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.