May 10, 2019 11:38 am

Australian site removes skirts with Nazi death camp imagery after backlash

A screen grab from Wednesday, May 8, 2019, from the site of an online vendor showing an Auschwitz-themed product for sale.

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The Auschwitz Memorial and Museum has complained to an e-commerce site that was selling miniskirts, tote bags and other items printed with photos of the former Nazi German death camp where around 1.1-million people were killed during the Second World War.

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The museum in Poland learned about the products offered on Australian e-commerce site Redbubble from people who saw them online, spokesman Bartosz Bartyzel said Wednesday. Employees were “shocked and outraged” over what they considered blatant dishonouring of Holocaust victims, he said.

The items that caused offence were created by various designers and carried black-and-white post-war images of Auschwitz and the railway tracks leading into the Birkenau extermination camp and its gas chambers.

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A tote bag with a German-language warning sign at Auschwitz was being sold for 13.90 euros, a skirt with an Auschwitz image for 35 euros, and a pillow for 40.29 euros.

“Do you really think that selling such products as pillows, miniskirts or tote bags with the images of Auschwitz – a place of enormous human tragedy where over 1.1 million people were murdered – is acceptable? This is rather disturbing and disrespectful,” read a tweet sent Tuesday from the Auschwitz Memorial account to Redbubble’s customer service feed on Twitter.

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Redbubble allows artists to create designs for T-shirts and other items made from fabric and to sell them directly to the public online. In response to the museum’s protest, Redbubble tweeted “the nature of this content is not acceptable” and that it was taking “immediate action to remove these and similar works available on these product types.”

“Redbubble takes a strong stance against racism and violence, including the atrocities committed in Nazi concentration camps,” the company said in a separate statement.

Bartyzel blamed the commercialization of the Holocaust and improper use of death camp imagery on a “lack of sensitivity, thoughtlessness, maybe sometimes a form of provocation.” Constant educating about Auschwitz-Birkenau and reacting quickly are the best prevention, he said.

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“Luckily, the company that had made them available reacted in the right way, and we saw the items being removed from the offer,” Bartyzel said of the products on Redbubble.

Auschwitz Memorial tweeted to thank Redbubble for their message and reaction.

From 1940 to 1945, around 1.1-million people, mostly Jews, but also Poles, Gypsies, Russian prisoners of war and others, were killed in the gas chambers or died of starvation, hard labour and disease at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the complex of concentration, forced labour and death camps Nazi Germany operated in occupied Poland.

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Last year, more than 2.1-million people visited the museum.

Last week, around 10,000 Jewish youths from around the world were joined by Holocaust survivors and politicians in the annual 3-kilometre (1.8-mile) March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau in memory of the six million Jews killed during the war.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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