Cambridge University students are confused and upset after a welcome program for one of its colleges featured an image of Auschwitz, a disturbing reminder of Nazi genocide and war crimes during the Second World War.
Cambridge News reports that students are “very upset” after glimpsing the peculiar cover art. Emmanuel College has apologized for the usage.
The image shows the gates of Auschwitz, with the slogan “arbeit macht frei” (“work makes you free”). The pamphlet was for a welcome service in the college’s chapel on Oct. 5.
The school’s dean told Cambridge News that the image was used as an “iconic image of evil” and was to be juxtaposed against a sermon highlighting evil and ways to remedy and resist it.
Yet still, an unnamed second-year student at the college said, “The students who have seen that (cover) are understandably upset…It is quite a major moment for students…There will be quite a lot of Jewish students seeing this (as well).”
In his interview with the Cambridge News, the student added, “I have no idea at all what the possible aim of this is or whether it’s some kind of joke about entering university life. I cannot imagine any reason. I am conscious there are a lot of very upset students at the moment, though.”
The schools Dean, Rev. Jeremy Caddick, told the paper that the image was never meant to upset anyone.
Caddick added that the insinuation that it was a “sick joke” is “infuriating” and that the image was to be coupled with a sermon inspired by a trip the school’s choir took in 2016.
Their trip, Caddick said, featured a stop at the camp. The dean added that the sermon was to open with a point of clarification about the photo.
Caddick also said the sermon was inspired by the story of a Polish priest who took the place of another Auschwitz prisoner who was subject to be killed.
The story of the priest, named Maximilian Kolbe, is reminiscent of Jesus’ tale, Caddick told Cambridge News.
“Any suggestion we are making sick jokes about the Holocaust is infuriating,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Emmanuel College said, “We understand that without context, this image may have upset people and we apologize for its use in a way that has caused distress.”
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