The Israeli-German creator of an online project shaming Holocaust selfies has taken it down just one week after launching it.
In an effort to challenge the younger generation’s commemorative culture, artist and satirist Shahak Shapira created the wildly viral web-based project YOLOCAUST in which he mashed appropriated social media selfies snapped at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin with shocking images of archival footage from Nazi extermination camps.
Shapira issued a statement Thursday reporting that the webpage had been visited by 2.5 million people worldwide — including by all the individuals appearing in all its photo montages.
As part of the project, the artist had invited those pictured to contact him with a request to remove them by emailing him at email@example.com. After everyone depicted reached out to him, Shapira decided he had made his point and it was time to pull the plug on the website.
“The crazy thing is that the project actually reached all 12 people whose selfies were presented. Almost all of them understood the message, apologized and decided to remove their selfies from their personal Facebook and Instagram profiles,” Shapira wrote in a statement that replaced the project online.
He also wrote he was encouraged by the outpouring of feedback he received from Holocaust researchers, people who used to work at the memorial, individuals who lost their family during the Holocaust, and teachers who wanted to use the project for school lessons.
Shapira’s satirical activism clearly struck a chord, as some “evil people… sent photos of their friends and family for me to photoshop,” he reported.
A mere single-page website, YOLOLCAUST generated a considerable amount of press coverage. While many praised Shapira’s approach, some questioned whether it was excessively scolding and exclusionary.
“In an era when populist German politicians are using the past – and sentiment towards Holocaust memorials themselves – to rev up anti-immigrant, nationalist feeling, the need for careful and inclusive readings of the role of memorials in our society has never been greater,” India Bourke wrote in New Statesman.
“Yolocaust may have intended to provide a space for reflection on our commemorative behaviour but the result feels worryingly sensationalist, if not censorious. Instead of inviting others in to the act of respectful commemoration, has it risked shutting people out?” Bourke asked.
Shapira himself included various comments from readers at the bottom of his statement. Most were complimentary, including one from a The Times of Israel reader who said, “I think what you are doing is terrific.” Several remarks, however, were anti-Semitic taunts and slurs, indicating that Shapira’s educational intention had eluded some viewers.
Shapira highlighted the email he received from one of the young men who had been shown leaping over the tops of several of the 2711 stelai that make up the vast Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Seeming to have learned a lesson, the young man said he was sickened to see not only his selfie splashed all over the media, but also the caption he had written under the photo: “Jumping on dead Jews @ Holocaust Memorial.”
Here’s what he wrote to Shapira:
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.
He had an additional request from the artist:
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.