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Amazon Removes Auschwitz-Themed Christmas Ornaments After Uproar

Ian Harvey
Two of the Auschwitz ornaments which were recalled by Amazon. Images from Auschwitz Memorial Twitter
Two of the Auschwitz ornaments which were recalled by Amazon. Images from Auschwitz Memorial Twitter

Amazon is in hot water for wildly inappropriate Auschwitz Christmas ornaments sold on its site for the holiday season. When one thinks of decorations to hang on the Christmas tree, devices needed to open bottles, keepsake key chains, or even pads to slide your mouse upon, the Auschwitz concentration camp is probably one of the last things that come to mind. However, those depictions on those products are exactly what happened and what has caused so much controversy.

Amazon Auschwitz ornaments

Amazon will not be delivering these products.

The day before Cyber Monday, Amazon’s largest shopping event of the year, the company faced extreme backlash over these items for sale on its site which were deemed to be offensive from many groups. Due to a complaint from Auschwitz Memorial, which curates the Auschwitz Museum, Amazon has removed Christmas ornaments, a bottle opener and other items that depict scenes from the camp.

The Memorial site on Twitter claimed that selling Christmas ornaments and bottle openers with images of Auschwitz was inappropriate, disturbing and disrespectful and asked for those items to be removed from their stock.

Not only that, Wired reports that Hqiyaols Ornaments, the maker of the ornaments, sold keychains with photos of Auschwitz advertised for couples for Valentines Day on the Amazon platform. The keychain portrays two rings each with a charm holding a picture of the camp held together by a heart and the words “I Love You” written across it. Not terribly romantic. Another online seller, FCheng, was also selling the items in question and in almost all cases the goods both companies were selling had no reviews or ratings.

Additionally, the company was selling a mouse pad with a long shot of the camp and an ornament depicting the freight car used to transport people there, according to NBC News. Daily News notes that Amazon also removed a beach towel with an image of Auschwitz and the words, “Arbeit Macht Frei” – work sets you free – a slogan that hung at the entrance to the camp after tweets from the Memorial site.

Amazon claims these items are from third party sellers, and, according to CNN, a spokesperson stated that “All sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action, including potential removal of their account. The products in question have been removed.” Amazon does not manually check the wares of third party sellers and waits until complaints are made before taking any action.

It’s not just Amazon either. AP News reported that Australian e-commerce website, Redbubble, advertised items for sale with the same images. Redbubble also removed the items in question after the controversy erupted. As well the company Wish, another ecommerce platform, was also selling the Christmas tree ornaments with pictures of the camp. A spokesperson for Wish apologized for the items, and said that it does its “best to monitor the listings that are uploaded by sellers who use our platform.” They have removed the products as well.

James Thomson, a former employee for Amazon and currently a partner at Buy Box Experts, a consultancy firm that works with Amazon sellers, says Amazon does do some automatic screening before items go up for sale on the site. “If you have certain words in your listings, Amazon will find them right away,” he says. But artificial intelligence is used in most of these cases and oftentimes humans don’t manually review each product, and plenty of items that go against Amazon’s policies can fall through the cracks.

Study: Two-Thirds of U.S. Millennials Can’t Identify Auschwitz

At the current time, Amazon’s seller’s policy is mostly reactive rather than proactive and appears to deal directly with products not including books, videos, and music. Current policy information can be found on Amazon Seller Central pages.