April 4, 2002
Exploiting the Holocaust
Cheap Trips to Auschwitz
If you want to go to Auschwitz on the cheap, all you have to endure is a sales pitch.
A Czech company has come under fire for offering inexpensive daytrips to the site of a former concentration camp in order to sell health equipment.
Aesculab Reisen has been trying to sell $350 "oxygen biogenerators" and health mattresses to tourists who are bused from the Czech Republic to Auschwitz in Poland.
Daytrippers are shown a presentation of the health equipment after "a tasty breakfast" and "a fantastic lunch" on the way to the camp. The several-hundred-mile round trip costs the equivalent of $4.
The story surfaced after a Czech man, who is not Jewish, took exception to an advertising leaflet distributed by the company in his hometown of Hlucin.
"I found a stack of leaflets under the mailbox of our apartment block, and I was so angry that I took them all away and destroyed them," Tomas Blazka said. "I don't agree with the idea of commercializing the Holocaust."
Aesculab Reisen, which launched its first trip last week, said it had no plans to drop the excursions.
Lucie Cervenkova, a sales manager for the company, said the firm would continue the trips on a regular basis as long as there is demand.
Tomas Jelinek, the chairman of Prague's Jewish community, said he did not want to condemn the company without establishing the nature of its trips.
"I support the idea of Czech people going to visit Auschwitz, but I would attack any company strongly if it arranged a tour that was not tasteful or professionally handled with proper lectures and museum visits," he said. -- Magnus Bennett, Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Labor Camp Used in Porn Film
Czech Jewish leaders are shocked about reports that the former wartime transit camp of Terezin is being used to shoot scenes for a pornographic film.
The Czech tabloid Super reported last week that the film, starring top Czech porn star Robert Rosenberg, is set at the end of World War II and will tell the story of how women at the camp were raped by Nazis.
The paper, which printed the story with a collage of a semi-naked woman posing in front of a picture of Terezin, said the film's working title is "How It Was."
Rosenberg, 27, was quoted in Super as saying that the main plot will revolve around Terezin, but there will be no erotic scenes shot inside the former camp, which was also known as Theresienstadt.
"Terezin will not have anything to do with erotica; we don't want to treat the victims of the war with disrespect," he told the newspaper.
But Jan Munk, director of the Terezin Memorial, said he was outraged by the idea that Terezin could be used as a backdrop for a porn film, but there may be a problem in taking the filmmakers to court.
"We will be looking into the legal position, but it may be very difficult to make a case if they are just using pictures of Terezin and mixing them into the film," he said.
Newsstands in the town of Terezin were said to be busy, as people lined up to read the story. The overwhelming reaction was one of disgust.
Rosenberg was unavailable for comment Sunday, but Ruzena Cechova, the mayor of Terezin, has said she plans to contact the police to ascertain whether any laws have been broken. -- Magnus Bennett, Jewish Telegraphic Agency