Sting to Rock Auschwitz Peace Festival Where 'anti-Semitism and Racism Have No Place'

The British pop icon is slated to be the guest of honor at a music festival being held for a third straight year in the notorious Polish city.

British musician Sting is to perform a rock concert later this month in Auschwitz, a Polish city where hundreds of thousands of Jews and other people were killed in a concentration and death camp during the Holocaust.

The Life Festival 2013 will be held at Auschwitz, known in Polish as Owicim, at the end of June. Sting has agreed to be the guest of honor.  The award-winning musician, who has sold millions of albums and filled stadiums around the world as a solo artist and earlier as a member of the band the Police, is scheduled to perform on Saturday, June 29, at 10 p.m.

The festival, which is in its third year, has previously featured big-name artists like Peter Gabriel and James Blunt.

Festival organizers did not respond to Haaretz's questions about the possibility of offending people by holding the raucous event near the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp.  

The festival's website says the event is the initiative of local broadcast journalist Darek Maciborek, "who was born, raised and has always lived in Owicim."

Maciborek is quoted on the website as saying,"The main concept of the festival is to build peaceful relations beyond cultural and state borders where there is no place for anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of xenophobia. The message of a peace and tolerance comes from the town where during the Second World War (WWII) was the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau."

American mega-band The Red Hot Chili Peppers were scheduled to appear this year, but will not.

Amnesty International is among the human rights organizations working with the festival to promote causes. One Amnesty International campaign that appears on the festival's website, CIA Secret Prisons in Poland - Release the Truth, seeks to increase awareness of what it says was illegal torture and imprisonment of accused terrorists in Poland between 2002 and 2005. A number of exhibitions on human rights issues will also be part of the festival.

Companies like the American beverage giant Coca-Cola and the Danish brewing company Carlsberg are sponsors.

Hagay Hacohen, 31 – an Israeli journalist at the Kol Polin (Voice of Poland) radio station in Warsaw, the Hebrew-language service of Polish Radio – covered the festival two years ago for his radio station.

"The city is trying to promote itself as a site of tolerance and multiculturalism. It is a large and important festival," Hacohen told Haaretz.

He pointed out that other cultural initiatives have begun to pop up in Owicim as well. A Jewish cultural center was recently opened in a former synagogue, including a permanent exhibit of silver Judaica items that were buried by local Jews before the Holocaust and later discovered by Israeli and Polish architects working together, he said. The center also includes a kosher coffee shop where lectures on Jewish cultural topics are held.

AP