Education | European History | Jewish Studies | Museum Studies | Public History | Tourism and Travel

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Auschwitz is known as the most substantial site of the Holocaust namely because Auschwitz-Birkenau was the largest concentration camp in Europe, and it is estimated that about 960,000 Jews and 125,000 others were murdered there.1 Not only was the process of creating the memorial at Auschwitz filled with controversies, but the site also remains questionable today with regards to dark tourism, or thanatourism, “the tourism of death.”2 For some, the thought of traveling to a place subsumed in death and despair sounds troubling as the consumption of dark tourism involves a process of “confronting, understanding and accepting death.” 3 Disputes and questions have existed in cooperation with Auschwitz as a site of public memory from the time the idea to create a memorial arose until the present day. One of the largest disputes includes the issue of involvement in the camp. Robert Jan Van Pelt questions the necessity of tampering with Auschwitz in his article, asking, “Should we not just acknowledge the radical ‘otherness’ of the place, and allow it to be?”4 This paper argues that Auschwitz as a site of public memory has been, and will be, the source of many controversies. The museum of Auschwitz does exist and is still standing for the purpose of educating others about the atrocities of what happened while the camp was functioning. While the museum’s educational mission is not purely exclusive to Auschwitz, it is successful.