October 16, 2009 / 4:54 PM / 10 years ago

Auschwitz joins Facebook to combat "indifference"

OSWIECIM, Poland (Reuters Life!) - The museum that runs the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz has launched a Facebook site aimed at combating the moral “indifference” which allowed the murder of about 1.3 million people there.

“Indifference was a huge problem during World War Two, during the Holocaust. Most people adopted a passive attitude, they decided to do nothing when something wrong was going on,” museum spokesman Pawel Sawicki told Reuters Television.

“Their excuse was that they did not see, they didn’t want to. I hope that such a page on Facebook, which is just a small part of our activity, will lead to people changing their attitude to active instead of passive when there is something wrong going on. If just one person is convinced to change his or her attitude, it will be a great success.”

Joining the popular social networking site is the latest initiative by the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum, located near the town of Oswiecim in southern Poland, to bring to global attention its work in preserving the memory of the Jews and others murdered at the largest of Adolf Hitler’s death camps.

Earlier this year, with the support of the Polish government, the museum launched an international appeal for funds to help preserve its facilities and exhibits.

These include 155 camp buildings, 300 ruined facilities and hundreds of thousands of personal belongings and documents scattered over more than 200 hectares.

The Auschwitz Facebook site, which so far has nearly 4,700 fans, includes information about the museum and photographs, including some of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s visit earlier this week.


The site’s guidelines, printed beside the wall of comments, asks participants to show sensitivity when contributing.

“Auschwitz is an important symbol for individuals and nations, cultures and religions. Please remember to respect that meaning, the memory of the victims and survivors,” they read.

Visitors to the museum welcomed the move onto Facebook.

“It’s very good that it’s on the web and anybody can visit from their home because not everyone can come here. They can see everything and have an idea of what happened here,” said Polish high school student Artur Klimek.

There are hundreds of unofficial Auschwitz sites on Facebook. A keyword search brings up some 700 sites, many of which are filled with recounted visits to the former death camp.

Jews from all over Europe perished in the gas chambers at Auschwitz set up by the Nazis after Germany’s conquest of Poland in 1939. Many others died of starvation, forced labor, disease and in medical experiments.

Hundreds of thousands of people visit the museum every year, passing through the iron gate bearing the notorious motto “Arbeit macht frei” (Work makes you free).

Writing by Gareth Jones, editing by Paul Casciato

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