A visitor to the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp has been widely criticised on social media for smiling and posing on the railway tracks that once transported 1.1 million people including 1 million Jews to their deaths.
Maria Murphy posted the photograph to Twitter on the 15th of April. “Today I had one of the most harrowing experiences of my life,” she wrote. Regrettably it didn’t seem everyone there found it quite so poignant.” The post went hugely viral with almost 30 million views on Twitter.
In response the Auschwitz memorial and museum urged people to “respect [the] memory” of the victims of the former Nazi concentration camp.
“Pictures can hold immense emotional & documentation value for visitors. Images help us remember,” the museum wrote.
“When coming to @AuschwitzMuseum visitors should bear in mind that they enter the authentic site of the former camp where over 1 million people were murdered.”
This is not the first time that the museum has called on visitors to stop posing for pictures on its railway tracks.
The museum posted images of visitors posing on the tracks in 2018 and said: "There are better places to learn how to walk on a balance beam than the site which symbolises deportation of hundreds of thousands to their deaths."
Pawel Sawicki, from the Auschwitz memorial and museum press team, told VICE World News that “while most visitors treat the historical site with respect, there are cases of inappropriate behaviour,” adding that “These are rather isolated incidents, but no matter how often it occurs, we believe we have an obligation to react.”
“Last year, around 90 percent of our visitors were guided. The educators sensitise visitors to the character and symbolism of the place they are in. If we see inappropriate behaviour, we react. This is our duty. Sometimes the reaction comes after the picture is already taken. It also happens that we react to the publication of various inappropriate pictures on the internet – by contacting the authors or by trying to raise awareness and discussion through public opinion.”
Sawicki added that he believed due to the museum and memorial’s presence on social media and educational work, the number of images that could be considered disrespectful has been decreasing over time.