Last year, a survey showed that 22 percent of millennials had never heard of the Holocaust, two-thirds of millennials had never heard of Auschwitz, and 41 percent believed 2 million or fewer Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
The survey was released by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
Now, a new project geared toward young people was launched to coincide with Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah). The idea is simple: retell a 13-year-old Holocaust victim’s tragic story through Instagram stories.
The account, Eva.stories, was written and directed by Mati Kochavi and his daughter Maya. The project is based off the real-life journal of a 13-year-old Jewish girl living in Hungary named Eva Heyman, Fox News reports.
The first few posts begin in February 1944, depicting Eva as an ordinary young and happy girl with friends, school, and even a crush. Eva is initially light-hearted, using hashtags, filters, and fancy fonts. But soon the Nazi’s invade her city. She decides she must document everything.
“It’s the middle of the night, I can’t fall asleep,” Eva says. “The Germans have reached my city. I’ve never been so scared in my entire life. From today, I must document everything that happens to us, even if I’m tired or I want to play, I must document.”
The rest of the project consists of Eva showing the different hardships her family had to endure under Nazi occupation until she is deported to Auschwitz on a cattle train in June 1944.
The real Eva Heyman was murdered in an Auschwitz gas chamber.
“On October 17, Eva lined up for a routine selection process. She was standing in the back, hoping to survive the selection. But SS officer Mengele saw the wounds on her feet and sent her to the gas chamber,” one of the final posts on the account says. “According to testimonies of surviving eyewitnesses, Eva never stopped fighting to stay alive.”
The account currently has more than 1.2 million followers and millions of views.
At the end of Yom HaShoah, Kovachi said that his project made young people feel connected to Eva.
“Eva’s history has come to bridge the perception of memory between changing generations, especially with the introduction and growth of advanced technologies that create new patterns of behavior and communication,” Kovachi said. “People and young people write to us — to Eva — to stand and feel a deep emotional connection to her, as if they were close friends of hers. This for us indicates that it is possible to create innovative and meaningful models of memory.”
Maya Kovachi said that the project is especially important because there aren’t many Holocaust survivors still alive to tell the younger generation their stories.
“As the survivors are dwindling in numbers, it is very hard to convey the magnitude of the Holocaust to the new generation,” Maya said according to the Jerusalem Post. “The strongest way is to sit with someone who went through it, and to not have advantage of witnesses who survived is very troubling to the Jewish community.”
Maya added that they wanted to use social media to make the Holocaust “personal and tangible.”
“The concept is to try and make the new generation feel like it is in the Holocaust, that they are experiencing it, that it is happening through their point of view, and Instagram is like a magical tool for us to do this,” Maya said.
In a statement, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem called the use of social media to commemorate the Holocaust “legitimate and effective.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also endorsed the project in a tweet.
The project was reportedly filmed in Lviv, Ukraine, cost millions of dollars, and had a team of 400 production crew, actors, and extras.
The last words in Eva’s real diary were: “I can’t write anymore, dear diary. The tears run from my eyes.”