Mist sprinklers outside Auschwitz are nothing like the showers in some Nazi gas chambers, museum says

Toronto — The Auschwitz-Birkenau museum is defending its decision to install overhead sprinklers outside the former concentration camp after tourists said the mist machines reminded them of Nazi gas chambers.

Israeli media reported that tourists were outraged when they first saw the “shower contraption” near the entrance to the in on Sunday.

“Showers” placed at Auschwitz entrance

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Ynetnews (@ynetnews) August 31, 2015

“As a Jew who has lost so many relatives in the Holocaust, they looked like the showers that the Jews were forced to take before entering the gas chambers,” Meir Bulka, an Israeli visiting the museum, told the Jerusalem Post.

And he was not the only one disturbed. “All the Israelis felt this was very distasteful,” Burka said.

He said he visited the main office to complain to management about the “Holocaust gimmick.”

“The management decided that it was a good way to cool people off on a very hot day,” he said. “They said they were sorry if I was offended, and I told them that there is no way to apologize to the victims of the Holocaust.”

After a number of articles were published in international media, the museum published a statement on Facebook to confirm that the sprinklers were installed to help visitors cool off during an exceptionally warm summer. In recent weeks, temperatures in Poland have risen as high as 37 C.

The museum said that visitors often have to stand in the sun for a long time, “without any possibility of hiding in the shade” when they line up to enter the memorial. Some visitors have fainted from the heat, it said.

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“We had to do everything we could to minimize the risks connected with the heat and high temperatures,” the museum said in a statement posted to Facebook on Monday. “The safety and health of visitors are our priority during the period of extreme heat.

“The sprinklers are installed on the days of highest temperatures and removed when the temperature drops.”

The museum also dismissed attempts to link the appearance of the sprinklers to the atrocities of the Holocaust, arguing that the showers installed by the Nazis were often fake.

Scott Barbour / Getty ImagesScott Barbour / Getty ImagesThe interior of one of the gas chambers at the Auschwitz Museum Dec. 8, 2004.

“It is really hard for us to comment on some suggested historical references since the mist sprinklers do not look like showers and the fake showers installed by Germans inside some of the gas chambers were not used to deliver gas into them,” the museum said in the Facebook post. “Zyklon B was dropped inside the gas chambers in a completely different way — through holes in the ceiling or airtight drops in walls.”

Julian Herbert/Getty ImagesJulian Herbert/Getty ImagesEmpty Zyklon B gas cannisters are displayed at Auschwitz on Jan. 26, 2005.

Six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during the Second World War, many of them in concentration camps.

Between 1942 and 1944 Auschwitz served as “the largest Nazi centre for the destruction of the Jewish population,” according to the museum’s website. At least 1.1 million people were killed in the gas chambers immediately or soon after arrival.

While some on social media were outraged by pictures of the mist sprinklers, many defended the museum for looking out for visitors.

“I lost half my direct relatives in Auschwitz,” Rudwung Gary Linda wrote on the museum’s Facebook page. “A mist shower installed 70 some odd years later is not going to change that one way or another. The critics of the misting showers should bear in mind where the true evil lies.”

JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty ImagesJANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty ImagesFormer concentration camp prisoners attend a ceremony at the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, on January 27, 2014.

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