MILLIONS of people have been flocking to Instagram, transfixed by the story of a Jewish teenager … during the Holocaust.
In lots of ways @eva.stories fits a familiar model for Instagram pages – a teenager’s reflections on whatever enters their heads, put out there for all to see. Potential visitors are told, “This is my page for random thoughts, crushes, my hashtag BFFs.”
The big difference is that the story being told is that of Eva Heyman, a 13-year-old Hungarian Jewish girl who died in Auschwitz. She left behind a diary, and using it as a basis a team of social media professionals has tried to imagine how Eva may have told her story if Instagram existed.
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Billboards went up across Israel advertising her page ahead of Yom Hashoah this week, and just before the memorial day began, posts started appearing on @eva.stories. They came thick and fast over the next 24 hours, giving huge numbers of Israelis — and many across the world — a dramatic online Yom Hashoah experience.
The material that was uploaded mostly consisted of video clips that told her life story, created by a 400-strong team that included actors and extras. And with the videos, the girl who dreamed of being an international journalist, more than seven decades after her premature death, had her story widely told.
An Israeli high-tech entrepreneur Mati Kochavi came up with the idea, and produced and funded it. He said that “against the background of the ever-diminishing number of survivors” there is a “tremendous need to find new models of testimony and memory.”
He said he is using “social networks to create a new genre of memory,” and hopes in particular that his project engages young people with Holocaust education.
Though there has been widespread enthusiasm for the project, there has also been some criticism. A civics teacher Yuval Mendelson claimed in a Haaretz article that it “is tainted with condescension and contempt for the youth.”
But Kochavi is convinced that the stories “turn Eva from a nameless person into a dynamic and tangible figure,” and expressed hope that his project will highlight to horrors of the Holocaust in a way that “evokes identification and deep understanding.”