Holocaust-themed “escape room” game shocks Greek Jewish community

A Holocaust-themed escape room game is taking Greek youth by storm, much to the chagrin of the Jewish community.

The outcry has prompted the company, Great Escape, to change the game’s name — a direct reference to Steven Spielberg’s film on the Holocaust — to “Secret Agent.”
But the game’s goal roughly remains the same: to draw up a list of survivors who will be spared a grisly death by enemy forces — a blurred imitation of the lists featured in the award-winning Hollywood movie.

While the game, advertised prominently on the company’s website, makes no explicit reference to Jews or the Holocaust, initial descriptions featured on Greek websites lured players, challenging them to assist a German businessman, Oskar Schindler, in “saving as many innocent people from the pursuit of SS forces,” in Krakow, Poland.

Officials contacted at the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) have condemned the game, saying they were considering taking action.

“It’s not about antisemitism,” said Vice President Victor Eliezer. “The so-called success of these games hinges on ignorance sweeping [through] Greek society. Ask around, and chances are that most Greeks will tell you Schindler was some sort of rock star or soccer player.”

Escape rooms have become hugely popular throughout Greece. They’re part of a global fad that has small groups of players scrambling to find clues and solve puzzles while trying to find their way out of a themed space within an hour.

The contentious game sprang from the heart of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city and home to a vibrant Jewish community that was almost completely wiped out by Nazi forces in 1943. At the height of World War II more than 44,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps in central Europe. Just a handful of survivors returned to a city that had lost 96 percent of its Jewish community.

“We cannot forget. We shall not forget. We shouldn’t forget,” said David Saltiel, the president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, the country’s EJC affiliate.

Company officials reached by telephone in Thessaloniki angrily refused to comment on the controversy. Company officials in Athens insisted the game bore no link to the Holocaust.


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