Israeli high-tech entrepreneur Mati Kochavi has set up an Instagram account for the real life figure of Eva Heymann, a 13-year-old Hungarian girl. The account interprets the diary she started in 1944, using selfies, pictures and videos, from her that chronicle the more mundane events of her life and her family’s persecution by the Nazis.
This has apparently (and expectedly) stirred up controversy, but perhaps this requires more thought as to why, and whether this is the problem the naysayers think it is.
After all, we use social media to chronicle and capture multiple human rights abuses in order to inspire and mobilise outrage as well as to organise action. With this in mind, what makes social media an inappropriate or insufficiently sober tool for bearing witness to the past or for remembrance?
One of the benefits for social media– or rather, select platforms like Instagram given that others, like Facebook, aren’t as used by younger generations)– it that it moves the Holocaust from a long ago past to now, possibly not only in the platform but in resonance with other things being shared through these platforms. Moreover, these uses allow us to reflect on the ways media were deployed in the past as tools of mobilisation and of witnessing.
I’ve written about Anne Frank fan videos. These refer not only to the slideshows of documentary materials set to music, but Anne/Peter shipping crafted from recuts of docudramas and diary adaptations. I have questioned the shuddering responses to these videos. After all, most young people introduced to the diary through a lesson of personal creativity, They learn about Anne in an English class where they are encouraged not only to learn about the Holocaust but also to keep a journal– to learn about the value of their testimonies, thoughts, and experiences.
And fannishness, including fan-fictions (and non-fictions) were hardly foreign to Anne herself, who adorned her wall with photographs of movie stars and whose diary was structured as letters to characters from her favourite novels. Indeed, fan videos suggest a form of creativity in line with what we know and how we often learn about Anne.
As such, it seems worth thinking about this Instagramming project more thoroughly, taking into account platform (Is there an inherent quality to social media that makes it inappropriate or suitable for this activity?) and execution (What does it look like? What is being done and how? AND what does it mean?). And of course, we need to look back to all the forms of media people have used to share and to remember: What can we learn from those practices?
Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory ed. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jeffrey Shandler (Indiana University Press, 2012).
“True Beliebers” by Leshu Torchin, Souciant (April 2013).
Eva.Stories on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/eva.stories/