Growing up, I read books about the Holocaust.
Namely, The Diary of Anne Frank, which allowed me to further understand how that genocide affected Jewish people and others in ways that history books often fall short. Sharing narratives, even fictionalized, can be an effective way in helping people understand the toll that brutality and violence had and continue to have on communities. The latest example of this is Eva Stories, an Instagram account which visually shares the diary of Eva Heyman, a Hungarian Jewish girl who was killed in the Holocaust. Like Anne Frank’s, Eva’s diary was published after World War II, but unfortunately received a lesser degree of fame.
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According to The Guardian, Eva Stories is a multi-million dollar project financed by “Mati Kochavi, an Israeli hi-tech billionaire who is from a family of Holocaust victims and survivors,” who was concerned that the Holocaust isn’t learned about enough and recognized enough. This concern is fair, considering that only 54 percent of the world has heard of the Holocaust, according to a survey conducted by the ADL in 2014. These mini-stories were shared through Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day in early May, which is known as Yom HaShoah.
Social media can be a very powerful tool when it comes to shedding light into the inhumane conditions that civilians are forced to live in under the brutality of war. Eva Stories attempts to do this, albeit with creative liberties as any historical project would require.
A modern example of social media, both on independent videos and videos curated by news organizations such as AJ+, being a powerful tool in showing the violence that innocent people faced would be videos shared across Facebook showing the harsh reality of the Syrian Civil War.
While many people shared content which had first-hand narratives of people who suffered and continue to suffer in Syria, the war is still ongoing and countries have done close to nothing to help refugees. The United States even implemented a travel ban and has slashed its refugee intake. Yes, the Eva Stories project is powerful storytelling, but there’s a difference between feeling horrible about what has happened in the past and helping people currently. If we want to take lessons from Eva Stories to heart, we need to make sure that we do a better job at helping refugees and not elect people who promote the same xenophobia which prevented Jews during World War II from seeking asylum.
Like with media projects, Eva Stories has some hits and misses when it comes to creative decisions. Some things that Eva posted on her story people would not do – or at least most people would not. There are clips of Eva fighting with her family that she shared on her story, which would not seem reflective of what most people would post on their Instagram. However, there are some powerful moments. For example, Eva last posts on her story when she is forced onto a train to Auschwitz. Unfortunately, most people’s stories – and their lives – ended when they were sent to Auschwitz, with Eva being no exception.
Eva Stories shows the devastating realities of the Holocaust through a new medium, Instagram. Despite some shortcomings, this narrative project hopefully will allow younger people, myself included, to further grapple and see the horrors of the Holocaust through Eva Heyman’s story.