On May 1 — the eve of Yom Hashoah — the Instagram account @eva.stories went live, bringing a Holocaust story to life in a visceral way. With over 1.7 million followers, people are avidly following the video stories of a 13-year-old Jewish girl named Eva Heyman. Eva posts about her life as she grows up in 1944 Hungary.
Based on Eva’s real-life story, adapted from her diary that was found after the war, viewers are shown snippets of Eva’s life just a few months before she was deported to Auschwitz. Eva led a typical teenage life that was fatally shattered by the Nazis. Just like any teenager, her account is filled with videos of dancing with friends, eating ice cream, and even falling in love.
As her story continues, the Heymans are transported to a ghetto, which Eva describes for her audience. “We are 20 people in one small room. We sleep on the floor,” shared Eva, “But worst of all is the hunger. We get only one slice of bread and one bowl of beans each day.”
After 70 short clips, Eva’s story ends with her stepping into a cattle car with her grandparents, which took them to their deaths in Auschwitz. In one of the final stories on the Instagram account, followers are told what happened to Eva when she reached Poland. Her grandparents were murdered hours after their arrival, after a grim four-day journey. Eva survived for two months, but was sent to her death by Mengele during a routine selection.
Creators of the project, Israelis Mati Kochavi and his daughter Maya, have received much praise for their feat of reaching the younger generations about such a serious topic. However, they’ve also received backlash for what some perceive as a light portrayal of mass genocide. According to the New York Times, critics argue that the Kochavis’ Instagram story is not only “insulting to the intelligence of today’s young people,” but also to the memory of the Holocaust.
Yet times are changing, and as Kochavi said in a public statement: “When the attention span is low and the thrill span is high and given the dwindling number of survivors, it is imperative to find new models of testimony and memory.” While an Instagram story may be an unconventional way to portray a Holocaust story, in this day and age, unconventional has become powerful.
This isn’t the first atypical portrayal of a Holocaust story. The popular graphic novel, “Maus,” is a comic book written by the son of a survivor who shares his father’s harrowing story of survival through black and white cartoon panels. Not only did “Maus” sell over a million copies, the book has also been translated into several other languages and holds prestigious awards.
@eva.stories was not meant to trivialize the Holocaust, but, instead, aims to reach a different audience that otherwise may not hear stories of the genocide. It is crucial to continue retelling the stories so that the world never forgets.
It is just as important that this retelling captures the attention of the audience it aims to reach. Otherwise, the awful events of the Holocaust may be forgotten. This is why it is appropriate to use alternative forms of storytelling, like an Instagram story. @eva.stories has given a younger generation — with a notoriously short attention span — a way to meaningfully connect to the true story of Eva Heyman and all those who perished in the Holocaust.
By Ellie Guberman
Ellie Guberman is a senior at Berman Hebrew Academy.