(Image Credit: Getty Images)
The news: Walmart has apologized to its customers after it realized that it was accidentally selling a poster depicting the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau on its website. Complete with a sign prominently displaying the infamous "Arbeit Macht Frei" slogan, the piece was billed as "a great addition to your home or office."
Eeeesh. Unless you work at the Holocaust Museum or your favorite movie is Apt Pupil, it's hard to see why anyone would want this creepy and distasteful poster.
The problem: The "Arbeit Macht Frei" slogan translates to "work makes you free" and was located on the front gate of Dachau, a Bavarian Nazi concentration camp that held Jews, political prisoners, foreigners and run-of-the-mill criminals. Over 200,000 people were imprisoned at Dachau and up to 41,500 of them died. The phrase also appeared at other Nazi work and extermination camps, including Auschwitz I and Gross-Rosen.
According to Digiday, Amazon and Sears also listed and then pulled down the item, suggesting it came from a common distributor. Sears' mistake may have been even worse than Walmart's: writer Jennifer Mendelsohn tweeted that the Sears listing that came with suggestions for “similar items” included double wall ovens.
The Facebook group Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors complained publicly that "It's astonishing that 70 years removed from the Holocaust American stores want you to purchase 'Arbeit Macht Frei.'"
In a statement, Walmart said:
"We were horrified to see that this item was on our site. We sincerely apologize, and worked quickly to remove it. The item was sold through a third-party seller on our marketplace. We have shared our disappointment with them and have learned they are removing the publisher of this item entirely from their inventory."
Sears said in a statement that the item was posted by a third party and that the retailer had no direct involvement with the listing.
Selling history: It's been noted that institutions like the Holocaust Museum sell similar memorabilia, but they do so for educational purposes and to finance operations to keep the history of the Holocaust alive. (Other museums, like the 9/11 Memorial, have come under sharp criticism for selling merchandise to visitors.) Other World War II merchandise sells well regardless, like a tea kettle that inadvertently resembled Hitler last year. Disturbingly, the Nazi memorabilia trade is still thriving.