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Auschwitz reaches out to millions with launch of Facebook profile

The museum of the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland has launched its own profile on the social networking site Facebook. After three days, the page is still gaining a supporter per minute.

Rail tracks leading to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland

The museum wants to engage more youths through its Facebook profile

So-called "fans" - though the museum prefers to refer to them as supporters - who have joined the Auschwitz memorial museum's profile have been posting messages in a plethora of languages expressing their solidarity in memory of the Jews murdered during the Holocaust.

"It is a brilliant idea to use Facebook, the world should never be allowed to forget what happened at Auschwitz or any of the other camps at that time," read one post on the Auschwitz profile.

Another said: "I think it is beneficial for the Auschwitz Memorial to have a Facebook page in an effort to educate people to what occurred there. You have my gratitude."

Spreading the word

Pavel Savicki, a spokesman for the Auschwitz Memorial Museum, told Deutsche Welle that a chief aim of the profile is to prevent the passiveness that pervaded many parts of Europe at the beginning of World War Two - the passiveness that allowed the Nazis to commit the atrocities of the Holocaust.

"We believe that here, at this (Facebook) site, a universal lesson can be given about responsibility on different levels," he said. "From the very individual level when we simply need to help the needy people around us, but also to some kind of general responsibility about the world and a lesson about not being passive.

The facebook logo

Facebook users are predominantly students and young people

"It's also a matter of educating young people … that their opinion and their acts can make a difference. If they sit in front of their televisions or their computers and see that something is going on somewhere in the world we shouldn't be allowed to say, 'It's somewhere far away, we shouldn't be interested.' No, the world is our common responsibility and this is a universal message that can come from this (Facebook) site."

To be posted on the profile will be news on educational programs and events organized by the Auschwitz memorial museum, as well as interviews with former prisoners of the Nazi camp.

Way of the future

The profile will also host discussions about the Holocaust, the first of which has been whether the memorial museum was right to create such a Facebook profile.

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Jewish human rights organization the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Deutsche Welle that social networking sites were "the way of the future" with regards to remembering the Holocaust.

"It's one of many ways to approach the memory of the Holocaust, and I think we have to keep in mind that it’s not only an issue of commemoration, it's also an issue of education," he said.

"Quite frankly, Facebook is a vehicle, it's a network that is used by millions of young people and it's probably a much more effective way of reaching young people than many of the standard methods that have been used in the past.

"So this is apparently the way of the future … I don’t find any faults in using Facebook."

More than a million people visit the Auschwitz memorial every year, a majority of which are students and young people. Around six million Jews are estimated to have been murdered by the Nazis during World War Two.

Author: Darren Mara
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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