To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders
Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications
| Last updated
I think it’s fair to say the majority of people feel pretty uneasy when they see a full photoshoot in Auschwitz on their Instagram feeds.
There’s a fine line between taking snaps of one of the world’s most harrowing locations to document your visit and using it as a backdrop for several selfies – but the death camp’s social media manager doesn’t necessarily agree.
Pawel Sawicki, 42, has seen plenty of people walk through the gates during his 16-year tenure at Auschwitz, but claims he has only experienced a handful of tasteless tourists.
He has spotted people smoking cigarettes while strolling through the concentration camp before tossing the butts on the floor, as well as people disrespectfully posing for pictures on the train tracks which symbolise the ‘deportation of hundreds of thousands to their deaths’.
Pawel told Vice: “With so many people, it’s not surprising that some don’t behave appropriately. Sometimes, visitors simply don’t have enough awareness of the history of this place.”
The social media boss, who also gives guided tours at Auschwitz and conducts interviews with survivors, explained that by these standards, selfies aren’t that bad.
He explained that he tries to avoid ‘jumping to conclusions’ about visitors’ differing reactions to the place as he understands that everyone will deal with the experience differently.
However, Pawel points out that it’s a case by case basis – and even the caption you write next to the image can land you in his bad books.
He continued: “If someone posts a selfie with a thoughtful and respectful caption, I think that’s OK. Selfies are a visual expression of our time. I think it’s quite normal that people also want to document the places they visit in this way.
“But when I see visitors fooling around and making funny faces while taking photos, I don’t think that’s good. So I remind them of where they are.
“On the other hand, there are also visitors who take professional photos with expensive cameras and then write an inappropriate caption. When I see those posts, I report them.”
The dad-of-two, from Poland, said most social media posts he sees are ‘very respectful and show that visitors have really engaged with the place’, adding that he often ends up including this kind of content in his lectures.
The Auschwitz site’s staff had to remind people to remember where they were while taking pictures back in 2019, after an influx of social media posts appeared which showed people using the train tracks as a ‘balance beam’.
In a tweet, Auschwitz said: “When you come to @AuschwitzMuseum, remember you are at the site where over 1 million people were killed. Respect their memory.
“There are better places to learn how to walk on a balance beam than the site which symbolises deportation of hundreds of thousands to their deaths.”
Pawel admitted his line of work can sometimes be ‘very difficult’ to deal with emotionally, but he is ‘honoured’ to be responsible for keeping the memory of the victims alive.
He added: “Every day, I see photos of people who were murdered. I look at the faces of children and babies. I can’t understand how anyone could do anything to such defenceless beings. I’m frequently confronted with death on many levels.”
Featured Image Credit: Instagram/PawelSawicki/Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images
Topics: Social Media, World War 2, History, World News