Auschwitz Visitors to Be Disinfected at ‘Sanitation Gate’ to Help Stem Coronavirus

The new gate was developed especially for the Auschwitz memorial site ahead of its expected reopening: 'We're the first museum in the world to apply this innovative solution'

Allison Kaplan Sommer
Allison Kaplan Sommer
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Participants at the 'March of the Living' to commemorate the Holocaust at Auschwitz, Brzeznika, Poland, May 2, 2019.
The Auschwitz concentration camp in Brezeznika, Poland, in May 2019. Credit: KACPER PEMPEL/ REUTERS
Allison Kaplan Sommer
Allison Kaplan Sommer

It’s hard to deny that the idea of visitors being sprayed with disinfectant as they enter Auschwitz has the potential to evoke some disturbing memories.

But as the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum plans its reopening after shuttering during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, it has announced that in an effort to make visits to the site of the former Nazi death camp as safe as possible, a specially designed and first-of-its-kind “sanitation gate” has been installed in front of the museum’s entrance.

The goal of erecting the gate is to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus, “as well as other viruses and bacteria which can be brought inside, for example on clothes,” according to the museum’s press release.

No date for the reopening has yet been set, but an announcement is expected soon.

The new sanitation gate was developed especially for the Polish museum. It is a modified version of a device created by the Silesian University of Technology in partnership with a startup in order to help hospitals do their best to remain virus-free. The design won prizes in a competition run by the World Health Organization and World Tourism Organization.

“We are happy that we are going to be the first museum in the world to apply this innovative solution,” said the museum’s director, Piotr Cywiski.

Dr. Anna Wawrzyk, an epidemiologist working for the Auschwitz museum, said the process of being disinfected at the museum’s entrance will take less time than the original model takes in hospitals. The type of disinfectant is also different: in hospitals, it is chlorine-based, while the museum will use hydrogen peroxide.

It has also been adapted for the large number of visitors coming to the site daily. As they enter, they will be told what to do as they move through the automated disinfection system.

“During group visits, the pump is activated after the first person enters the gate, while each next person detected by a laser sensor enables the nozzles and signals on the light panel,” said Magdalena Bogacka, coordinator of the disinfection gate design team.

In addition to the gate, the museum announced more conventional measures to keep visitors virus-free, such as installing contactless hand sanitation systems. It intends to reduce the size of visitors allowed in each group and also reduce the number of visitors on site at any one time. Visitors will also be required to maintain social distancing throughout their time at the museum.

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