LONDON, England - A tourist attraction popular with children has sparked fury by displaying a model railway version of Auschwitz complete with cattle trucks, labourers' huts and barbed wire.
A Holocaust survivor was among those to criticise Birmingham's Wonderful World of Trains and Planes for the 'crass' miniature railway set of the infamous concentration camp.
The static train set is a dark addition to the intricate village green, mountain and woodland rail layouts at the venue, which is popular with children and model enthusiasts.
The detailed model of Auschwitz, where at least 1.3million people were slaughtered during the Second World War, shows a train entering the Nazi death camp.
The model of the camp where around a million Jews were murdered is situated next to a 1930s seaside scene and Swinging Sixties London in the tourist attraction.
The exhibit claims it 'will take you on a journey of adventure past, present and future'.
Matt Lawson, a Holocaust expert from Edge Hill University, said: 'It's a step too far and I really don't understand the thought process. Did someone wake-up one morning and say, "you know what this place needs..."
'I think the Holocaust is a vital part of kids' education. But I also think that during a light-hearted, family day out to suddenly be confronted by a model of a concentration camp is bizarre.
'If it was a prisoner of war camp, maybe it would be OK, but this is a concentration camp. Thankfully, it's a static display. Imagine if the train was moving. I do think it's very unusual, I do think it's out of place.'
Mala Tribich, a survivor of both Ravensbrück and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps who now gives talks on the traumatic experiences, also criticised the model railway.
The 84-year-old said: 'What are they trying to say? They used trains in wartime and trains played a very big part in the Holocaust, they could not have done what they did without trains.
'They were moving millions of people, but then you have to show the whole exhibition in a different context. As it is, it is useless, frivolous, even.'
Visitor to the attraction Simon Hardy said: 'It's just unthinking and crass. Totally bizarre, those are the only words for it.
'It is just not something you put in a train exhibition, it is just not something you put in a fun activity centre where you can play with Scalextric. It's not the kind of thing you buy from a toy shop or even a hobby shop.'
Peter Smith, managing director of Birmingham's Wonderful World of Trains and Planes, defended the piece and said it had proven popular with visitors.
He said: 'It's gone down very well. I have seen people in tears as they realise that without the trains the Holocaust would not have happened.
'For some schools, it's part of their curriculum so we can show it to them. There is nothing moving.'
He pointed out that the attraction has a HS2 high-speed rail link scene, adding that 'some may find that more controversial'.
'Our depiction of a concentration camp is meant as a small reflection on those who suffered during the War. It does not represent Auschwitz or anywhere in particular. However, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was celebrated in January and so our little model is a timely reminder of that,' he said.
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