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WWE apologizes for using Auschwitz footage in WrestleMania video package

WWE Live - Tryout Photo by Marc Pfitzenreuter/Getty Images

WWE received some criticism over WrestleMania weekend for using stock footage of Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum — built on the site of the infamous Nazi concentration & extermination camps and to honor the million-plus people who died in them during World War II — in a video package for the Mysterio family feud. But none was as loud or as impactful as when the Twitter account for the Auschwitz Memorial called the incident “shameless” and insulting to the victims of the atrocities committed at the camps.

The images, which were used as a background for Dominik Mysterio’s character-defining “prison stint” from late last year, only appeared in the version of the video which aired during Sat., April 1’s Kickoff show. When the same package was replayed before his match with his father Rey on the event stream, the Auschwitz footage was gone. WWE made sure to point that out when reached for comment by The Washington Post:

In a statement to The Washington Post, a WWE spokesman apologized, calling the footage an error.

“We had no knowledge of what was depicted,” the statement said. “As soon as we learned, it was removed immediately.”

While WWE’s was an error of oversight, The Post’s article spoke to many Holocaust experts who echoed the Auschwitz Memorial’s criticism and explained why the use of the footage was wrong & potentially traumatic for survivors and their families regardless of intent.

“That imagery associated with Nazism, the Nazi genocide, Auschwitz specifically and other concentration camps should be kept within context,” said Brett Ashley Kaplan, who directs the University of Illinois’s Holocaust, genocide and memory studies initiative. “So they should be understood within their historical and also, frankly, their emotional context.”

Mehnaz Afridi, the director of Manhattan College’s Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center, echoed that sentiment.

“What they’re using to garner support is kind of very offensive, especially to people who were in the death camps,” Afridi said. “But also it should be offensive to all of us. I mean, we’re using a death camp to rally people around a fight.”

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