A congressman from Louisiana was rebuked by the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum after the Republican legislator filmed and posted a message Saturday from the notorious Nazi concentration camp's gas chambers.
In a video posted July 1 from the Poland death camp, Rep. Clay Higgins described how Zyklon B, a poisonous gas, was released into the chambers, killing thousands of people at a time.
"They could murder 2,000 people at a time," Higgins said in the video. "Great sense of dread comes over you in this place."
"This is why homeland security must be squared away, why our military must be invincible" Higgins, who sits in the House Homeland Security Committee, said into the camera.
In the background of the video, a solo violin played while images from the memorial are shown. The music appears to be a violin solo of the theme music to Schindler's List.
"The world's a smaller place now than it was in World War II," Higgins said. "The United States is more accessible to terror like this, horror like this. It's hard to walk away from the gas chambers and ovens without a very sober feeling of commitment – unwavering commitment – to make damn sure that the United States of America is protected from the evils of the world."
On Tuesday, the memorial responded on Twitter to the congressman's video, stating that visitors should observe "mournful silence" when visiting the former gas chambers.
"It's not a stage," the memorial said in a tweet.
The museum's Twitter account also shared a photo of a sign that sits at the entrance of the building where thousands of people were murdered, asking those entering to "show respect for their memory."
On Wednesday, the Louisiana congressman removed the video from YouTube and apologized, saying that his "intent was to offer a reverent homage to those who were murdered in Auschwitz and to remind the world that evil still exists, that free nations must remember and stand strong."
"However, my message has caused pain to some whom I love and respect," he added in a statement. "For that, my own heart feels sorrow."
However, not everyone has accepted the congressman's apology.
The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, which addresses civil and human rights issues in the US, pointed out Higgins never mentions "Jews," "holocaust," or the fact that the majority of those killed at the concentration camp were Jewish during his five-minute video.
"Though forgiveness is a cherished value in both public and everyday life, Congressman Clay Higgins created his own astounding circumstances that make it impossible to accept his apology for his Auschwitz video - an apology that has come, by the way, only after a day of worldwide criticism," said Steven Goldstein, executive director for the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. "In his supposed apology, Congressman Higgins says he has always been a friend of the Jewish people. But not only was his video an affront to respectful mourning, his video also neglected to mention Jews or the Holocaust."
Instead, Higgins repeatedly talks about the victims of the concentration camp as "poor souls" or "innocent civilians."
The video closes with an image of what appears to be Higgins in the center with his arms raised and the US and Israel flag in the background, but the congressman never talks about the Jewish victims of the camp.
"How on earth can anyone, let alone a United States Congressman, produce a five minute video at Auschwitz, filled with planned-out edits, music and graphics, that ignores the role of Auschwitz in the deaths of one million Jewish people," Goldstein wrote in the statement. "Some friend."
A law enforcement officer from 2004 to 2016, Higgins relied heavily in campaign videos and social media on his experience as a former sheriff's deputy.
In one, he is shown sleeveless and firing an assault rifle into an unknown target before telling viewers, "Tell the world: We're American." Higgins then went on to quote Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, an advocate for land redistribution: "I'd rather die on my feet than to live on my knees."
The video from Auschwitz is not the first time the new congressman has faced backlash for his social media posts.
In June, he was criticized for a Facebook post shortly after a terrorist attack at London Bridge that left seven people dead and dozens of others injured.
"All of Christendom... is at war with Islamic horror," the congressman wrote. "Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter."
"Hunt them, identify them, and kill them," he added. "Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all."
Higgins defended that post in a Washington Post interview, saying that when he used the word "Christendom" he was referring to the Western world, and not calling for a war between Christianity and Islam.
On Wednesday, however, Higgins apologized for his latest social media post.
"I have always stood with Israel and all Jewish people, and i always will," he said. "My Auschwitz video has been removed, and my sincere apology for any unintended pain is extended."
Higgins office did not immediately respond to questions about why Jews were not mentioned in the video.