Who are the people taking selfies at Auschwitz?

It’s like they’ve got no idea


Last weekend, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Of course you cannot comprehend the trauma of being a prisoner there in the overwhelmingly huge place, but simply the existence of the museum acts as a symbol of how destructive humanity can be. But the experience is disrupted by young people taking selfies in the barracks, posing on the train tracks and family photos in front of the gas chamber. This is wholly inappropriate. 

The fact that a selfie-obsessed generation takes photos in this particular style in such a sensitive place is nothing more than expected – which is sad in itself. Young people take photos everywhere they go, and if they visit such a famous site then it makes sense that some sort of documentation would take place.

But by being so naive to take a self portrait here, you are denying the history of all those that passed here because you, the photographer, become the focal point of the photo. You come to Auschwitz to remember and mourn the past, not to feature. It’s morally reprehensible because you are not considering the consequences of your actions on those around you who may have connections to the site of which a seemingly happy photo would be offensive.

Of course, take a photo of the surroundings or elements of the museum because it can cement into your mind the issues that are being laid to bare in cold hard facts, statistics, objects and buildings. But by no means is this an opportunity to expose any narcissism on social media.

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A quick browse over the Auschwitz Instagram tags leaves a lot to be desired. Many groups are pulling funny faces, linking arms, posing in silly positions in many parts of the site. Even those photos where the image is portraying a person looking out in to the distance in their hipster clothing and posing mournfully showcases the vanity of those concerned. These young users are more concerned with not only raking the likes in but also showcasing a fake image of themselves as cool but respectful – which is ironic because their naivety overshadows their intended portrayal.

I witnessed a happy family of four, arm-in-arm, posing in front of the women’s barracks at Birkenau. To me, it suggests a seeming lack of tact at that moment in time towards the experiences of those women who went through hell and back. Moreover, it highlights the hypocrisy of allowing visitors to take photos in the site.

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You can see both respectful photos alongside selfies and kids posing only just on a quick glance

Most people are innately respectful and wouldn’t consider inappropriate photos in a sensitive place on social media or even take them. However, Auschwitz-Birkenau is such a disconcerting place enough without having to deal with naive teenagers taking advantage of a photo opportunity to make themselves more popular online.

Life is more than just a photo, and Auschwitz is the place to demonstrate this.