Poland's Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial, museum staff members have claimed they had been subjected to "hate, fake news and manipulations."
Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum which includes the Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau and serves as a memorial to the victims who died at both camps during World War II, has been facing abuse at the hands of Polish nationalists. The issue follows the contentious Holocaust speech law which outlawed placing any blame for any crimes committed by Poland during the Holocaust.
The legislation passed in February by Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and calls for up to three years in prison or a fine for accusing the Polish state or people of involvement or responsibility for events during the Nazi occupation of World War II. It was partly put in place to prevent facilities established by Poland’s German occupiers from being described as “Polish death camps."
In April, the brother of the museum’s director wrote a heartfelt message on Facebook decrying the “50 days of incessant hatred” directed at his brother, Piotr Cywiński.
"For 12 long years he’s worked in one of the most terrible places in the world, in an office with a view of gallows and a crematorium," Cywiński wrote. "Dozens of articles on dodgy websites, hundreds of Twitter accounts, thousands of similar tweets, profanities, memes, threats, slanders, denunciations. It’s enough to make you sick."
Paweł Sawicki, who runs the museum’s social media operation, told the Guardian, "The collateral damage of the dispute is that Auschwitz became a target. We’ve had people saying they were not allowed to have a Polish flag here, or saying that the memory of Poles is not represented here, that the museum is anti-Polish – all of this is untrue, and we had to respond."
The museum, however, continues with a stiff stance, as it continues to regularly interject in Twitter discussions and by publishing a long list of false claims that have been made about the museum, ranging from the issue of Polish flags to the accusation that former Polish prisoners being not invited to a ceremony in January to commemorate the camp’s liberation.
The hate campaign initiated by the Polish nationalists has raised concerns over the pressure exerted on the official guides at the site in southern Poland.
The Guardian reported that at least two tourist guides suffered abuse, in one episode a foreign guide was attacked while in another the supporters of a convicted antisemite filmed themselves repeatedly bullying their guide during a visit to the camp in April.
In February, the official responsible for schools in the region in which Auschwitz is located argued that only Poles should be allowed to work as guides at the site. And they should be licensed by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, a state body widely seen as a tool used by the government to impose its preferred historical narratives.
"Foreign, and not Polish narratives reign at Auschwitz. Time for it to stop," wrote Barbara Nowak, who until last year served as a local councilor for Law and Justice.