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. 😅
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.
letzte Woche habe ich ein Projekt namens YOLOCAUST veröffentlicht, welches unsere Erinnerungskultur durch die Kombination von Selfies am Holocaust-Mahnmal in Berlin mit Bildmaterial aus Vernichtungslagern hinterfragte. Die Selfies wurden auf Facebook, Instagram, Tinder und Grindr gefunden. Kommentare, Hashtags und „Likes“ aus den Selfies wurden ebenfalls übernommen.
Die Seite wurde von über 2,5 Millionen Menschen besucht. Das Verrückte ist, dass das Projekt inzwischen auch alle zwölf Personen erreicht hat, die auf den Selfies abgebildet waren. Fast alle haben die Botschaft verstanden, sich entschuldigt und entschieden, ihre Selfies von ihren Facebook- oder Instagram-Profilen zu löschen. Darüber hinaus habe ich tonnenweise großartige Rückmeldungen erhalten: von Holocaust Forschern und ehemaligen Mitarbeitern des Mahnmals, von Menschen, die im Holocaust ihre Familie verloren haben, Lehrern, die das Projekt im Schulunterricht behandeln wollen und auch von sehr bösen Menschen, die mir Fotos ihrer Freunde und Verwandten geschickt haben, um sie von mir photoshoppen zu lassen. Einige dieser Rückmeldungen findet ihr unten.
Die interessanteste Antwort jedoch kam von dem jungen Mann im ersten Bild des Projekts mit dem Titel „Jumping on dead Jews @ Holocaust Memorial“, das ihn auf den Stelen springend zeigte. Ich finde, seine E-Mail ist der beste Weg, dieses Projekt vorerst abzuschließen:
Ich bin der Typ, der dich, wie ich gerade las, zu Yolocaust inspiriert hat. Ich bin der „Spring auf tot..“ – Ich kann es gar nicht schreiben, mir wird schon schlecht wenn ich es nur ansehe. Ich wollte niemanden beleidigen. Nun sehe ich meine eigenen Worte in den Nachrichten.
Ich habe gesehen was meine Worte ausgelöst haben. Das ist verrückt und es ist nicht, was ich wollte. (…)
Das Foto war als Witz für meine Freunde gedacht. Ich bin dafür bekannt, dass ich Witze unterhalb der Gürtellinie mache, dumme Witze, sarkastische Witze. Sie verstehen meinen Humor. Wenn Du mich kennen würdest, würdest Du das auch... Aber wenn es öffentlich geteilt wird und es Fremde erreicht, die keine Ahnung haben wer ich bin, dann sehen sie jemanden, der etwas, was anderen Menschen wichtig ist, respektlos behandelt.
Das war nicht meine Intention. Und es tut mir leid. Wirklich.
In diesem Sinne, würde ich gerne „entdouchet“ werden.
P.S. Oh, und wenn Du gegenüber BBC, Haaretz und all den anderen Blogs, Nachrichtenstationen, etc. erklären könntest, dass ich Mist gebaut habe, wäre es phantastisch. 😅
Wenn ihr über meine Arbeit auf dem Laufenden bleiben wollt, findet ihr mich im sozialen Netzwerk eurer Wahl. Außer auf Snapchat. Snapchat verstehe ich einfach nicht.
I just read the article about your Yolocaust project in "The Times of Israel" and I think what you are doing is terrific. I am a son of a survivor but your background is even more poignant.
Thank you for bringing this sensitive subject at such a touching way in this way. I think people are not always aware of the importance of a monument....
I am a widow who have been diagnosed with cancer. I have been confirmed by doctors as having few months to live.
My husband before he died 7 years ago left me a huge sum of money.
I have decided to distribute the sum of $22,000,000.000 to orphanage homes or charity organization.
I will love you to do me the honours and help me in this distribution. I promise to give you 20% of the sum for your time and effort. Thank you.
I am a Pole, the history of my family is related to the place of
execution of many nationalities, and German, so Polish, Jewish.
I was born in Oswiecim (Auschwitz), where during the war was lost over
95% of my family.
The work you do can reach those who do not quite doing the death of many millions of people.
I have just been shown your recent online project, 'Yolocaust'. As a Holocaust Studies researcher whose principle interests include Holocaust tourism and the behaviour of visitors at Holocaust sites and memorials, I think it is a fantastic project and expresses a very thought-provoking message on the topic.
The main reason of this mail is a person on your art. Maybe sound strange or creepy but I falled in love with one of them. The girl with white shirt, double braid hair and rounded sunglasses. I HAD to do this because I spend my last 3 hour to looking her only photo and web search for her name.
I live in Berlin and have forbidden myself from going down to the memorial. I have been 2x and both I just had to come home after freaking out and yelling at people.
As a gay jew living in Berlin I avoid that place. Your project brings to light a very serious problem with visitors to that site.
We were with my husband in Berlin in 2014. We saw people take photos at the monument, and for that tourist effort to take photos we also did. However it did not seem right to do it smiling, it was a place that caused us great impact of only thinking the pain, suffering and death that weighs there. I congratulate you for your project, sometimes the banality of social networks does not allow us to capture the essence of places or commit ourselves to history.
Thanks! There's no better way to prepare my students for our trip to Berlin!
KEEP CRYING DUMB JEW HAHAHAAHAH
Well done, I applaud what you have done with your website. When the unthinkable becomes ordinary we make it more likely that we will repeat it.
I am really happy that you did this project - I have been to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and was moved by the installation - I also found people visiting sometime don't get the idea and act foolishly.
I've been to Berlin Holocaust Memorial, as well as Auschwitz and Birkenau. I remember the atmosphere was grim and I had lost my appetite. I hope some people actually become aware of the meaning of their selfies as 'tourists'. I saw one in one of my seminars, titled instacaust inside Auschwitz, since the person posted it on his instagram.
I'm a teacher (history!) and wanted to ask you if I could show your project to my students in order to preper them for our visit at the Holocaust memorial.
Thank you for your web exhibition and for using these images to raise consciousness. I too was struck by the irreverence of visitors to the memorial on several occasions and I think your web exhibition deserves a permanent home at the memorial.
Thanks for encouraging the awareness and respect that such a monument commands. If we can't acknowledge and respect the past, we have very little hope for the future.
I am not a douche. I am just here to thank you with all my heart for making this disturbing paradox public.
I walk past the memorial everyday and I am confused and saddened to see the mixture of disrespectfulness, lack of knowledge and self-promotion in many visitor's behavior.
Thank you for channeling your outrage into something so impactful and for using your creativity to send a clear message rather than resorting to less effective and/or aggressive means. You have demonstrated with this project that it is possible to say a great deal with very few words.
I absolutely love your project! I think what you have done is amazing and so so overdue.
Two days ago I went to auchwitz and I was completely appalled at the behaviour that was happening around me. It's not a place where you pose for the perfect selfie it's a place that need to be respected and remembered!
My entire family originated from Hamburg-Altona, and I never thought I would feel comfortable visiting Germany, but indeed, I was — solely because the Germans have gone to such lengths to understand, commemorate, and redress the actions of former generations.
Your work supports the moral clarity our world needs so desperately. Todah Rabbah.
Thank you very much for reminding us that respect and memory are two pillars of humanity.
YOU'RE FUCKIN ASSHOLES!!!! WISH YOU WERE IN THE HOLOCAUST!!!!!
I just heard about your project, and I really think it is a good way to make people aware of the importance of respect for the past.
Thank you for doing this project. I have been to the memorial several times and have always been troubled by people acting like the ones in your photos.
Your work sends a powerful message. I cannot understand how people could take selfies at such a place. Thank you for bringing this behavior to the world's attention.
I wanted to thank you for your awesome project. For me people acting like they do at Holocaust memorial used to be one of those things you instinctively understand is wrong, but your work really put perspective onto it.
Too bad you weren't in a German prison camp during WWII. I hope you are some day.
If we can't acknowledge and respect the past, we have very little hope for the future.
They are called selfishies. Selfishies.
Some time ago we saw a fb "friend" uploaded this photograph to her profile. We thought it was disgusting and disrespectful. This is my small contribution to your wonderful iniciative. Her name in facebook is (...)