Kraków, Poland – According to the latest Global Attractions Attendance Report, Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland grew attendance sufficiently to earn a place among the 20 most visited museums in Europe for the first time.
“Not an easy feat in this mature market”, claims the report published by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the Economics practice at AECOM. The report is said to be “the definitive annual attendance study for the themed entertainment and museum industries”.
2.3 million visitors in 2019
With 2.1 million visitors recorded in 2018, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, situated on the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Oświęcim in Poland, has been ranked among the 20 most visited museums in Europe, coming at the 19th position.
“The museum preserved a Nazi concentration camp to document Holocaust atrocities perpetrated during World War II”, explains the report. Its inaugural appearance in the Museum Index has been attributed to “broad awareness created through social media platforms”.
Earlier this month, the museum announced that, in 2019, 2.3 million people from all over the world visited the sites under its protection, which is about 170,000 more than in 2018.
Mass tourism in Auschwitz has however come under scrutiny in recent years after officials tweeted pictures of people standing on the camp’s infamous railway tracks for pictures and taking selfies. The post that went viral asked visitors to “respect” the memory of the dead and behave with due solemnity. In 2014, an American teenager received death threats after a picture of her grinning at the former camp went viral.
After two Hungarian tourists were found guilty of stealing bricks and an Irish tourist was charged with defacing a memorial in 2018, some even argued that Auschwitz should not be marketed to tourists.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was created in April 1946 by Tadeusz Wąsowicz and other former Auschwitz prisoners, under the direction of Poland’s Ministry of Culture and Art. According to the official statement, it was planned to present the extermination of the peoples conquered by the Germans and to highlight the fact that the German atrocities were committed on a mass scale, while steering clear of “the macabre” and using only suitable visual elements.
In 1979, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
An anniversary under tension
World leaders are due to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at a January 23 ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda announced he won’t be attending the event after he was not allowed to give a speech.
This comes amidst ongoing controversies surrounding the use of the expression “Polish death camp“, as well as deteriorating relations between Poland and Russia, accused of “post-Stalinist revisionism”. Relations with Israel have also deteriorated after Poland passed a controversial law making it illegal to blame the Polish state or nation for Nazi crimes during World War II.
Poland itself will be organizing an official commemorative ceremony a few days after the Israel event, on the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, which marks the actual 75th anniversary of the liberation and is commemorated worldwide as part of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day since 2005.
Last month, Angela Merkel visited the death camp for the first time in her 14 years in office, at the invitation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, an organization set up ten years ago by former Polish Foreign Minister and ex-Auschwitz inmate Wladyslaw Bartoszewski.
A record-breaking year for most popular museums in Europe
The Louvre in Paris (10.2 million visitors) and the Vatican Museums (6.8 million) were the two most visited museums in Europe, followed by London’s British Museum (5.9 million), Tate Modern (5.8 million) and National Gallery (5.7 million). London’s Natural History Museum, its Victoria & Albert Museum, St Petersburg’s State Hermitage, Madrid’s Reina Sofía and the Centre Pompidou in Paris complete the Top 10.
The Louvre’s record-breaking 10.2 million visits also makes it the world’s top-attended museum above Beijing’s National Museum of China (8.6 million) and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (7.4 million).
According to the report, temporary exhibitions and geopolitical changes continue to serve as key attendance drivers for museums in Europe, the global market leader. New drivers include the successful engagement and expanded use of multiple marketing channels, particularly social media platforms and new online ticketing systems. The path to continued success and growth for Europe’s museums also includes special events and new collaborations with well-recognized celebrities.
Photo credit: Piotr Malecki/Bloomberg via Getty Images