A Spanish Instagram account has become the subject of controversy after a visit to Auschwitz, where, as is the account’s tradition, pictures of the travel destination featuring a smiling rubber duck mascot were taken.
The account, @Atuk.apil, says in their tagline that “life should be yellow.”
After outrage over the picture began spreading across the internet, the Auschwitz Memorial opened up a conversation with its followers on Twitter.
What if someone who travels with a rubber duck & uses it as an artistic Instagram convention arrives at @AuschwitzMuseum?— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 6, 2019
Is the rubber duck in front of the Gate of Death disrespectful - even unintentionally? Or is it a side effect of the visual world we should accept/ignore? pic.twitter.com/RVqqVPL9CH
From the Instagram account’s caption of the duck photo, it was clear the poster knew the full context of his image.
“[Auschwitz] was the largest extermination centre in the history of Nazism, where it is estimated that about 1,300,000 people were sent, of which 1,100,000 died, the vast majority of them Jewish”.
“Auschwitz II (Birkenau), extermination camp, where most of the more than one million victims of the camp died. In this section were women.”
The caption of the image shows that the person knew the significance of the site. Does itake things better? Or maybe worse? pic.twitter.com/7SRQp3KCvd— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 6, 2019
He also wrote:
“Trains full of people arrived daily and were immediately separated between ‘fit and unfit’. The fit had a life expectancy of months, while the unfit were sent directly to the gas chambers.”
The author removed his image shortly after the controversy began, expressing regret that his photo had been perceived as insensitive.
We kept the author informed about this discussion. The image has already been removed. The apology followed. pic.twitter.com/sZC2UnDbxl— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) November 7, 2019
Some felt the apology made up for the accounts’ actions.
I am satisfied that this person realizes the mistake and has apologized.... thank you for your work @AuschwitzMuseum— Pete Wein (@ArctanPete) November 7, 2019
Disrespectful, but perhaps not ill-intended. I'd like to think that whoever did this at least informed many thousands of people about what transpired behind the gate of death.— Jubee Sr., Esq. (@NotBryantEng) November 6, 2019
Is it a little disrespectful? Maybe.— CommonSenseMan (@CommonSenseMa16) November 6, 2019
But it's not surprising in the social media age, and there doesn't appear to be any ill will. The caption is informative and sincere
A lot more actual disrespectful things happening to jews around the world that we should worry about
Worse.— Dan (@Dan__9000) November 6, 2019
Of course they knew the significance. No one goes to @AuschwitzMuseum not knowing what happened there. Which makes the photo even more wrong.— ArcanaXV (@ArcanaXV) November 6, 2019
I think both photo and text reveal the banality of the person who did this.— Stuart Gardner (@StuartGardner2) November 6, 2019
Completely disrespectful. Hallowed ground exists on our planet, and we as caring, thoughtful humans need to act accordingly.— susiequilter (@susiequilter6) November 6, 2019
The travel blogger offered this defense of his post, though English is not his first language:
“I do not think that you can not take photos in that place, or that you can not write books or songs, and in the end the post what it has is historical information, it does not make apologies or jokes or anything.”
“I think that the point is in the context, that it is banalized instead because first, it is a duck and that unquestionably takes away seriousness, second the objective of the account is to present tourist sites and not give information about history or about things related to the Holocaust and certainly things that have to be in different places are mixed.”
“But anyway, the context, because even if it was another fictional character, we are going to put a monkey who has an Instagram account to promote the historical memory of different events, I would not see that a photo is taken in Auschwitz and put exactly the same message.”
“The problem is that the photo was taken in a place where it does not belong and is being denatured.”
The people following the duck will have learned something new. The spread of knowledge is objectively good, even if facilitated by silly means.— Jacek Błaszkowski (@jkb1905) November 6, 2019
I think it’s horribly disrespectful.— Linda Johannes (@lsj926) November 6, 2019
No matter which side of the issue you fall on, everyone agrees that it’s better to err on the side of respectfulness when dealing with such a solemn location.