The Nazis operated the Auschwitz camp between May 1940 and January 1945. In 1947, the Polish government has maintained Auschwitz, which is located 40 miles west of Krakow, as a museum and memorial. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a place that is reserved for places of beauty and culture. In May 2014, the administrators of the Auschwitz museum have been left helpless by theft and vandalism at the famous Nazi Germany’s most notorious death camp. Tourists have scratched messages onto bunks where prisoners once slept and struggled to survive. People were continuing to remove “souvenirs” from the camp that claimed the lives of more than a million of people during the Second World War. Vandals have etched their name with the tag “was here” onto furniture and walls, while one wrote “I had a smoke here.” Other tourists have stolen bits of barbed wire and spikes from railway line that transported people to the infamous camp. The director of the Auschwitz museum was interviewed and said it wasn’t always young people who took things. He said even teachers and foreign tourists took things. Board members of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance were shocked. They didn’t view these crimes as vandalism. They referred it as barbarism. The museum’s operators say the size of the camp makes stopping crime difficult. The museum covers 50 acres and contains 155 buildings. The camp comprises 46 historical buildings, including two-story red brick barracks, a kitchen, a crematorium, and several brick and concrete administration buildings. Birkenau, a satellite camp about two miles away has more than 400 acres and has 30 low-slung brick barracks and 20 wooden structures, railroad tracks, and the remains of four gas chambers and crematoria. The staff monitors 150 buildings and more than 300 ruins at the two sites. With the best efforts of staff it is impossible to monitor the entire camp and eradicate all theft and vandalism. There are dozens of barracks have cracked walls and sinking foundations that have been closed for safety reasons. Water from leaking roofs has damaged wood bunks where prisoners once slept. Even with these damages occurring, public interest in the camp has never been higher. Visits began to double from 2001 to 2009. Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004, Krakow has become a popular destination for foreign tourists, and Auschwitz is a must stop on many itineraries. There are educational programs who also visit the camp from Israel, Britain, and other countries. On peak days, as many as 30,000 visitors file through the camps buildings. The polish government in 2009 asked European nations, the United States and Israel to contribute to a fund to fix damages so they could keep the museum running. According to the museum’s director, Auschwitz is a place of memory, but it’s not just about history, it’s also about the future. The museum’s directors were all former prisoners. The last survivors will soon die, and with them the living links to what happened there. Preserving the site becomes increasingly important, Cywinski believes: younger generations raised on TV and movie special effects need to see and touch the real thing. Ever since the Auschwitz memorial and museum first opened to the public, workers have repaired and rebuilt the place. The barbed wire that rings the camp has to be continuously replaced as it rusts. In the 1950s, construction crews repaired the crumbling gas chamber at the main Auschwitz camp removed one of the original walls. They later had to deal with crime and vandalism. The Arbeit Macht Frei sign was stolen by thieves, who intended to sell it to a collector. Although the sign was recovered, it was cut into three pieces and had to be repaired. For some visitors, the former concentration camp is a box to check off on a tourist “to-do” list. But many people appear genuinely moved and inspired. Unfortunately, Auschwitz will grow less authentic with the passage of time. They have no choice but to reconstruct the former camp because of damages and the misuse from tourists. The International Auschwitz Council, museum officials and survivors from around the world dedicated to the conservation of Auschwitz has decided that the mounds of hair will be allowed to decay naturally because they are human remains. Poland’s culture ministry opposed the installation of CCTV systems given the specific environment of the camp. They didn’t think it would have been a good look with cameras in every corner. They didn’t know how they could maintain the authenticity of the camp with security cameras. The only long-term solution was education, but others thought it was necessary to have harsher legal punishments for anybody caught vandalizing or stealing from the camp. Former prisoners figured if people really knew what the camp was like, they would think twice about vandalism and stealing. If they would’ve been there and feared they would be killed the next by the chimney, then they wouldn’t be so eager to scratch their names onto a bunk. After doing some more research, I discovered that there has been a couple of people who were detained for vandalism. I agree with the others who thought it was necessary to have harsher legal punishments for anybody caught vandalizing or stealing from the camp. If someone gets off the hook easily, then that makes the next person think it would be okay for them to carve their name into things around the camp. People who go to the museum to take things should be ashamed of themselves. It is nothing but straight disrespect to the people who have died in the camp and also the survivors who lived to tell their stories. Auschwitz museum has been opened for many years to the public and didn’t start having theft until the museum became a popular site for tourists. Tourists should already know that it’s a monument to the all people who had to suffer. Harsher punishment needs to really be reconsidered because people aren’t going to learn unless they learn the hard way. I think the security cameras were a brilliant idea. although it may take away from the authenticity of the camp, it would help decrease the amount of vandalism and stealing that occurs at the camp. If they continue to choose to do nothing, tourists are not going to learn what their boundaries are. Tourists need to be aware of the things they are allowed to touch and the things they shouldn’t touch. I think it was a good idea to make sure tourists know the history before they start a tour at the Auschwitz museum. This would be a better solution for the older tourists who visit the museum because, they are able to understand the past about the Holocaust. Although crimes aren’t only done but younger people, they could alter the age requirement to enter the museum. They could change the age to 21 and eliminate the teenagers who like to carve their names into things. I also think security guards should be spread out among the museum so people know they should only look and not touch. I think it’s appropriate to escort a tourist out of the museum if they start to vandalize property. They can decrease the number of tourists they have at the Auschwitz museum at once. With less people, it’s much easier for security to monitor and make sure everyone is appropriately behaving. They could also put a big sign at the front of the museum that says, “do not touch anything in the museum.” If tourists ignore the sign then they will have to deal with the consequences if they break the rules. Applying small signs in some of the buildings could help the tourists remember they shouldn’t be touching. If they don’t take action and make major changes, the Auschwitz museum could really become damaged and permanently closed. The people who suffered and the survivors would lose their monument. The Auschwitz museum isn’t like any other Holocaust monument and memorial. At the Auschwitz camp, they spent their last moments, took their last steps and said their last prayers. It is the symbol of the Holocaust.
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