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Anti-semitic tour bus finally gets a paint job

A bus in the Czech Republic advertising the Nazi death camp Auschwitz as fun holiday destination seen on an Auto Xaver bus. Photo: autoxaver.com
A huge outcry from the Jewish community has finally put to rest the saga of the most insensitive tour bus in history.

PRAGUE – And just like that, the now infamous tour bus adorned with promises of fun and excitement at … Auschwitz will be rinsed of its insensitive message as its owner has promised to remove the decorations, according to Israeli media.

The reaction was prompted by a slew of sharp criticism of the bus by Holocaust survivors and continual coverage by the media in Israel.

“I’m taking it off today and tomorrow, and it will be gone,” the owner of the tour company that operates the bus, Svatopluk Strava, told JTA on Thursday. “Most of it has been removed already.”

Adorned with the camp’s notorious sign “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work sets you free”), a large Star of David and images of real Jewish victims murdered by Nazi Germany, double-decker bus had sold the concentration camp as a fun holiday destination, emblazoned with the text “Come to Auschwitz — A journey through emotions,” and “Our guides speak Czech!”

Insensitive? You bet. But that was the idea when the bus was originally made as a film prop for a satirical movie by Czech director Vit Klusak that analyzes the emerging Holocaust tourist industry in Eastern Europe. That is until it was sold to a local tour company who left the disturbing decorations intact.

“While working on the scene, we came across the strange world of the adventure tourism industry in the former death camps,” Klusak told JTA. “Our bus was a critical reflection of this phenomenon. I think it is extremely absurd and tasteless that Auschwitz and Terezín are being advertised just like Disneyland or Niagara Falls.”

After the filming was finished and the bus sold, the bus owner failed to make sure the satirical design was taken down, drawing numerous complaints.

The new bus owner Svatopluk Strava Auto Xaver, in Blucina had refused to act on the complaints, stating that he cannot afford the new paint job the removal would cost.

Klusák said the producers would pay for the removal, but Strava was concerned the paint on the bus could be damaged in the process and decided to keep the design. He used the bus for several trips to Auschwitz, but soon heard from the Czech Jewish leaders.

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Bohemist is an upstart news outlet serving the Czech Republic. Feel free to write us at editor@bohemist.cz.

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