The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum has condemned the conduct of a US Congress member who filmed himself talking while moving through various parts of the former Holocaust site, including its former jail cells and seven gas chambers.
On July 2, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) filmed himself walking through various parts of the memorial in Poland, and posted his experience to YouTube. During his five-minute video, he moves through corridors, divulging statistics and describing acts that were committed in different parts of the former concentration camp. Auschwitz was one of several sites operated during the Holocaust, in which 90 percent of Poland’s Jewish population was tortured and killed during the Nazi occupation of the 1930s and ’40s.
Overall, as many as 6 million Jewish people were killed during this period. Many former concentration camps have been preserved as historical sites for visitors to learn about the atrocities that took place during the Nazi occupation of Europe; the point is to help future generations learn from the past and prevent another Holocaust from ever happening.
“This is why our homeland security must be squared away and why our military must be invincible,” Higgins says. “This is why we must remember these things — man's inhumanity to man.”
Higgins then ends his video standing on a grassy hill outside one of the former camp buildings, as somber, dramatic music plays in the background. “The world is a smaller place now than it was in World War II,” he says. “The United States is more accessible to terror like this.”
After Higgins posted the video, museum officials took to Twitter to criticize him for ignoring a sign that requested visitors “maintain silence here.”
“Everyone has the right to personal reflections,” the museum tweeted. “However, inside a former gas chamber, there should be mournful silence. It's not a stage.”
Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, also condemned Higgins’ language and video in a statement sent to Vox on Wednesday.
“When you watch Congressman Higgins’ disgraceful infomercial, you hear him use all sorts of euphemisms for those murdered at Auschwitz by the Nazis,” Goldstein said. “He never refers specifically to mass murder of the Jewish people at Auschwitz, nor uses the words Holocaust or Shoah. And the logo at the end indicates he is using the video as a campaign video for his reelection to Congress. This is disgusting beyond description. He must get sensitivity training or get a new job.”
Higgins has not yet commented on the museum’s response to his video.