Auschwitz visits 'make young denial-proof against claims Holocaust was hoax'
Visits to Auschwitz make young people, who may fall prey to online claims that the Holocaust is a hoax, denial-proof, said a spokesman for the memorial site.
More than two million people went to Poland to visit the site of the former Nazi death camp in 2016 - a record number in the history of the memorial, which will mark the 70th anniversary of its opening this year.
They included youngsters from Gibraltar who travelled to Poland as part of educational visits organised by the local charity Learning from Auschwitz.
Yesterday, museum spokesman Pawel Sawicki highlighted the value of such trips as he warned of the "new problem" facing young people who "aren't taught to select information" from a glut of online sources.
The risk is that without education, youngsters could be poisoned by seemingly legitimate claims of Holocaust deniers.
"I think for a person who has visited the Auschwitz memorial, it makes him a denial-proof person,” Mr Sawicki said.
"After seeing this, after facing the authentic side, it's much more difficult for anyone to reach this young person who comes and visits and and says 'The Holocaust didn't happen, the Holocaust is a hoax, no gas chambers existed'.”
"And they have this personal experience that will protect them."
Mr Sawicki said that in a world where "information is everywhere", the museum was recognising that online education was increasingly important and that it must pay equal attention to those who visit the memorial and those who cannot.
Part of this education, he said, involves calling out anti-semitism, inaccuracies and insensitivity publicly on websites such as Twitter so that other users can see the exchanges and reach their own conclusions.
The Auschwitz museum Twitter account has even previously drawn attention to ethical qualms of vendors marketing Auschwitz-themed merchandise including shower curtains and cushion covers.
Gibraltar’s Learning from Auschwitz charity aims to increase knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust for young people and to clearly highlight what can happen if prejudice and racism become acceptable.
“Our main aim is to teach young people from all religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds what the consequences are of allowing racism, hate and prejudice to take root in our society,” the charity states on its website.
“We believe that visiting the concentration camps and being able to talk face to face with survivors and people who helped Jews during the Holocaust, will bring the message home to our young people.”
More than one million men, women and children died at the camp which was liberated by the Soviet Red Army 72 years ago today - January 27 1945.
Karen Pollock, head of the UK’s Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), which takes thousands of schoolchildren to Auschwitz each year, agreed it was important for people to see the former concentration camp for themselves.
She said: "I do think you come back with far more verve to defend the truth of the Holocaust and challenge people who challenge the integrity of the Holocaust.”
"Which sounds like such a bizarre statement, but there is something very sinister witnessed often, where people do want to suggest, subtly or less subtly, that the Holocaust is made up by Jews for a particular reason, whether it's to gain sympathy or whatever else.
"So you need people who work it out for themselves and you can't help but work it out by going."