Yesterday I bumped into this article discussing the disparity of the historical legacy and tourist future of the Nazi concentration camps, particularly Auschwitz. The author discusses her recent visit to the site, and as she passed through, she struggled with, what might be construed as her comfortable humanity poking through in pointed ways, with thoughts of her hunger (as starving), her tired feet (killing her). At each point, she shuddered at the thought once her mind had articulated it.
She wonders, as I have, what is this place? What place should it hold in our world. With my long interest in sacred space, is this a sacred space of sorts. Not the way a church or mosque is, but because of memory of the horrors committed by humanity upon humanity. The idea of holy typically connotes set aside, and in that sense, this place is set aside, not from Godly prerogatives, but because of its awfulness. With Israel's command to remember, in the Torah, this place serves as a place, a sacred place, set aside to carry forward the memory of those who were killed here.
As this place has become a tourist site, with its positives of moving forward the memory as those who survived the Holocaust are passing at an increasing rate because of their age, this place will remain, beyond their live and witness to be 2nd hand physical memory of the terrors inflicted here. With this necessity, comes with it the unfortunate reality of consumer products (coffee mugs with the word Remember printed upon it). There is something that turns in my stomach with this thought of commercializing this place, and yet, I understand the need for funding to preserve this place. I understand it...it still doesn't feel right.
I agree with her that this place, and others like it, along with the remaining survivors, these places and experiences need to be kept alive, images made, stories told, and places intact to avoid letting these memories slip into the abstract, but must remain as concrete as possible.