The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum has called on the leading online retailer, Amazon, to stop selling anti-Semitic literature on its website. The museum is located on the site of the former Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp in Oświęcim, Poland. It took to Twitter to condemn the internet giant and its founder, Jeff Bezos, for allowing its marketplace to sell anti-Semitic children’s books. These books date back to the 1930s when the Nazi regime was in control of Germany and, later, much of occupied Europe. The books are available to buy in both German and English language versions.
The Auschwitz Memorial Organisation, which is run by the museum, tweeted in February that it had found, “hateful, virulently anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda” available via the mainstream retailer. The official Twitter account of the museum went on to single out the internet giant by making it clear that such material was available to buy, “not only on @AmazonUK, [but it could also]… be found on @amazon and @AmazonDE.”
The museum made it clear that it thought Amazon was wrong to stock books by notorious anti-Semites. “Such books should be removed immediately,” its Twitter post read. The museum’s social media account also included a couple of screenshots taken of some of the anti-Semitic literature it had found on the book-selling platform. As well as tagging the various social media handles for Amazon in different countries where the books are available, the museum also tagged Mr Bezos’s personal Twitter account.
The screenshot that the museum chose to use to illustrate its point was of a book named ‘Der Giftpilz’ by Julius Streicher. Born in 1885, Streicher was one of the most prominently anti-Semitic party members during the early Nazi period. He joined the party in 1921. Streicher later founded and then edited the notoriously racist ‘Der Stürmer’, a periodical which ran specific hate campaigns against individual Jews and which took an overall anti-Semitic tone in all of its coverage. Streicher took part in the 1923 attempted coup d’état in Nuremberg which saw several leading Nazis jailed. He was later prominent in the so-called Kristallnacht series of events in 1938 which led to many synagogues in Germany being damaged or destroyed.
The museum’s Twitter post made it clear that ‘Der Giftpilz’, a supposedly children’s book, was still available to buy on Amazon despite having first come out in 1938 when Streicher was a senior Nazi official. The screen grab also showed Streicher’s venomous work in its English language translation where it goes by the name of ‘The Poisonous Mushroom’. In addition, the museum claimed that versions of Streicher’s anti-Semitic work could be purchased via Amazon in French and Spanish.
Thanks to the Auschwitz Museum drawing attention to the issue of a mainstream retailer selling such racist literature aimed at children, others called for the company to take action. For example, the UK’s Holocaust Education Trust said that Amazon had no place selling Nazi literature. Their Twitter account backed the museum’s stating, “Nazi propaganda has no place on the electronic bookshelves of our country.” That trust went on to call on Amazon UK to immediately remove the Nazi propaganda it has for sale to British consumers.
Although Amazon acknowledged both the trust’s and the museum’s concerns, it made no public commitment to remove the offending material from its site. In a statement issued to the New York Times, the company said that it believed in providing access to what it referred to as ‘written speech’. “[This includes]… books that some may find objectionable, though we are listening to feedback,” the statement continued.
Nevertheless, the Auschwitz Museum continued to keep up the pressure on the American-based tech company. “When you decide to make a profit selling vicious anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda published without any critical comment or context,” the museum tweeted, “you need to remember [where] those words led.” The museum’s social media post said that Streicher’s publications led not only to the holocaust but also to many other hate crimes motivated by his anti-Semitic words. Streicher was hanged for crimes against humanity in October 1946.
About the author – Manuel Charr
Manuel Charr is a journalist working in the arts and cultural sectors. With a background in marketing, Manuel is drawn to arts organizations which are prepared to try inventive ways to reach new audiences.