Instagramming the Holocaust

In honor of Yom Hashoah, an Instagram account called “Eva’s Stories” was created to post a video adaptation of the diary of a Hungarian Jewish girl named Eva Heiman, documenting her life in the months before she was shipped to Auschwitz. (She died shortly thereafter.) The video, which runs for 70 minutes altogether, was divided into brief snippets that then appeared on the site at 30-minute intervals over the course of a day. Amy Newman Smith comments:

The project’s creators clearly hope that Eva Heiman’s life and words will resonate with girls of today as Anne Frank’s did with girls of earlier generations. . . . The home screen for the project is jarring, an upraised hand holding a cell phone above barbed wire against the backdrop of the ultra-familiar purple-to-yellow gradient of the Instagram corporate logo. Comments on the still images that make up the static Instagram page are apparently not moderated, and both outright Holocaust denials and anti-Semitic canards (Jews controlled the slave trade, etc.) litter the page. As the project is backed by the tech-savvy [Israeli executive Matti] Kochavi, this lapse is hard to understand, unless it was a deliberate attempt to allow the anti-Semites to show their colors. . . .

The [videos’] aesthetic, complete with hashtags (#lifeduringwar) and on-screen effects, will be off-putting to many. In one promotional still, the actresses playing Eva, her cousin, and her best friend pose in colorful period costumes, smiling and seemingly oblivious of the gun-toting German soldier in the background. . . .

As for the question, “What if a girl during the Holocaust had Instagram?,” how can anyone be anything other than pessimistic? Bystanders to the Holocaust saw each piece of legislation that stripped Jews of their rights announced in their daily papers, watched Jewish businesses close or be “Aryanized” under new ownership, and finally with their own eyes saw their Jewish neighbors disappear. Would seeing those events mediated through a 4.7-inch screen have made a difference?

Yet, writes Newman Smith, given the sorry state of knowledge of the Holocaust among today’s young people, even among Jews, perhaps this project is not entirely ill-conceived:

Indeed, according to a survey released last year on Holocaust Remembrance Day, more than 41 percent of millennials don’t even know how many Jews died in the Shoah. . . . [C]learly, the way in which we teach about the Holocaust needs to evolve. If this project . . . spurs other creators to say, “I can do something like this, but with more depth and more nuance,” it will have been a success.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Jewish education, Social media

The Evidence of BDS Anti-Semitism Speaks for Itself

Oct. 18 2019

Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs recently released a lengthy report titled Behind the Mask, documenting the varieties of naked anti-Semitic rhetoric and imagery employed by the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the Jewish state (BDS). Drawn largely but not exclusively from Internet sources, its examples range from a tweet by a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (the “world would be soooo much better without jews man”), to an enormous inflated pig bearing a star of David and floating behind the stage as the rock musician Roger Waters performs, to accusations by an influential anti-Israel blogger that Israel is poisoning Palestinian wells. Cary Nelson sums up the report’s conclusions and their implications, all of which give the lie to the disingenuous claim that critics of BDS are trying to brand “legitimate criticism of Israel” as anti-Semitic.

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Roger Waters, Social media