This Yom haShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day, Mati Kochavi, an Israeli billionaire behind 3i-MIND Technologies is launching an Instagram account to depict what the Holocaust would have looked like through a social media lens. The account will be based on the diary of a real girl named Eva Heyman. “If we want to bring the memory of the Holocaust to the young generation, we have to bring it to where they are,” he said. I vehemently disagree.
I think it’s unethical to rewrite history to fit such a narrow-minded perspective of the world. We should be teaching people to open their minds to try and understand what the horrors of the Holocaust may have looked like to people their age who didn’t have the luxuries we do today. Are young people that narcissistic that they need to have history molded to adhere to such a superficial lens? Isn’t studying and remembering history about trying to see things from the perspectives of those who bore witness to it?
I find this project deeply disturbing. While there is some good intention in trying to make the story of victims of the Holocaust relatable to young people today, the introduction of hypotheticals, especially involving such a shallow app such as Instagram, into the narrative cheapens our tragedy. There is value in utilizing technology to enhance information sharing and education, but not with an app based on self-image which encourages vanity and narcissism on such a deep societal level.
Remembering the Holocaust is not supposed to be a fun and creative experience, it’s supposed to be difficult, unrelatable and even uncomfortable. Walking through Yad Vashem or through the gates of Aushwitz transports us back in time to evoke raw emotions and to help us understand what the world looked like during a time filled with difficulties that we will never be able to fathom. It’s not our place to insert our trivial ways of life into the untouchable darkness of the past.
The Diary of Anne Frank is an extremely powerful way for young people to catch a glimpse into the human experience of living in Nazi-occupied Europe. She wrote about humanity in a way that young people living in any century should be able to relate to – the joys and fears that come with adolescence, family, friendship, sexuality, curiosity about the world and the journey of self-realization. Despite the effects which social media has had on our society, I don’t think that the youth of today are so vapid and technology-obsessed that they need Instagram to help them relate to these universal ideas on a meaningful level. I actually find it quite patronizing that the creator of the Eva Heyman Instagram campaigns thinks that they do.
If catering historical education and remembrance to suit our present realities becomes a trend, instead of encouraging people to open their minds to thinking about the world in ways that are unfamiliar to and even uncomfortable for them, then I fear that perhaps someday soon we won’t be able to grasp the idea that there are or have ever been realities different than our own.