A History Lesson for the Social Media Generation

The story of a young Jewish girl’s life is being chronicled on social media to teach young people about WWII genocide.

Eva Stories aims to raise awareness for Israel’s annual Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.

A recently-minted Instagram account which recounts the real-life story of a Jewish girl murdered in a concentration camp – by imagining she had documented her days on a smartphone instead of a notebook – has sparked debate about history teaching and the importance of youth visibility. 

The teenager’s Instagram posts start out breezily enough.

Eva Heyman, who just got her first pair of heels for her 13th birthday, films herself selfie-style eating ice cream in the park, bumping into her crush and introducing family and friends. 

Paired with corresponding hashtags and GIFs, Heyman's stories rapidly turns dark with the introduction of Nazi reinforcement and pre-war panic. 

As goosestepping soldiers become the norm in her local Hungary, Heyman chronicles each day as a member of the Jewish faith during Hilter's reign.

Included in this is her family’s forced move into the cramped chaos of the ghetto and the packed train that ultimately transports her to Auschwitz, resplendent with geotags and selfies. 

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In 70 easily-digestible episodes, 400 staff and actors portray fading memories of the genocide as penned in by Heyman in a real-life diary. 

For creator and Israeli hi-tech billionaire Mati Kochavi, the process in an entirely personal one. Kochavi and his daughter Maya, who produced each of the short videos, hail from a family of Holocaust victims and survivors. 

Their idea for the production – which cost several million dollars to make – is the Kochavi family's plan to engage screen-hooked post-millennials in Holocaust education and remembrance as the last generation of survivors is dying out.

Just as Anne Frank’s diary brought the horror of Jewish life in Europe during the second world war to generations of readers after its publication in 1947, the idea was that the Instagram stories, with their short, flashy videos, might do the same today.

And while the early vignettes include many modern-day social media effects, such as colourful graphics, they slowly fade away in later videos. The final posts recount Heyman’s death in the gas chamber in white text with a black background.

“If we want to bring the memory of the Holocaust to the young generation, we have to bring it to where they are,” said Mati Kochavi. “And they’re on Instagram.”

“The memory of the Holocaust outside of Israel is disappearing,” Kochavi continued.

“We thought, let’s do something really disruptive. We found the journal and said, ‘Let’s assume that instead of pen and paper Eva had a smartphone and documented what was happening to her.’ So we brought a smartphone to 1944.”

Eva Stories is meant to combat Holocaust ignorance in the wake of a survey which found that two-thirds of American millennials could not identify Auschwitz. 

As well as this, more than a fifth of respondents said they had not heard of the Holocaust or were not sure whether they had heard of it.

To follow the story in full, check out Eva's Stories here

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