Chaya Tal
Blogger, social activist, border crosser

On Instagram, the Shoah has now a face

Screenshot from the Instagram page
Screenshot from the Instagram page

Today the Jewish world commemorates the Holocaust Day (Yom haShoah) on its Hebrew date. There is a monumental project I would like to introduce to you, in case you haven’t yet heard about it.

The project is called “Eva’s Stories”, is featured on Instagram and is based on the biography and diaries of a young Jewish girl living Hungary named Eva Heyman. The story begins with Eva’s 13th birthday in February 1944 and the following German occupation of Hungary. The idea behind it is to document the impact of Hitler’s invasion in Hungary on the Jews through the eyes of a young girl which for this purpose is imagined to have a smartphone, recording her life and all that happens around her and uploading it to her Instagram story. Eva herself unfortunately didn’t survive the Holocaust and perished in Auschwitz months after her birthday.

This project, written and realised by Israeli-American billionaire Mati Kochavi and his daughter Maya, is outstanding in its way of presentation, and in my eyes it in no way cheapens the Shoah as some have accused it to do, but on the contrary provides a new insight and facilitates in a smart way a direct approach to the topic for those who feel distant from it, meaning mainly the new generation which cannot truly imagine the Shoah reality, due to the time which has passed and changed. I believe that because there is little connection

Eva and her grandfather – screenshot from the Instagram page

between our everyday life and the reality of the Second World War, it is really not easy to develop any sincere emotions concerning it apart from certain collective identification. Eva’s Stories show a bright and beautiful girl full of life, whose formerly happy world grows darker and darker following the historical developments and finally breaks apart, with her taking the difficult decision to document the events which she eventually becomes a victim of herself.

As to me, the Instagram project is doing what many movies have done before to assist its viewers to develop a certain understanding of the life of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, even after much history that has happened after it. It’s just that a new type of media is being used for this. It does what also the book “The color of time” by illustrator Marina Amaral did when it featured historic photographs from the Holocaust in colours, turning the horrors of that time into close and relatable.

The real Eva Heyman, as photographed in in Hungary months before she was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. (TOI/Yad Vashem via AP)

In a time and place where all social networks have been infested with antisemitic conspiracies and accusations coming from right and left, religiously motivated Jew hatred is being promoted openly with pictures and videos and young people doubting or denying the Holocaust without a single thought; where pages featuring incitement to deadly violence against Israelis or users naming themselves “We fight for the white race” exist without being bothered or held accountable for spreading their horrific messages and and respect to the Holocaust victims has long time ceased to be self-evident, it’s obvious that the educational vacuum has to be filled urgently and a balance of correct historic knowledge and humanisation instead of demonisation of the victim needs to be pushed through. The Shoah and its victims are being delegitimised every day anew, poisoning the public sphere and infecting young and ignorant minds with dangerous ideas and concepts. Someone has to be there to offer an alternative and touch their hearts. And if Instagram’s Eva Heyman won’t do it, who else will?…

I wholeheartedly recommend to follow “Eva’s” Instagram account and watch the stories. It’s all in English (with Hebrew subtitles).
Link to the project: Here

About the Author
After moving to Germany from Russia, Chaya spent most of her teenage years with Jewish community involvement as counselor and coordinator for young Jewish adults in Germany. Chaya discovered tradition and languages on her own which has shaped her identity since early age. She made aliyah in 2011 and has since then worked as a translator, freelance journalist, media analyst and tour guide, while blogging in German for 4 years about Jewish life in Judea and Samaria. She is part of the "Roots" movement for understanding, nonviolence and transformation between Israelis and Palestinians.
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