External 'Showers' in Auschwitz-Birkenau Touch Historic Nerve for Some

Mist sprinklers intended to offer respite to those visiting site of extermination camp during sweltering heat have caused stir in past.

Images of so-called 'showers' at entrance to Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland.
Rafi Ostroff / Facebook

Sprinklers have once again been installed at the entrance to the former Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland to refresh those vising the historic site this summer, despite past criticism at their presence, which some say is insensitive due to what they perceive as similarities between the misters and the shower chambers used by the Nazis to gas millions of Jews to death during the Holocaust.

Rabbi Rafi Ostroff from Gush Etzion who visited the camp late last week, posted pictures of the misters, which are located at the entrance to the site’s parking lot, on his Facebook page.

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel comfortable going into a shower at the entrance to an extermination camp. They apparently had good intentions in the face of the extreme heat," Ostroff wrote, adding “but [what about] a little sensitivity. Am I exaggerating? Or am I again imagining the lack of sensitivity to the Jewish story by the heads of the museum.”

The memorial site’s Twitter account responded that the sprinklers had not been installed by the museum was not located on its premises. The museum told Haaretz that the misters were installed in a parking lot owned and operated by the local municipality and not part of the museum's jurisdiction.

Last year visitors complained about what they considered the insensitivity of installing the sprinklers at the site, which some said reminded them of the gas chambers. The memorial site’s Facebook page posted at the time that it rejected a comparison between the misters and the gas chambers. “It is very difficult for us to respond to historical references.the fake showers the Germans installed in a number of the gas chambers were not intended to conduct gas. The Zyklon B [gas] was poured into the gas chambers in another way entirely, such as openings in the ceilings.”

Last year, the site explained that the showers had been installed alleviate visits of those coming from colder climates and not used to the summer heat in Poland. “There were visitors who fainted and were in danger, and so something had to be done,” it said.