Taking a selfie at the Auschwitz memorial has been known to cause discomfort, but the museum’s social media manager says he does not consider it inappropriate.
Pawel Sawicki, 42, from Poland, has worked in Nazi Germany’s largest concentration and extermination camp for the past 16 years.
He has experienced a handful of disrespectful people who smoked and threw their butts on the ground or posed on the train tracks transporting Jews to the extermination camps.
However, in conversation with VicePawel proposed an alternative narrative, stating that it is not necessarily disrespectful to take a selfie in the museum.
“Selfies are a visual expression of our times,” he said.
UK-based Jamie Wilson took to Instagram to share a solemn-faced selfie at the Krakow memorial centre.
Pawel explained that there are conditions that make a selfie acceptable, such as a sensitive caption.
‘Selfies are a visual expression of our times. I think it’s quite normal that people also want to document the places they visit in this way,” he explained.
The social media manager, who wears several hats at the museum, added that he often uses photographs of Auschwitz from social media as lecture material.
However, he does set limits on people who “fool” and “make faces” in front of the camera, and will inform tourists when they have crossed this line.
‘There are also visitors who take professional photos with expensive cameras and then write an inappropriate caption. When I see those posts, I report them. There are over 500,000 photos on Instagram under the hashtag,” she added.
Despite the inconsiderate tourists, Pawel said most visitors are respectful and interact with the museum appropriately.
The memorial center attracts millions of visitors each year and only a few are disrespectful, according to Pawel.
Pawel (pictured) monitors every social media comment across all channels, including Instagram and Facebook.
On the site’s social media accounts, Pawel monitors all online comments.
Across all platforms, the center receives approximately 5,000 new comments a day and Pawel will read each and every one of them.
Only a few leave negative comments, and it typically blocks between five and 20 accounts each day, some of which are bots.
Established shortly after Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Auschwitz became the largest killing machine in history.
By the time of its release in 1945, more than 1.3 million people had been murdered in its gas chambers and through executions and torture.
A quick search on social media will reveal several people taking selfies at the Krakow-based monument with respectful captions.
Zoe, from Ireland, smiled during a photograph next to the metal bars of the former concentration and extermination camp and described the experience as “heartbreaking”.
Valeria Corpuz, from Amsterdam, shared a photograph on Instagram of her walking along the train tracks, an action not approved by Pawel
The memorial account asked that people remember respectfully when visiting the site.
It comes after dozens of tasteless photographs of tourists posing at Auschwitz appeared online in April last year, after the memorial museum asked visitors to show respect at the death camp site.
The debate began after a photo of a woman at the Auschwitz Memorial Museum went viral on Twitter.
The woman’s social media post sparked fury when she was seen sitting on the train tracks where the Nazis transported 1.1 million, including one million Jews, to their deaths.
The Auschwitz Memorial Museum has since pleaded with so-called “Holocaust tourists” to “respect” the site.
But despite calls for restraint from the museum, dozens of other photographs of tourists posing crudely at the death camp have been unearthed on social media.
In one case, a glamor model who claims to have the biggest breasts in Spain posed under the “work makes free” sign at the entrance to the extermination camp.
Elsewhere, tourists have posed in bad taste on the tracks that transported more than a million people to their deaths.