Cape Town — As the world commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 72 years after the liberation of Adolf Hitler's death camp in Auschwitz, this happened.
Initially it started out as a selfie shaming act by Israeli artist Shahak Shapira, known as Yolocaust.
On his site Shapira created a macabre juxtaposition of tourists taking disrespectful selfies at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The Memorial is meant to pay tribute to the thousands of people who died during WWII, particularly in concentration camps around Europe.
On the Yolocaust website last week Shapira wrote, “About 10,000 people visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe every day. Many of them take goofy pictures, jump, skate or bike on the 2,711 concrete slabs of the 19,000 m² large structure.”
"The exact meaning and role of the Holocaust Memorial are controversial. To many, the grey stelae symbolize gravestones for the 6 Million Jews that were murdered and buried in mass graves, or the grey ash to which they were burned to in the death camps.”
Shapira then wrote he would take down the graphic pictures of anyone who regrets uploading them to the Internet.” Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The images eventually went viral with some 2.5 million people visiting his site.
Turns out, he managed to reach all 12 of the people featured in the original posts that have since been removed. But for Shapira, he is overwhelmed by the response and effect his work has had.
Last week I launched a project called YOLOCAUST that explored our commemorative culture by combining selfies from the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin with footage from Nazi extermination camps. The selfies were found on Facebook, Instagram, Tinder and Grindr. Comments, hashtags and "Likes" that were posted with the selfies are also included.
The page was visited by over 2.5 million people. The crazy thing is that the project actually reached all 12 people who’s selfies were presented. Almost all of them understood the message, apologized and decided to remove their selfies from their personal Facebook and Instagram profiles. Aside from that I also received tons of great feedback from Holocaust researchers, people who used to work at the memorial, folks who lost their family during the Holocaust, teachers who wanted to use the project for school lessons, and evil people who sent photos of their friends and family for me to photoshop. You can see some of the feedback below.
But the most interesting response came from the young man on the first picture of the project, showing him jumping on the concrete slabs with the caption „Jumping on dead Jews @ Holocaust Memorial“. I think his email is the best way to conclude this project for now:...
I am the guy that inspired you to make Yolocaust, so I've read at least. I am the "jumping on de..." I cant even write it, kind of sick of looking at it. I didn't mean to offend anyone. Now I just keep seeing my words in the headlines.
I have seen what kind of impact those words have and it's crazy and it's not what I wanted (…)
The photo was meant for my friends as a joke. I am known to make out of line jokes, stupid jokes, sarcastic jokes. And they get it. If you knew me you would too. But when it gets shared, and comes to strangers who have no idea who I am, they just see someone disrespecting something important to someone else or them.
That was not my intention. And I am sorry. I truly am. With that in mind, I would like to be undouched.
P.S. Oh, and if you could explain to BBC, Haaretz and aaaaallll the other blogs, news stations etc. etc. that I fucked up, that'd be great. ??
Shapira ends off saying," If you wanna keep up with my work, you’ll find me on the social media platform of your choice. Except for Snapchat. I don’t get Snapchat."
On Friday January 27, the anniversary of the day that the Soviet army liberated the camp in German-occupied Poland in 1945, commemorative events were being held across Europe, recognizing International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the term "Auschwitz" stands for all the death camps and the entire Nazi "persecution and murder machinery" that remained part of Germany's history.
While Germany cannot change or undo what happened, he said the country has a continued obligation to commemorate the genocide, honor the memory of the victims and take responsibility for the crimes.
Noting the political instability in the world today, Steinmeier said that "history should be a lesson, warning and incentive all at the same time. There can and should be no end to remembrance."
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