By Maggie Kuck, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Some of the first victims of the Holocaust where differently abled individuals. Those who were
sent to Auschwitz were immediately directed into a gas chamber. So walking around Auschwitz
with the lens of accessibility would make anyone stop and ponder. For those differently abled
visitors to Auschwitz getting around to many of its exhibits could be next to impossible. The
camp where someone would never have survived long enough to become a prisoner is still
today a place where similar individuals could not fully visit.
According to the Auschwitz website:
“Because of the need to preserve the historical authenticity of the site of the Memorial it
may be difficult for disabled persons to move around the grounds and buildings. In order
to help visitors with disabilities wheelchairs are available free of charge at the Visitor
Should people really be denied the experience of visiting to Auschwitz because of the way they
were born? While one might understand the need to preserve history, accessibility should be a
standard. All individuals should be able, if they so choose, to tour the camp and learn through
seeing and feeling. While the site offers wheelchairs, getting to the exhibits via the paths around
the camp are hard to maneuver. While keeping the original walkways aids visitors in living in the
steps of victims, space could be allocated to lay a modern path. Another potential fix to this
particular dilemma would be purchasing wheelchairs with larger, more durable wheels. This
however does not solve the main problem, the upstairs exhibits.
Jessie Levine, a young woman with Dwarfism shared her experience touring the camp:
“I found that within the exhibits themselves I was easily able to get around. However, the
stairs leading in were quite tall without many railings which made it difficult to enter into
Seeing as it is 2019, there are a plethora of solutions to modify spaces to enhance accessibility.
There are such things are removable ramps that could be added to stairs as well as extra railing
which could be installed along inner and outer stairs. The camp could develop days every
month in which they install accessible technologies that can later be removed. Would that help
find balance in preserving the old while welcoming all individuals? It is hard to say, and the best
way to find a solution would be to work with affected community. That step however, needs to
be taken by the Polish government which holds responsibility for maintaining the camp.
While Auschwitz will always retain its heinous past, it should be the responsibility of its
caretakers to strive for a better future. For those victims who were target since the beginning of
the war, who were always first selected for death, the chance of new generations to understand
the history of the Holocaust’s most murderous camp should not be limited by physical ability.
This post is part of series of articles written by participants on our “We Will Write Our History” writing seminar in Auschwitz. Learn more at http://togetherrestoring.com/writehistory