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2 Jan, 2020 13:19

‘Lacking basic sensitivity’: Polish school in trouble for re-enactment of WW2 atrocity with kids in Nazi garb & death-camp robes

‘Lacking basic sensitivity’: Polish school in trouble for re-enactment of WW2 atrocity with kids in Nazi garb & death-camp robes

A primary school in Poland has been drawn into a national scandal over an event in which children, dressed in Nazi uniforms and prison robes, re-enacted the gassing of prisoners, in a performance meant to be solemn and touching.

The controversial presentation took place in early December when the primary school in Labunia was bestowed with the honorary title of the Children of the Zamosc. The name refers to thousands of Polish children, who had been rounded up and deported by the occupying Nazi forces as part of an ethnic-cleansing campaign. Zamosc, the city northwest of the Labunia commune, was the focus of the mass deportations and became the namesake for the tragedy.

To mark the honor bestowed on it, the school held a ceremony, inviting various officials, surviving veterans, serving members of the military and police force, and other guests. School students, some of them as young as seven, gave a dance performance in a symbolic re-enactment of what happened during the Second World War.

Details of the Zamosc presentation became national news and a scandal after they were reported by the Polish edition of Newsweek magazine. Critics say the school had gone too far when it decided to dress young kids in the uniforms of the brutal Nazi secret police (the Gestapo, which had been in charge of the wartime operation) and death-camp robes, and to even stage what appears to be a mass execution.

Among the voices blasting the scenography was that of the Auschwitz memorial, which said there were better ways to educate young children about the horrors of the Nazi crimes. “The adults who organized this lack in elementary sensitivity,” it said in a tweet.

Some 232,000 children were murdered at the Auschwitz death camp, including about 3,000 ethnic Poles.

Part of the anger is probably directed not at the poor artistic taste but rather the speeches that were delivered during the naming ceremony. According to Newsweek, some of the speakers told children that Poland was still owed reparations from Germany while the head of Labunia warned them that left-wing politicians wanted to eradicate God from the national culture. A Polish NGO apparently was so offended that it intends to file a complaint about public incitement of violence against leftists.

Facing the criticism, the school has since deleted photos of the performance from its webpage. Footage and pictures are still widely available in the Polish media, however.

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