Wizz Air markets Auschwitz as must-see, fun vacation spot
Budget airline touts majestic fortress, panoramic views, leisure activity in Polish town
The Wizz Air discount airline has come under scathing criticism in Israel for featuring the city of Auschwitz as a must-see tourist destination with nary a mention of the at least 1 million people, most of them Jews, who were murdered there.
Writing in Ha'aretz, journalist Ofer Aderet describes how on a flight from Tel Aviv to Warsaw, he was surprised to read an article entitled "Must-See Places in Poland" in the June 2014 issue of the Wizz Inflight Magazine.
One of the places highlighted was the Polish city of Oswiecim, better known as Auschwitz, which the magazine promoted without mentioning the mass murder for which the city is notorious.
“Welcome to the city of Oswiecim," the magazine reads, "where you can enjoy walking through the narrow alleyways of the ancient city, or climb up to the top of the hill and visit a majestic fortress from the middle ages.”
The fortress’ museum features a “40-meter-high tower offers an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding area.”
The magazine does mention Jews, but in a way that might lead one to believe that Jews enjoyed a harmonious history in Auschwitz.
“Don’t miss the recently renovated synagogue, where you can learn about the mix of Jewish and Polish culture in Oswiecim,” reads the magazine.
The magazine also mentions a marketplace with remnants of the 16th-century city hall “mysterious churches,” as well as "a beautiful park just a stone’s throw away from the city, along the Sola river…it’s the perfect place for bike riding, skating…or just doing nothing at all. Come enjoy!”
In another section of the article on Poland, the magazine mentions the camp in passing. "And then there’s the beautiful forest outside of Oswiecim. Many of you have perhaps already visited the nearby concentration camp, but did you know that the forest features an incredible fortress, which looks out over narrow, winding streets, as well as a serious of exciting events throughout the year?"
In other words, Aderet argues, the omission was an editorial decision.
"I believe Wizz Air crossed the line when it sought to market the city to tourists -- including Israeli tourists, who boarded their flights in Tel Aviv -- as a tourist attraction in and of itself, regardless of the death camp."
The Polish Embassy in Israel told Ha'aretz the materials mentioned in the story are not connected in any way to Polish authorities. "We are not responsible for PR products of private foreign companies and we deeply understand sensitivities related to Oswiecim, where the biggest German Nazi Death Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was located."
“Wizz Air confirms that an advertisement, produced by the tourism office of the Polish city Oswiecim, was published in the June/July edition of its inflight magazine. Regrettably the advertisement was perceived as offensive by some readers because the city, known as Auschwitz during the German occupation, promotes its cultural heritage and regional landscape with no mention of the memorial at the Auschwitz death camp," a statement from Wizz Air said.
"While Wizz Air does not drive the advertisement strategies of the regions it flies to, the editorial introduction to a series of Polish adverts in our inflight magazine referred to the Auschwitz concentration camp as a site open to visitors. However, some media coverage was inaccurate and misrepresented both the editorial introduction and the advertisement. Wizz Air has carried over 50,000 passengers on its Tel Aviv routes to Warsaw and Katowice since the end of 2013 and we understand that many Israeli travelers use our services to visit beautiful Poland and to visit the sites of Jewish heritage and history, including holocaust memorials. Wizz Air apologises for any offense caused by this advertisement produced by the Oswiecim city tourism office.”