The casual indifference of Dachau’s selfie-taking Holocaust tourists: Mark Milke

We did not have the same experience as Milke at Dachau during a fall visit.

However, his points are valid, as selfies and other photos are about the person visiting, not about the place and history, whether it be a concentration camp, great works of art at the Louvre or other galleries etc:

So how to explain this unfortunate phenomenon? I’d like to hope it was only the day I visited: it was sunny that morning which can produce a parallel optimism; perhaps overcast or rainy weather would better provoke a somber mood in those walking around the first Nazi death camp. Or maybe it’s the camp’s proximity to Dachau, the town. Neatly arranged townhouses overlook the bunker, with only a fence and a few metres separating them. Normality long ago returned to Germany, including Dachau, and perhaps it is difficult to sustain a sense of unique horror when everyday life continues around the 84-year-old camp, and when so many of those with direct memories of the horrors are no longer with us.

Whatever the explanation, the casual indifference at Holocaust sites is something others have also begun to notice. Last year, Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa set up cameras at Dachau and also at Sachenhausen (near Berlin) and let them roll. He recorded selfie after selfie, along with all the other self-obsessed behaviour all too common in what he labeled “Holocaust tourism.”

One Guardian columnist, reviewing Loznitsa’s documentary, Austerlitz, suggested selfies be banned at concentration camps, though not photography. That’s a sensible proposal, though I found myself unable to even take my camera out of my backpack; to snap a photograph seemed too casual.

Another approach to confronting self-absorbed selfie tourism: shame. Earlier this year Israeli artist Shahak Shapira superimposed cut-outs people had taken at the Berlin Holocaust memorial (including people engaged in yoga and rap poses) over ghastly Holocaust images of starved camp prisoners and corpses in trains. It helped show the disrespect that Holocaust tourism communicates to the dead and to those who were fortunate enough to survive.

It would be too easy though, to blame the young and engage in generational stereotypes. To complain of the ignorance of youth is to engage in circular reasoning—why should young people be expected to know that which they have not been taught? Or that which has not been emphasized? Fact is, if some children or young adults lack historical knowledge and awareness of why such sites should be treated as akin to holy shrines, with the greatest of reverence and respect, the blame falls elsewhere: on adults who by a lack of instruction, presence or example, fail to signal the importance of sober, even somber, remembrance.

Thus, examples matter: As I exited Dachau, walking along a path from the main gate back to the visitor centre, a forty-something fellow trotted by in the opposite direction. He walked casually, licking a fudgesicle, or popsicle or some similar frozen creation. His gait and casual cluelessness said it all: he was approaching just another “attraction” of sorts, as if he were about to enter Disneyland and not Dachau.

Source: The casual indifference of Dachau’s selfie-taking Holocaust tourists – Macleans.ca

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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