Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The bright side of ‘dark tourism’

It will only until recently I had even heard of or knew what dark tourism was. It can be defined as tourism that involves travelling to places associated with death and suffering. From looking purely at the definition, it can be hard to understand what the attraction is. After all who would prefer walking around a cemetery than relaxing on a beach?


creating an atmosphere that could allow people to reflect


Most people have been dark tourists including myself. In 2016 I went on a school history trip to Germany and Poland and as part of the trip we visited Auschwitz concentration camp. Prior to going, I was unsure of whether it was a place I even wanted to attend after all it is common knowledge how many people died there in horrendous circumstances.


During my visit, I along with my school and all the other visitors acted in a respectful manner. Each visitor on an official tour had a headset which allowed the tour guide to speak quietly so as not to disturb anyone creating an atmosphere that could allow people to reflect. It was without a doubt one of the eeriest places I have been and was incredibly thought-provoking.


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”


One of my most poignant memories was a quotation that was painted above the door as I entered one of the buildings. The quotation from George Santayana states “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. It was this quotation that confirmed my opinion on tourism to Auschwitz.


Even though it was an emotionally challenging and draining trip it brought a part of history to life for me that is so hard for people to properly understand. Being face to face with the belongings of people that had been imprisoned and died there made an event that affected millions more personal and intimate. People turned from numbers into real-life individuals who had lived just like you and I.


these dark tourists we must challenge


Auschwitz has always been more than a place where many people lost their lives. It is a classroom and a history textbook, all rolled into one. It is a physical reminder of what can happen should power get into the wrong hands and what can happen when dangerous opinions are not challenged. I, for one am in support of people visiting there despite others arguing it no longer has a place in a modern society.


Importantly, there should be limitations to dark tourism. Unfortunately, some people do not act in a respectful manner with people for instance taking selfies at Auschwitz. It is these dark tourists we must challenge, to question the reasons for their visit. Dark tourism should not be the result of a fascination with death or suffering, rather it should be an interest in discovering the truth and learning from history.

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