Online retailer Redbubble was forced to remove several items from its site after the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum condemned it for allowing products depicting scenes of the concentration camp.
The products, including a $45 throw pillow and $40 mini skirt, used photographs of the electronic fence, guardhouse and train tracks at the notorious Nazi death camp in occupied Poland, where hundreds of thousands of Jews and other minorities were put to death from 1940 to 1945.
“Do you really think that selling such products as pillows, miniskirts or tote bags with the images of Auschwitz — a place of enormous human tragedy where over 1.1 million people were murdered — is acceptable?” the Auschwitz Memorial wrote in a tweet, calling the casual use of concentration camp photos “disturbing and disrespectful.”
Redbubble, an online merchant that sells print-on-demand products of user-submitted artwork, responded promptly. In a tweet, the Melbourne, Australia, company thanked the Auschwitz Memorial for alerting it about the products and said it was working to remove them and other items that similarly violated Redbubble’s community guidelines.
“Redbubble takes a strong stance against racism and violence, including the atrocities committed in Nazi concentration camps, and scan specifically for this type of content daily,” a Redbubble spokeswoman said in a statement to The Post. “We have taken immediate action to remove the works identified by The Auschwitz Memorial, and apologize that it was necessary. We are continuously working to ensure that we are able to keep offending content of this nature off of Redbubble and will be further adjusting our policies moving forward.”
In the tweets, Redbubble also emphasized that users upload items to the site themselves and must “take responsibility” for them. The site’s community guidelines prohibit work that glorifies or trivializes violence.
“Works that deal with catastrophic events such as genocides or holocausts need to be sensitively handled,” the guidelines state. “Works that have the potential to cause the victims serious distress may be removed.”
From 1940 to 1945, more than 1.3 million people were imprisoned at Auschwitz, including nearly 1 million Jews, as well as non-Jewish Poles, Soviet prisoners of war and people of other nationalities. Inmates toiled as forced laborers and were subjected to brutal “medical experiments.” More than 1.1 million people were murdered in the gas chambers at the Auschwitz complex.
Other companies have come under public criticism for products trivializing the Holocaust in recent years. In 2014, Zara was criticized for selling a striped children’s T-shirt with a six-pointed yellow sheriff’s badge that resembled the prison garb that concentration camp prisoners were forced to wear. In 2015, Urban Outfitters faced similar reproach over a gray-and-white-striped tapestry with a pink triangle that bore parallels to uniforms gay prisoners were forced to wear in concentration camps.
“Whether intentional or not, this gray and white striped pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture,” Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a letter condemning the chain.
Even after the original items were removed from Redbubble’s site, the Auschwitz Memorial Twitter account identified another offensive item: a T-shirt bearing a cartoon of a bearded man in a top hat that read, “Dr. Holocaust wants you to get a beard.”
"We have been wondering if “the nature of this content” is also “not acceptable” for you and is “not in line with your Community Guidelines,” the account tweeted. Redbubble had not yet responded.
The Auschwitz Memorial has also recently taken tourists to task for disrespectful behavior on its grounds, including those who took photos of themselves balancing on the train tracks.
“There are better places to learn how to walk on a balance beam than the site which symbolizes deportation of hundreds of thousands to their deaths,” the memorial tweeted in March.