Visiting Auschwitz and Being Respectful
I know that, for everyone, visiting Auschwitz will be one of the most painful but necessary experiences a person can have. Visiting this memorial is emotionally taxing, but very important. Viewing atrocities up close is essential to ensure such atrocities are not repeated. Once you’ve seen what people are capable of, you’re likely to speak out when you see it coming.
At some point during your visit, you will break down. It’s just a given. Maybe it will happen as soon as you step into the space. Maybe on the ride back home. Maybe slowly, or all at once. But it will happen. It’s normal and it’s okay.
Auschwitz is hallowed ground where mass murder took place. It’s important to visit, but even more important to be respectful during your time there, however long it may be.
Below are behaviors I’ve witnessed or read about. I’ll go over what is and isn’t okay so you feel prepared to honor the space you will be in.
Flash photography is prohibited in certain areas, and I think it’s wise to consider it a rule for Auschwitz as a whole. A flash can distract others and detract from the experience.
If you’d like to take photos of what you see, you can. Some of the people I traveled with wanted to photograph as much as possible so they would never forget what they saw. Others just wanted to take in their surroundings. Just do whatever is best for you.
This is not an official rule, but any selfies or photos of you posing with Auschwitz in the background are extremely inappropriate. It cheapens the context of the memorial and degrades what took place. If this sounds harsh to you, I suggest visiting this page and tell me if you still think it’s an appropriate thing to do.
Unless you’re using your phone to take photos, put it away. Being respectful includes being present. Remove your headphones, turn off any electronic devices. If that makes you uncomfortable, then good. It should. No one should feel relaxed and at ease while visiting this space.
Food and Drink
Barring medical need, you should take nothing more than a water bottle into Auschwitz. Back to what I said earlier, chomping on chips or guzzling soda cheapens the space and is very disrespectful, both to the victims and to the other visitors. Eat before you arrive.
Traveling for the Right Reasons
This is something that you’ll have to ask yourself, “Am I visiting Auschwitz for the right reasons?” Are you doing this to check off a box, so you can go about your life feeling self righteous that you did, in your view, a good thing? Is this merely a bragging point so you can feel better than others?
If so, Auschwitz is not for you.
If however, you wish to visit to learn, grow as a person and pay close attention while there, then visit. Auschwitz at its core, is meant to educate. Go and let it teach you.