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.'”