Katy Perry took a break from the European leg of her “Prismatic World Tour” to visit Auschwitz on Wednesday. The pop star posted shared a picture of the concentration camp with her 15 million Instagram followers with the following caption:
“My heart was heavy today.
For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazi murdered about one and a half million men, women and children mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.
Auschwitz - Birkenau
‘>The one that does not remember history is bound to live through it again’ — George Santayana”
No selfies were involved, and for this we are thankful.
I scrolled through the pictures I had just received in an email. I looked at them again. And again. The subject line, I realized, went straight to the point: “The Simpsons go to Auschwitz” — a series of drawings by the controversial Italian artist Alexsandro Palombo, depicting the popular yellow cartoon family as famished inmates of the Nazi death camp.
Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa and Maggie wearing yellow stars, in striped prisoners’ garbs, and undressed in what seems to be the inside of a gas chamber… you get the idea. The “Arbeit macht frei”-sign, the emaciated legs, the fake showerheads — no question, the imagery was painful and upsetting to look at. And the bright, big-eyed cartoon characters with the funny-shaped heads definitely felt out of place.
Well, I thought, let’s try to find out what the artist’s message is. “We must educate the new generations and tell them what happened,” Palombo said, at least according to the email sent out by his press office. And then: “We have to do it without filters, bluntly, over and over again, through the memory of facts and terrifying images that reflect the horror of the Holocaust and the extermination of millions of human beings.”
While I agree (and who wouldn’t?) that future generations need to be taught about the Holocaust, I don’t think that doing it “bluntly” and “over and over again” is the right approach.
January 27, 2015 marks the 70 year anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and International Holocaust Remembrance day. With many of the survivors getting older, for some this may be the last year to commemorate the horrors and loss. Here are some moving pictures of the commemorations from around the world:
UNITED KINGDOM : Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger, aged 84 looks at one of only 70 special candles commissioned to mark 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
KRAKOW, POLAND: (L-R) 81-year-old Paula Lebovics, 79-year-old Miriam Ziegler, 85-year-old Gabor Hirsch and 80-year-old Eva Kor pose with the original image of them as children taken at Auschwitz at the time of its liberation.
OSWIECIM, POLAND: Members of an association of Auschwitz survivors, including one showing a medal given to Polish former concentration camp prisoners, depart after laying wreaths at the execution wall at Auschwitz concentration camp .
Oswiecim, Poland:Polish born oldest known Holocaust survivor and Yehuda Widawski, from Tel Aviv, arrives at a tent build in front of the entrance of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.
PARIS, FRANCE: Francois Hollande with Auschwitz survivor Ida Grinspan speaks with five Jews deported and five young French Jews.
LIMA, PERU: Hirsz Litmanowiczin, octogenarian Auschwitz survivor, where he was a messenger of Josef Mengele, and who emigrated to Peru in 1952 , believes that religion and economics have become the engine of intolerance 70 years after the Holocaust.
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL: Young Israeli soldiers at Yad VaShem on International Holocaust Memorial Day.
(Reuters) — Hollywood director Steven Spielberg said on Monday he hoped that the Holocaust commemorations taking place in Poland on Tuesday will be a warning for future generations, in light of a rising tide of anti-Semitism and intolerance against Jews.
Spielberg was talking to Holocaust survivors in the southern Polish city of Krakow, ahead of the main event marking 70 years since Soviet troops liberated the Nazi German Auschwitz death camp.
“If you are a Jew today, in fact if you are any person who believes in the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom in free expression, you know that like many other groups, we are once again facing the perennial demons of intolerance,” the Oscar-winning filmmaker said.
The director won an Academy Award for Best Director for “Schindler’s List,” his 1993 movie about a German who saved more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, warned of spreading anti-Semitism.
Eric Clapton headlined the fifth annual Life Festival in Oswiecim, Poland late this month. Yes, you read that right. Eric Clapton just played Auschwitz.
Well, kind of.
The Oswiecim Life Festival started in 2010, and was created by Darek Maciborek, a radio DJ, who wanted to change the negative associations brought up by his hometown. Because of its close proximity to Auschwitz, Oświęcim, has always carried part of the legacy of the death camp, which was where over 1 million people died, 90% of whom were Jewish.
The Life Festival Oswiecim is meant to combat anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia through music and the arts. Various Polish and foreign bands play in the festival. James Blunt played in 2011, and Peter Gabriel in 2012. Last year, the festival pulled in Sting to headline.
Clapton preformed the closing number at the festival, which was his final stop on his four-month world tour.
More than 10,000 people came out for the event, which took place from the 25th – 28th of June.
“This is the second time I am here,” Poland’s ambassador to the United States, Ryszard Schnepf said from the bimah of Park East Synagogue at the November 12th launch of the New York exhibition of “Forbidden Art” created by prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau. to Holocaust survivor and Kristallnacht witness Rabbi Arthur Schneier, the assemblage and diplomats from 18 countries.
First seen in Poland, the exhibit of 20 rare and fragile items out of 2,000 original works is part of a nationwide awareness campaign that prompted President Obama to declare: “Exhibitions like ‘Forbidden Art” bring to light the stories of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters and brothers and sisters who endured the unthinkable cruelty of concentration camps” and had ambassador Schnepf amplify: “It is our responsibility to remember the suffering of all people in concentration camps. Remembering them promises a light to a time of no anti-Semitism, a future free of hatred.”
Quoting Elie Wiesel, Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations David Roet said, “No other people has such an obsession about remembering.” Gazing down from the bimah he recounted how his father had been saved by a baker in his village “because of a priest’s directive” and that “what helped his father survive in Auschwitz was the memory of the Shabbat and the dates where/when each family member died. But memory is not enough. What is necessary is standing up with Israel so it never happens again.”
(JTA) — Smiley selfies from Auschwitz and Buchenwald? They’re trending, apparently
Blogger Hektor Brehl, writing for the German version of Vice magazine, has a piece about the tendency of young travelers to post pics taken at Holocaust memorials in which they show off their new sneakers and crack “uncool” jokes.
Sometimes, it’s good to be reminded of the destructive power of the selfie.
A new Tumblr called “Selfies At Serious Places” does just that. It’s exactly how it sounds: people taking close up pictures of their faces with an incredibly inappropriate backdrop. Seriously though: what goes through your mind when you tweet a picture of yourself posing in the gas chamber at Auschwitz? Come on.
Other choice locations include the Anne Frank house, the Berlin Holocaust memorial, Chernobyl, the 9/11 memorial and Pearl Harbor.
Get it together people.
Shoshana Colmer, 93, a survivor of Auschwitz, was crowned Miss Holocaust at a contest in Haifa.
The second annual Miss Holocaust Survivor Beauty Contest was held Aug. 22 at the Municipal Sports Complex before an audience of thousands.
More than 300 women from Israel and around the world applied to participate in the contest, according to Haaretz. Colmer told the audience that she sang one song to a Nazi guard each morning in Auschwitz in return for an extra piece of bread. She was liberated after taking part in a death march from the camp.
Dr. Izabella Grinberg, a geriatric psychiatrist, and Shimon Sabag, director of Yad Ezer L’Haver, an organization that assists Holocaust survivors, developed the contest. It is designed to help the contestants and the survivors watching to come to grips with their survival and boost their self esteem.
Check out a video about the inaugural pageant, which took place last year:
Apparently Auschwitz, symbol of the Final Solution and gravesite to over two million Jews, is now a hot concert venue.
Last weekend marked the third annual Life Festival Oświęcim 2013, which seeks “to build peaceful relations beyond cultural and state borders where there is no place for anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of xenophobia,” according to the festival’s website. “The message of a peace and tolerance comes from the town where during the Second World War (WWII) was the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp - Auschwitz-Birkenau.”
With this celebration of music, Darek Maciborek, an Oświęcim native and broadcast journalist for RMF FM radio in Poland, intended to “break the spell” of his beloved hometown, usually associated with unpleasant things like mass-murder and Nazi atrocities.
This year’s line-up of stars included Sting, Ray Wilson and Brodka. The Red Hot Chili Peppers were supposed to appear, but did not.
In an educational effort to combat the troublesome phenomenon of anti-Semitism and racism in soccer, England’s national football team will visit Auschwitz and other Holocaust-related sites while in Poland next week for the Euro 2012 tournament.
According to the Algemeiner, the team will visit Auschwitz some time between its arrival in Poland on June 6 and its first game (against France) on June 9. The players are expected to light candles along the train tracks leading to the camp, and to sign the guest book there.
It’s not just Haredi Jews who have offended many this past week by using — or rather, abusing — Holocaust imagery.
A news outlet in the United Arab Emirates reported that a Dubai health club put out a promotional poster with a picture of the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, with the tag line: “Kiss your calories goodbye.” The club, The Circuit Factory, pulled the poster after receiving complaints about it — but not until after it had gained significant exposure through Facebook and Twitter.
It’s hardly as bad as a proposed mall across the street from Auschwitz, but some are still upset about the new fee being charged at Sachsenhausen, the former concentration camp near Berlin.
Earlier this month, officials at the camp began charging one euro for each member of organized tours of the site, where more than 200,000 people were imprisoned during the Nazi regime. The fees are not for profit, but will help to cover education costs and training for tour guides. Nevertheless, they mark the first time that a Holocaust-related site in Germany has charged visitors, stirring unease.
Taking on conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and other voices on the right, Slate blogger Tom Scocca makes a reasoned case against comparing the Islamic center planned for Ground Zero to the now-shuttered Catholic convent near the Auschwitz death camp.
The Auschwitz convent is a recurring theme in the campaign against the Islamic center; Newt Gingrich found the analogy impressive enough to post it to Twitter.
The comparison is stupid and abominable, even if you make it in more than 140 characters. Lower Manhattan is not Auschwitz. Also the dispute over the convent at Auschwitz was a complicated one, having to do with a clash between the Poles and the Jews over the understanding of history, made worse by the anti-Semitism and propaganda of the Soviet bloc. But that is beside the point. Lower Manhattan is not Auschwitz.
Just months after three men were convicted of stealing the Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Sets You Free) sign from the Auschwitz memorial, two Canadians were detained Saturday for allegedly pilfering two spikes from the railway tracks that run through the compound.
The nails, which were not fastened to the ground, were found in the men’s backpacks after witnesses notified authorities, according to an AFP article.
Just a few days after the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial complex was closed in an effort to save its Holocaust archives from heavy flash flooding in southern Poland, the site has been partially reopened, according to the Associated Press.
Heavy rainfall has wreaked havoc across central Europe in recent days, causing rivers to burst, flooding many provincial towns. The floods have been especially deadly in Poland, killing seven people as of Thursday. Auschwitz-Birkenau, which draws over a million tourists a year, sits near the Vistula River, Poland’s longest, as well as another, the Sola. The site, home to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and a wealth of Holocaust historical artifacts, was closed two days ago.
This past week, the Anne Frank Center USA along with the U.N. Holocaust Program launched a twitter account for Anne Frank, asking students who visit the center to imagine what they would say to Anne – in 140 characters or less — if they could communicate with her in hiding.
Students are prompted with the questions: “What messages of support would you have sent Anne?” and “What would you have told Anne that you have learned from her life and experience?”
In response, one student tweeted: “Anne, ur way of thinking made me braver to act and easier to understand myself. I’m very thankful with ur legacy.”
The responses, which so far have come in English, Russian, Spanish, Dutch and Arabic, are posted at the Anne Frank Center in New York, and online.
The campaign began the last week in March (which commemorates the 65th anniversary of Frank’s death at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp), and will run through April 11, Yom HaShoah.