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Every year, my parents go to a health resort in Austria to spend a week exercising, eating healthy food and consulting with the wellness staff on how to integrate healthy practices into their lifestyle in London. Every year, I make the same joke to my dad: “Be careful in the steam room dad, you’re a Cohen and you know what happens to Cohens in Austrian camps…”
The resort is of course not a concentration camp, but a very peaceful place run by some very nice, professional people who want to help others get fit and healthy. Two Cohens in an Austrian camp, not eating much and doing regular steam rooms is just too good an opportunity not to make the crack.
I’m half Jewish so I can make this joke, and my parents and I can laugh at it. If you are reading this and you are not Jewish, but find it funny – don’t worry, you have permission to chuckle. As long as you are not a nasty racist who thinks Jews should actually be gassed, or that Austrians are currently practicing ethnic genocide that is.
When I heard that the management at the Auschwitz Memorial installed sprinklers outside the notorious Nazi concentration camp so that visitors could handle the searing heat wave that hit Poland this summer, I laughed. I laughed because it reminded me of my parents going to Austria. Again, as long as you don’t genuinely believe Jews should really be gassed in concentration camps, you can laugh at the rather twisted irony of it all.
It was undoubtedly unfortunate that there wasn’t another way to keep guests cool, but to any rational person, this is a cheap, effective way of relieving visitor’s discomfort in extreme heat. There isn’t gas coming out of the showers, there is cool water. The management at the Auschwitz Memorial are not attempting to mock Jews who died in the Holocaust. Again, they are trying to keep people cool.
Of course this was missed by some of the visitors, Twitter and the entire western media who saw this as an unforgivably offensive sin against Jews and survivors of the Holocaust:
— Nathalie Rodriguez (@NatyonAMFM) August 31, 2015
Here are 2 people at the top of my shit kicking list: person who thought the Auschwitz showers were a good idea & that bitchy County Clerk.
— DrSkitterbox (@DrSkitterbox) September 1, 2015
This is terrible. http://t.co/4Sd2p9gSzE
— OBSERVER (@observer) September 2, 2015
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) September 1, 2015
SHOCKING – AUSCHWITZ: Cooling showers set up resembling the gas chambers in Auschwitz concentration camp. pic.twitter.com/yaDQ4bWwm2
— Israel News Feed (@IsraelHatzolah) August 30, 2015
And on and on and on.
When you have multiple refugee crises around the world, war in the Middle East, mass poverty, wealth inequality, environmental destruction and rapid global warming, cooling mist spray at the Auschwitz Memorial is not exactly an urgent problem.
The Holocaust saw 6 million people die. The showers installed at the Auschwitz memorial are keeping people cool in sweltering heat.
Let’s have a bit of perspective please.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.