Auschwitz-themed game aimed at raising Holocaust awareness, company says

(JTA) – An entertainment company in the Czech Republic defended its Auschwitz-themed game from critics who said it was disrespectful to Holocaust victims.

The Dostaň Se Ven agency in Prague, whose name means “Escape,” said its sale of tickets to a game whose objective is to exit a room resembling a gas chamber disguised as a shower at Auschwitz, was to “raise awareness to the Holocaust,” the firm said Monday on its Facebook page.

“We would like to say that we regard this subject with tremendous respect and consideration,” read the statement, which followed a wave of negative reactions online. “We are definitely not doing this just as a joke – quite the opposite! We want to highlight the seriousness of the situation, and we want to make people more aware of history.”

Tickets to the game are on sale for $15 until Jan. 27, the company wrote earlier this month in advertising the game. Jan. 27 is International Holocaust Memorial Day.

Other marketing slogans for the game, in which players use clues to escape from the make-believe gas chamber, include “You are waiting for your last shower! But you can stay alive if you get out.”

Escape room games feature a space, often with a dramatic theme, in which a group of players is locked in until they find a way out based on a series of clues, riddles or puzzles.

Petr Papousek, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, called the game “inappropriate,” the news website Zpravy Aktualne reported Thursday.

Approximately 46,000 of the 56,000 Jews who lived before the Holocaust in what is now the Czech Republic’s territory were murdered at Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp in Poland.

Last month, the Greece-based Rubicon gaming agency canceled the Auschwitz escape room game after advertising it on social media. Jews and non-Jews complained it was disrespectful to Holocaust victims, the left-leaning news website Protagon reported.

“In frozen Poland, the walls of the crematorium of the infamous Nazi concentration camp for prisoners, primarily of Jewish origin, still reek of burnt human flesh, they say,” a promotional text for the game read. “Take on the role of a prisoner still looking for signs of life from loved ones, dare to stay  in the shadow of the historic crematorium, discover the big secret and escape before you, too, turn into ashes.”

Reached by Protagon, a Rubicon spokesman said it had been scrapped and that the decision to create it did not take into account “that this could cause offense.”

A cached copy of the now-deleted page advertising the game on the Rubicon website features three largely positive reviews from this month and the previous one.

Approximately 77 per cent of Greece’s Jewish population of 70,000 Jews was murdered in the Holocaust, mostly by German Nazis at Auschwitz.

Last year, the Anne Frank Foundation criticized an escape room game in a Dutch town that was made to look like the small Amsterdam apartment where the teenage Jewish diarist hid with her family from the Netherlands’ Nazi occupiers during World War II until their capture and subsequent murder. Only her father, Otto, survived.

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