The casual indifference of Dachau’s selfie-taking Holocaust tourists: Mark Milke

We did not have the same experience as Milke at Dachau during a fall visit.

However, his points are valid, as selfies and other photos are about the person visiting, not about the place and history, whether it be a concentration camp, great works of art at the Louvre or other galleries etc:

So how to explain this unfortunate phenomenon? I’d like to hope it was only the day I visited: it was sunny that morning which can produce a parallel optimism; perhaps overcast or rainy weather would better provoke a somber mood in those walking around the first Nazi death camp. Or maybe it’s the camp’s proximity to Dachau, the town. Neatly arranged townhouses overlook the bunker, with only a fence and a few metres separating them. Normality long ago returned to Germany, including Dachau, and perhaps it is difficult to sustain a sense of unique horror when everyday life continues around the 84-year-old camp, and when so many of those with direct memories of the horrors are no longer with us.

Whatever the explanation, the casual indifference at Holocaust sites is something others have also begun to notice. Last year, Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa set up cameras at Dachau and also at Sachenhausen (near Berlin) and let them roll. He recorded selfie after selfie, along with all the other self-obsessed behaviour all too common in what he labeled “Holocaust tourism.”

One Guardian columnist, reviewing Loznitsa’s documentary, Austerlitz, suggested selfies be banned at concentration camps, though not photography. That’s a sensible proposal, though I found myself unable to even take my camera out of my backpack; to snap a photograph seemed too casual.

Another approach to confronting self-absorbed selfie tourism: shame. Earlier this year Israeli artist Shahak Shapira superimposed cut-outs people had taken at the Berlin Holocaust memorial (including people engaged in yoga and rap poses) over ghastly Holocaust images of starved camp prisoners and corpses in trains. It helped show the disrespect that Holocaust tourism communicates to the dead and to those who were fortunate enough to survive.

It would be too easy though, to blame the young and engage in generational stereotypes. To complain of the ignorance of youth is to engage in circular reasoning—why should young people be expected to know that which they have not been taught? Or that which has not been emphasized? Fact is, if some children or young adults lack historical knowledge and awareness of why such sites should be treated as akin to holy shrines, with the greatest of reverence and respect, the blame falls elsewhere: on adults who by a lack of instruction, presence or example, fail to signal the importance of sober, even somber, remembrance.

Thus, examples matter: As I exited Dachau, walking along a path from the main gate back to the visitor centre, a forty-something fellow trotted by in the opposite direction. He walked casually, licking a fudgesicle, or popsicle or some similar frozen creation. His gait and casual cluelessness said it all: he was approaching just another “attraction” of sorts, as if he were about to enter Disneyland and not Dachau.

Source: The casual indifference of Dachau’s selfie-taking Holocaust tourists –

Catching up

The main story over the past few weeks has of course been the US presidential election and Trump winning the presidency. Far too much commentary both before and after to follow, with the full consequences to be seen once Trump selects his Cabinet and other senior appointments, and his initial acts in office (the appointment of Steve Bannon of Breitbart as chief strategist is hardly encouraging).

As chance would have it, we were visiting the Dachau concentration camp near Munich on voting day. While my knowledge of the Holocaust is generally quite good from books, film and Holocaust centres, along with my time as Canadian head of delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, nothing can bring the horror and scale of horror than visiting an actual site.

In the film Denial (well worth seeing), about Deborah Lipstadt’s legal battle against Holocaust denier David Irving, her lawyer takes time during his visit to Auschwitz to pace the  the camp, as he needs to come to grips with its scale  as part of his preparation of his strategy for the case.

But one of the more interesting moments in the current context was our guide’s discussion of the rise of Hitler and how both the political leadership and institutions failed to prevent his rise. While always aware of the perils of Godwin’s Law, there are some uncomfortable parallels with the rise of Trump, reinforced with Republican control of both houses of congress, and the related authoritarian and undemocratic tendencies among some.

Of course, one of the stories making the rounds is the degree to which Americans vowing to move to Canada will actually do so. Some articles that provide a good selection of immigration experts and lawyers essentially say unlikely (Don’t expect to just pack up and move to Canada, Americans told, Americans eye move to Canada, but immigration not so easy, and in the New York Times, As Americans Look North to Flee Donald Trump, Canada Peers Back in Worry, where I am quoted).

Other news items that I have been following include:

Immigration levels for 2017: Interesting, in contrast to the expectations of much higher immigration levels based on comments by the Minister and the recommendations of the Barton committee of 450,000 per year, the end result was more modest: a new baseline of 300,000, and increase of about 15 percent compared to the previous government. Moreover, there is some rebalancing towards the economic stream (58 percent compared to 54 percent in 2016, but still lower than the 63 percent under the Conservatives).

citizenship-data-slides-033There have been a number of articles pro or against a “big Canada” of 100 million by 2100. I am more convinced by the critical pieces, particularly those by Munir Sheikh, How can immigration improve our standard of living? and Tony Keller A supersized Canada is so 20th century.

Diversity of appointments: With the 41 judicial appointments and 28 Senate appointments in 2016, we can see that the government is largely living up to its commitment to improve diversity (56.1 percent women, 4.9 percent visibility minorities, 7.3 percent Indigenous with respect to judges; 57.1 percent women, 21.4 percent visibility minorities, 7.1 Indigenous with respect to Senators), with the government committing to diversity reporting.

Citizenship judge appointments: It appears that, along with other GiC appointments, there have been delays in appointing citizenship judges, with the result that the number of judges available has dropped to 13 from 26 in place September 2015. As C-24 largely reduced the role of judges to presiding over citizenship ceremonies, this likely has less impact than stated in the article, Waiting to become Canadian: Citizenship ceremonies delayed by judge shortage,
compared to the fee increase and other changes  I have flagged (The impact of citizenship fees on naturalization – Policy Options).

Support for immigration and multiculturalism: A series of somewhat contradictory polls and interpretations, starting with Angus Reid, CBC-Angus Reid Institute poll: Canadians want minorities to do more to ‘fit in’, where roughly two-thirds of Canadians believe immigrants should adopt Canadian values while a similar two-thirds believe immigration levels are just about right. Environics Institute’s Focus Canada – Fall 2016 Canadian public opinion about immigration and citizenship 20 year tracking of support for immigration shows little recent change:

Environics Focus Canada 2016

Environics Focus Canada 2016

Nick Nanos’s survey of What makes Canadians proud of their country? has the following results:

“Asked an open-ended question about what made them proud to be Canadians, the top unprompted response was our commitment to equality/equity/social justice (25.2 per cent), followed by our reputation as peacekeepers (19.4 per cent), multiculturalism (12.0 per cent) and respect for others (11.3 per cent).”

All of which helps explain the divergence of positions among Conservative leadership candidates, ranging from those openly playing identity politics (Blaney, Leitch) to those with inclusive approaches (Chong, Obrai, Raitt).

Candice Malcolm continued her obsessive coverage of Minister Monsef (see Jason Ling’s Some Folks Really Want to Deport Maryam Monsef) and the question of birthplace and possible misrepresentation by her mother in her immigration and citizenship applications. Malcolm legitimately asks whether the government is treating her case differently than other such cases, given a number of revocations in what appear to be comparable cases (Lawyers lose battle for moratorium on contentious part of citizenship law).

However, unless I have missed it, Malcolm has remained silent on whether she supports the C-24 changes that removed the previous right to recourse to the Federal Court, without providing any right to a hearing, unlike Farzana Hassan, who objects to the “unfairness of the law” while still questioning Monsef’s story (Monsef shouldn’t be above the law).