Sunday, September 06, 2009

Dark Tourism is Edutainment

Dark tourism is a term used to describe the visitation of sites that were once associated with death, suffering or disaster. Creating visitor attractions that serve as edutainment facilities at these sites is something that does not sit comfortably with many people and raises the ethical and moral question as to whether it is ‘right’ to do so. Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in Poland, is one of the sites of the world’s single largest atrocity in history, the genocide of Jews by Nazi Germany in the Second World War. The ‘final solution’ at Auschwitz lead to over a million people - mostly Jews, but also prisoners of war, political objectors, homosexuals, and gypsies (amongst others) from all over Europe being gassed, worked, starved, and tortured to death. In 1947 a museum was built at Auschwitz, to commemorate those who had died and to educate visitors as to the true atrocities that occurred there. In 1979 Auschwitz was made a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in recognition of the unique role that it played in history, and to promote peace amongst future generations through education of past atrocities. To date 25 million people have visited the museum (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, 2008), with this number set to rise even further with the increase in the number of budget airlines that are flying to nearby Krakow from other European destinations. The very notion that such a setting could be considered an entertainment venue is a very uncomfortable one for many. But this is considering the word entertainment as something ‘light’ or ‘happy’ which is an outdated use of the word. Auschwitz features exhibits that are designed to educate visitors, and in doing so often causes an emotional response amongst those who feel an empathetic connection with what they are seeing, hearing and reading about. This is edutainment at its most raw controversial edge, but it is undeniably edutainment, it is both captivating and educational, and participated in by (mostly) tourists as part of their recreation.


Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. (2008) Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. [Internet] ABSM, Poland. URL available from: Accessed 20th July, 2008.

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