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July 3, 2015 5:05 pm

Major Jewish Group Offers to Lead Google Team on Tour of Concentration Camps

avatar by Shiryn Solny

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Auschwitz Entrance. Photo: Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

The Google game Ingress included concentration camps as points of interest. Photo: Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum.

A leading Jewish group offered to organize a week-long visit to Nazi concentration camps for the team behind a Google smartphone game that included the death camps as points of interest.

“The fact that such as idea would be raised, considered and approved shows that they need to shut off the computer and do some real learning,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Algemeiner on Thursday. “So if they’re interested, we would be very happy to create an itinerary for them that I think would open their eyes.”

Google came under fire this week after a German newspaper reported that a new augmented multiplayer game developed by one of its start-ups approved the inclusion of the Nazi concentration camps.

In the game, called Ingress, players take on missions to unlock virtual portals and fight for humanity. Ingress adds historic locations to the game after suggestions are submitted by players and approved by staff.

Soon after the uproar, Google apologized for including the Nazi death camps and promptly removed them.

Cooper said the inclusion of the death camps was “totally inappropriate” and added that Google’s apology was “an indication that they blew it.”

Cooper spoke to The Algemeiner from Europe while on a tour this week of Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps in Poland. Google’s managers and the team behind Ingress would “gain a lot” from such a trip, he said.

“This game shows there is something skewed, something missing. There are pieces missing,” he said. “And the best way to fill in those pieces is not by watching two or three movies about the Holocaust, but actually going and spending some time on the ground and to understand the human dimension of what transpired. And that was the spirit in which I made the offer.”

Among its many activities, the Simon Wiesenthal Center works to trace the use of technology as neo-Nazi propaganda. The group condemned the creation of “Holocaust games” in Austria in the late 1980s.

Even if people have heard of Nazi Party leader Adolph Hitler and they are familiar with the happenings of World War II, they still may need to develop a “more profound understanding” of why World War II was different from any other war, Cooper explained. There are so many questions about Jews and Roma being targeted, the gas chambers and other aspects of the Holocaust that can only be answered, learned and absorbed through real life experiences, such as visits to the sites of the concentration camps, he said.

“You’re not gonna get those answers in Wikipedia,” Cooper said.

The Google team, he said, lacked a “deeper understanding” of what took place at the death camps.

“If they would been standing with me this past Tuesday at Auschwitz where you see the thousands of pairs of shoes, the baby clothes, the eyeglasses, human hair… anybody who ever has that kind of experience would’ve stood up at that meeting and said, ‘Look, there may be ways for us to harness this kind of technology and even gain in order to teach new parts and lessons, but this isn’t one of them.'”

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  • Kent

    Ingress is about getting people to places, to experience history where it happened. Please see a potentially different perspective of how to use Augmented Reality as an interactive tour guide. Ultimately the majority of ingress agents have the same goals as Rabbi Cooper. We could work together with a better understanding of geolocation technology and detailed historical information. There is a big discussion on the topic here:

  • “Free” social concerns about the inevitable rise in anti- semitism by the Rabbi and another Google experience at the expense of the dead. Free educational games to offset for paying for the non free apps and games.

    Virtual despair and virtual moral relief, virtually fighting to save humanity from a sick real world.The cult of exploitation at it again.Sell baby sell.

    The “sanctioned visit”,the great educational opportunity,how sad and how sick.
    This Rabbi has a lot to learn in my opinion about collaboration with good intentions.
    How weak your moral stance.(Pardon my severe judgement Rabbi, if you must)
    Just say no,act using political power accordingly,mobilize and show the “boycott spark΅ Rebbe!

    I know it is hard for some Jews to do so,perhaps they prefer to turn their cheek and hope someone else will defend them, physically and spiritually!

    The now newly sanctioned purveyors of “content” know extremely well how to push the (your) (political) buttons!

  • This is outrageous…how can any person employed by Google not be educated well enough to understand the horrors of the Holocaust? this is very deeply disturbing… and on many levels.

  • Simone Miller

    and Germany sided with the muslims in the un. Seems like the world never learns anything.

  • I slightly disagree with Rabbi Cooper on certain points. While Wikipedia can inform and deliver a base from which to learn of The Holocaust, it is important that there is a starting point. Those who wish to add to what they know of, will be, like myself, compelled to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. With that journey I too felt the magnitude of what happened in the Concentration and Death Camp. But there has got to be a starting point! I could easily re-write my 3 Books on The Holocaust, with a newer emphasis gained from the experiences gained at Auschwitz and Birkenau. It is not till you stand on that Bloody Site can you form even a remote impression of what it was like for the 1,100,000 Jews Murdered within those confines. It might not be True that there are no Birds over Birkenau, but they kept away while I was there! With irony, they were burning debris that day, so there was ‘Smoke Over Birkenau’.

  • If we are talking Virtual Tours of The Camps, more especially The Death Camps, there is a great need to ensure that the accuracy of the History is ensured. I would hate to see a ‘game’ which depicts what the Jews of The Death Camps had to endure. We have that information from those who Survived and I cannot see any defence of using that terror, horror and hatred in any ‘game’. The Holocaust, as a mark of respect, seeks to honour not only those of the 6,000,000 Jews confined within its terms, but those Jews who we compel to relive their ordeal!

  • steven L

    It is all about moral relativism and the teaching of IGNORANCE and the so called “political correctness” to the youth of the West.