Teaching the Holocaust Through Digital History

Attached photographs might be disturbing for some viewers

While I am not a teacher, I have thought a lot about how digital history can be used in the classroom to teach Holocaust history. For example, TikTok is an incredibly popular platform — even the hashtag #history has more than 56 billion views. Given that TikTok is a widely accessible platform, it makes sense to utilize it to teach history to more people.

If I were to teach a class an integrate digital history tools, I would want my students to figure out a good way to talk about the history of the Holocaust on accessible platforms. Most notably, there was a trend in 2020 where people would would pretend to be Holocaust victims on TikTok. The reaction to this was overwhelmingly negative, though there was some support.

Another notable example is “Yolocaust.” A satirical artist took tourists selfies at concentration camps/Holocaust memorials and superimposed them over photos of Holocaust victims. This project gained attraction from the shocking juxtaposition of the tourists photos to the one’s produced from the artist.

I would want my students to come up with an idea for a social media post that discusses the Holocaust in an engaging way, based off learning why the examples of this TikTok trend and selfies at concentration camps is not an effective way to do so. This would be targeted for upper level high school students through college students.

The main takeaway I would want from students is for them to realize that not all history-oriented social media content is created equally. For example, the way I would go about posting content on the history of Victorian Era fashion would be much different than the manner of posting about slavery.

Being that social media is an integral part of our lives, it is inherently part of our history (and public digital history). The example of “Yolocaust” and the TikTok trend speak to an assumed etiquette (or lack thereof) of posting about Holocaust history. In order to properly educate the public about the Holocaust, students should understand why the examples of taking selfies at concentration camps/this TikTok trend are in bad taste and can be viewed as offensive.

In order to encourage further digital public history relating to the Holocaust, it is extremely important for students to understand the ethics of posting this type of content.

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