Doris Fogel of Fort Wayne is a survivor of the Holocaust, which is why she said she was “horrified” when she heard about a local Halloween attraction that features a “gas chamber” among its spooky offerings.
Fogel, president of the Fort Wayne Jewish Federation, is speaking out against a feature of the Haunted Cave at 4410 Arden Drive in Fort Wayne. She said she learned of it last weekend from parents of a teenage girl who had visited the attraction and was disturbed.
“This is absolutely horrible to happen in 2012 in Fort Wayne,” she said.
Russ Gusching, the attraction’s co-founder, said Monday the feature was not meant to offend, but in hindsight, “perhaps a poor choice of words as to how we labeled the room.”
He said visitors enter a box accompanied by strobe lighting inside and out, and the box moves about 3 feet, so that while they leave by the same door they came in, they’re actually at a different part of the cave. For about 20 seconds of the 30-second experience, a harmless white “fog” is pumped into the box.
Gushing said a worker relayed a complaint about the feature Saturday night when he was at the site Sunday.
Fogel said she was also told of an Auschwitz room, but Gusching said there’s no such thing and agreed that perhaps it was a way of describing the gas chamber.
“We have nothing of the sort that is Nazi-related,” Gusching said. “I wouldn’t tolerate any Nazi nonsense.”
The attraction’s Web site, www.hauntedcave.com, lists as “new in 2012, our automatic gas chamber where illusion is the key to escape.” It says the cave has more than 16 themed rooms. It doesn’t mention an Auschwitz or concentration-camp room.
The attraction is open 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday through Nov. 3.
Fogel, in her late 70s, survived the Holocaust by fleeing as a young child with her mother to Shanghai, China, the only place in the world that, at that time, would accept Jewish refugees. Fogel now teaches schoolchildren about the Holocaust and helps organize annual commemorations.
A gas chamber as a Halloween attraction flies in the face of increasing sensitivity to the feelings of Jewish people about the Holocaust, Fogel said.
“I think the public needs to be made aware of this,” she said. “Everybody I’ve spoken to – all you have to say is ‘gas chamber’ and they’re horrified.
“I’m just telling people about it and letting them make their own choice. But I don’t think there’s a Jewish person in town who would choose to go,” she added. “Or anyone who was sympathetic.”