Some visitors to the German memorial at the former Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp have been spotted sledding over mass graves at the site, prompting officials to demand an end to the tasteless practice, according to reports.
“Sporting activities are a violation of visitor rules and disturb the peace of the dead,” the foundation said in a statement, warning that security guards would be stepping up patrols and trespassers would be reported to police, Agence France-Presse reported.
Foundation director Jens-Christian Wagner told the German news outlet Der Spiegel that “masses” of day trippers gathered recently at the solemn site and that most appeared to have come to frolic in the snow.
“Some of the sledge tracks ended at the mass graves,” Wagner said.
He said he could understand that many families with kids wanted to spend time outdoors amid the coronavirus pandemic, but that appropriate behavior is expected from visitors.
“As time passes, historical sensitivity is fading,” Wagner added.
Buchenwald historian Rikola-Gunnar Lüttgenau told the BBC that sports activities were already banned at the site, yet “last weekend it was used heavily, many sledge tracks were found on the graves, and the car park was full.”“Now because of the pandemic winter sports facilities are closed in Thuringia [region], so they are using the memorial,” he said, adding that disturbing the peace of the dead is punishable by a fine in Germany.
“Unfortunately more and more people have been disrespecting the place, horse-riding or riding motorbikes in the woods,” Lüttgenau said.
More than 76,000 men, women and children died at Buchenwald and the former subcamp Mittelbau-Dora in eastern Germany during World War II. They were either killed by the Nazis or perished through illness, cold or starvation.
In January 2020, then-foundation head Volkhard Knigge warned that unwanted visits from neo-Nazis were becoming an increasing problem ahead of the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation.
“We increasingly find messages in the guest book claiming that Nazism and the concentration camps were sensible and good for the Germans,” he told local media.
Officials at Buchenwald memorial site slam visitors sledding on mass graves The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ New York Post.