Things That Matter

Some People Are Demanding To Know Why Amazon Has Auschwitz-Themed Christmas Ornaments On Its Site

Most historians believe that there’s a very specific and yet general type of reverence to be held for the devastation caused by genocide. As one of the more well-known, more recent and studied incidents of human genocide, the  Holocaust is one particular event that has garnered sensitivity and respect from those that have heard about its tragedy. The event which took place during World War II and sparked the mass genocide of six million European Jewish people between 1941 and 1945 has stomach turning and heart wrenching details. For most stories from the Holocaust would never be considered a part of a “celebration” of Christian customs.

But a recent set of items on Amazon has not only promoted widespread outrage on social media but alarm and disgust. 

In a tweet shared this past Sunday Morning, the  Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland shared images of holiday ornaments and other products that featured images of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.

According to images posted by he Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, Amazon’s marketplace featured products that included ornaments and a bottle ornament that were “adorned” with images of the Nazi built and operated Auschwitz concentration camp. During its operation, Auschwitz held 1.3 million inmates and killed at least 1.1 million. It is said to have held notable inmates like Anne Frank, her father Otto Frank, Edith Stein and Elie Wiesel. Living conditions for the inmates have been described as deeply inhumane and atrocious with few bathrooms, severe lack of access to clean water. Inmates were starved, deprived of food for breakfast, given watered-down soup for lunch and 1.5 cups worth of bread for dinner. 

It’s easy, with just the above small photograph of details of the atrocities committed in mind, to understand why Amazon’s Christmas products have been slammed as disrespectful and disturbing by Auschwitz Memorial. Particularly when the  products being sold were  tree ornaments, a mouse pad and a bottle opener and featured pictures of the Nazi death camp’s train tracks leading to the entrance of Auschwitz II-Birkenau and a number of scenes inside the camps. While sold on Amazon, the retailer for the ornaments is not Amazon it is in fact a brand called Fcheng which sells a number of other ornaments online. 

Backlash from Auschwitz Memorial, sparked the sharing of their post thousands of times on Twitter and prompted questions about Amazon’s product wedding processes. 

By 1pm that same day, the memorial shared that Amazon had taken down the ornaments and according to The New York Times no-one can be found on Amazon for purchase. According to an Amazon spokeswoman’s statement “all sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action, including potential removal of their account.” 

According to The New York Times, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League  said in a statement that “it is hard to fathom why anyone would want to hang a Christmas ornament adorned with images of a concentration camp. These ornaments are deeply offensive by any measure. We’re relieved that Amazon has removed these items from sale.”

Amazon’s policy on offensive and controversial materials, the site deems products “related to human tragedies” as prohibited. 

The prolixity states that Amazon determines which products are appropriate by considering a “global community of customers and cultural differences and sensitivities.” This decision does not, however, apply to books, music, videos or DVDs that are sold on the site.

According to The New York Times, Chris McCabe, a former Amazon employee and founder of ecommerceChris, a firm that consults with marketplace sellers, said that it is possible that the increased number of product sales for the holidays could have allowed the slip to happen. “The sheer volume of items being sold on Amazon through third-party sellers makes it challenging to identify and remove all offensive items before they are found by the public,” reported NYT before going on to say that McCabe explained that  the volume of products “also makes it impossible for humans to review all items before they are posted. More than half of the products sold on are from third-party sellers.”

It’s not the first time Amazon has had to pull products from its marketplace.

Last year in July, the website had been seen selling onesies for babies that had images by the alt-right as well as Nazi-themed action figures and anti-Semitic books and music. Earlier this year, the site was also found to be selling various products that were offensive to Muslims. Amazon’s streaming service Amazon Prime Video had also been asked to take down various anti-vaccination documentaries that were available to stream.

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