A Cambridge college has apologised after handing students a pamphlet advertising a “welcome service” adorned with the Auschwitz “work brings freedom” slogan.
Images of the concentration camp gates bearing the slogan "arbeit macht frei" was printed on the front cover of a programme for a welcome chapel service for new students at Emmanuel College.
College Dean Rev Jeremy Caddick defended the pamphlet which was produced for a service held on Thursday. He rejected the suggestion that the cover slogan was a "sick joke" about how hard students will have to work at university, saying that he found this “infuriating”.
Rev Caddick said the image and slogan had been used to promote a sermon which was a "reflection" of the college choir's visit to the Nazi death camp last year.
"The point of putting the picture there is that it is an iconic image of evil,” he said. "The first thing I'll do in the service is explain why it is there. It is a sermon about our response to gross evil."
However the college later apologised for the use of the image, acknowledging that without the necessary context it “may have upset people”.
A second-year student at the college said: "I just saw the programmes for the welcome service the Dean is doing and they have put a big picture of the entrance to Auschwitz on the cover.
"The students who have seen that are understandably upset. The welcome service is being targeted at first-year students and is being held in the chapel.
"There will be quite a lot of Jewish students seeing this. I have no idea at all what the possible aim of this is or whether it's some kind of joke about entering university life.
"I cannot imagine any reason. I am conscious there are a lot of very upset students at the moment, though."
Rev Caddick said the sermon was inspired by the story of Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish priest who had voluntarily taken the place of another prisoner at Auschwitz who was due to be killed.
He said Maximilian's sacrifice to save the other prisoner's life was reminiscent of the death of Jesus, and he refuted the idea they would ever make a joke about the Holocaust.
An Emmanuel College spokesman said: "We understand that without context this image may have upset people and we apologise for its use in a way that has caused distress. In the service, its use will be explained."