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Israel students get naked at Holocaust memorial

Majdanek camp, a former Nazi extermination facility used during the Holocaust [M.Bucka/Wikipedia]
Majdanek camp, a former Nazi extermination facility used during the Holocaust [M.Bucka/Wikipedia]

Two Israeli high school students have been caught on CCTV getting naked during a visit to a Holocaust memorial at a former Nazi death camp this weekend, Haaretz has revealed.

The students were visiting Majdanek camp, a former Nazi extermination facility used during the Holocaust. Haaretz reports that the pair were caught dancing naked by the camp's security cameras and were reported to the local authorities. They were later expelled from the trip and flown back to Israel.

Majdanek camp is located near Lublin, central Poland, which was occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. According to Polish law, those who desecrate a monument or other public place commemorating a historical event or person can be punished with a fine or imprisonment, the Times of Israel reported. It added that one student was handed a fine and the second was issued with a warning.

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Speaking about the incident, Israel's Education Ministry said it "views with great severity any behaviour that could harm the status and values represented by the trips to Poland. In the case in question, due to the students' improper and inappropriate behaviour, disciplinary actions have been taken against them to the fullest."

The students are originally from near Beit She'an, situated south of the Sea of Galilee and bordering Jordan and the occupied West Bank. The regional council said that "there will be an investigation of the case to prevent other such cases."

This is not the first time Israeli students have been accused of inappropriate behaviour at a Holocaust memorial. In March, a 19-year-old Israeli was caught urinating on a monument for victims of the Holocaust at Auschwitz. The Israeli was questioned and released after he apologised and accepted a $1,500 fine.

In 2017, an Israeli high school student was suspected of scratching graffiti into a wall of Auschwitz while visiting the concentration camp on a school trip. The image of the graffiti appeared on social media after the event, meaning it was difficult to attribute blame to one individual. Israeli MK Itzik Shmuli condemned the incident, saying that "this is the type of behaviour that we are accustomed to see[ing] by anti-Semites and Nazis, but not by Israeli youth".

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Israel and Poland have been engaged in a diplomatic spat since January, after Poland introduced a controversial law which made it a criminal offence to accuse Poland of complicity in Nazi war crimes. The law called for fines and prison sentences of up to three years for anyone found to suggest such complicity. In response, Israel recalled its ambassador to Poland and Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, had his visit to Poland cancelled by Warsaw.

In February, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stoked further controversy by acknowledging that while there were Polish perpetrators of the Holocaust, there were also "Jewish perpetrators, as there were Russian perpetrators, as there were Ukrainian, not only German perpetrators." Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was quick to rebuke the claims, calling Morawiecki's comments "outrageous" and adding "there is a problem here of an inability to understand history and a lack of sensitivity to the tragedy of our people." Poland has since amended the controversial law.

According to figures from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, around six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust though no exact figures exist. Seven extermination camps were situated in Nazi-occupied Poland, as well as a further five forced labour and concentration camps. The museum of the Majdanek camp states that 78,000 prisoners, 60,000 of which were Jews, were murdered there between 1941 and 1944, the Times of Israel reported.

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