This article also appears on Lay of the Land:
Genocide seems to have become a hot commodity these days. For those with discerning but appalling taste, images of Auschwitz can decorate your closet or your home. Fancy an “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work will set you free, the sign at the entrance to Auschwitz Death Camp) scatter cushion or even more disgusting, a gas chamber print shower curtain? You can purchase on a variety of e-commerce sites.
For some reason, companies like Pixel.com, Amazon and Red Bubble, all of whom have featured Auschwitz-themed products, think it is okay to commercialise and commoditize the world’s most notorious death camp which saw amongst others, the wholesale extermination of the Jewish people, including the elderly and children. Over a million people were slaughtered, tortured, had medical experiments inflicted on them and endured hell on earth at this place. Jews were the only group targeted for mass murder.
Auschwitz is a monument to the darkest, most traumatic time in our history – not a desirable print for your fall fashion line or the perfect way to accessorise your couch. Fashion website, Red Bubble thought a pencil skirt or scatter cushions was a fetching way to make a buck. They faced a barrage of outrage and were eventually forced to take it down.
In the last week, e-commerce giant Amazon was taken to task for selling Christmas ornaments with images of Auschwitz on them. Because nothing says festive season and peace and goodwill to all men like genocide? You could also order the matching bottle opener.
The Auschwitz Memorial in Poland weighed in on the sale of Christmas ornaments and bottle openers calling it disturbing, inappropriate and disrespectful and eventually, Amazon took the offensive products off their site.
With the avalanche of complaints from Jews and people of common sense around the world, one would think that other merchants would have learnt. Is it an act of deliberate provocation, ignorance or just plain bad taste?
When did it become okay to treat the worst genocide in history as a saleable commodity, to be exploited on clothing and home accessories?
This week, Pixels.com, a site that facilities the selling of artist’s prints and photographs also jumped in on the profiting off mass murder bandwagon when they advertised the opportunity to but beach towels, phone cases, yoga mats, duvet covers, tote bags, t-shirts, mugs, portable battery chargers and other items on their site. There was even an image of the gas chambers on a shower curtain. There are barely enough words to express how hurtful and offensive this is.
There is nothing remotely “beachie” about a towel with a death camp on it. There is nothing zen about prisoner barracks on a yoga mat. Only an avalanche of outraged complaints seemed to wake up these pornographers of death. Inundated with complaints, they eventually removed the offensive articles from their website; but this has not been the first time this site has published these products. It probably won’t be the last.
A recent study in the USA found that two thirds of millennials can’t identify Auschwitz. It is an absolute imperative that we educate our youth – and these sites. Education first – before the grossest genocide in human history becomes nothing but an item for sale. Sadly, some experts say that as these e-commerce sites become more automated, this horrible trend may only grow.
We cannot be complacent. I can only imagine the pain of Holocaust survivors when they see that their grief, their pain, their torture is for sale and we need to speak up for them. We need to act for those who perished who have no voice. Our message has to be clear.
Our pain, our loss is not for sale. Our trauma, our lost loved ones are not for your profit margins.
Genocide is not a profitable commodity – no matter how you accessorise it.