chapter  4
12 Pages

Dark tourism – The appealing ‘dark’ side of tourism and more

WithP. Tarlow

This spot symbolizes the pinnacle of European dark tourism. Here in this small Polish town, the victims are counted by millions. Now history reaches the surreal and mixes with it to become postmodern madness. Just as in Europe’s battlegrounds or at its monuments, the past gives way to the present. The visitor may photograph grounds and buildings that have known the agony of death, but modern visitors see only life. Thus, over 50 years from the liberation of Auschwitz’s Jewish population, over half a million people come to visit. Some come to pay their respects, others come out of curiosity or because it is the thing to do. The agony of history becomes a tourism attraction once again. Interestingly enough, even at Auschwitz there is a sense of life-in-process. These

centers are places that vibrate with life and seem to attract youth. Massada’s summit is filled with young people. School children flock to the Alamo, and at Auschwitz there is the annual ‘March of the Living’ when thousands of young Jewish tourists from around the world travel from the darkness of the European death camps to the light of Israeli freedom. The aim of the visit to any of these places is to feel the power of faith, and the idea that from death can come hope.

The phenomena described are examples of what is commonly called technically ‘thanatourism’, more commonly known as ‘dark tourism’. In many cases there is no clear definition of this tourism niche. Lennon and Foley (2002) define dark tourism referring to events that have occurred in recent times, which force the visitor to question modernity. Lennon and Foley (2002: 12) see dark tourism as the ‘commodification of anxiety and doubt’. Others use a broader definition. Marcel (2003) notes: