An article in the Daily Mail (UK) reported on a disturbing decision by euthanasia activist, Dr Wim Distelmans who is offering a tour of the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz, a tour that he calls “inspiring.” Distelmans is charging around 600 euro for a tour of the gas chambers and a seminar on the issues surrounding euthanasia.
Distelmans, who operates a euthanasia clinic in Belgium, is known for his involvement in controversial euthanasia deaths including: depressed women, twins who feared becoming blind, a woman with Anorexia Nervosa who was psychologically suffering after being sexually exploited, and Nathan Verhelst who died by euthanasia after a botched sex-change operation. Distelmans is also the President of the Belgium Euthanasia Control and Evaluation Commission.
Sir Gerald Kaufman a Labour MP in the UK said:
‘To make the notorious Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz the centre for a congenial study-trip is preposterous, if not obscene.
‘Whatever one’s views on euthanasia – and I am against – it is abominable to describe Auschwitz as an “inspiring venue”. What went on at Auschwitz and the other death-camps was mass murder of innocents – children, women and men.’
Lord Alex Carlile, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, said:
‘This is shocking. It will cause offence to a lot of people throughout Europe, whichever side of the argument they are on. I am all in favour of people going to Auschwitz to find out the oppression that happened there, but to describe it as an inspiring setting suggests he is either mad, stupid or incompetent.’
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, the British Paralympian, said:
‘To describe Auschwitz as “inspiring” is very upsetting and very disturbing. It is appalling.’
Distelmans responded to the Daily Mail reporter by stating:
‘Firstly, this is not a symposium about euthanasia. It’s a study trip focusing on human rights, suffering and palliative care. We will mention euthanasia, but that is not the main goal of the trip.
The participants are all professionals working in palliative care. They work every day with patients who suffer pain and death.
‘Our main goal is to visit the death camp where all these atrocities took place.
‘Secondly, many of the participants were not in favour of a law on euthanasia, but changed their mind after the law came into action.
‘There is obviously no link between euthanasia in Belgium and what happened in Auschwitz.
‘The Nazis used the term “euthanasia” wrongly.’
According to a leaflet advertising the Auschwitz tour will take place on October 9, and includes a ‘scientific programme.’
The group will also visit Birkenau to see where Jews were herded off the transportation trains and selected to go straight to the gas chamber or to become prisoners.