tourist Office have informed directly me that there is no memorial to the events of the Prague Spring of 1968 itself. That's fine though, I'll visit Dubcek.

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    Hall of Fame Member Son Of Coco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeathDavisSpeed View Post
    I'm aware of that, but it seems a bit odd to me that there's no memorial to the 50+ people that died in the Warsaw Pact invasion. Palach and Zajic immolated themselves after the Spring itself had been quashed. The Prague Tourist Office have informed directly me that there is no memorial to the events of the Prague Spring of 1968 itself. That's fine though, I'll visit Dubcek.
    If you have the time in Prague a day trip to Kutna Hora bone church is worth the effort too. Takes about an hour on the train from the central station. Keep your hands on your kids and your wallet inside the station. Prague's gone downhill a bit in the last few years.

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