Jewish artist takes on Twitter for enabling anti-Semitism

Best known for shaming Berlin memorial goers with ‘YOLOCAUST,’ Shahak Shapira stages protest over social media giant’s failure to delete offensive messages

An Israeli-German artist best known for his “YOLOCAUST” project, which combined selfies taken at Berlin’s Holocaust memorial with images of concentration camp victims, released a video Monday targeting Twitter’s failure to address online anti-Semitism and racism, with a series of offensive tweets drawn on the ground at the social media giant’s offices.

In the video, Shahak Shapira said that despite alerting Twitter of some 300 tweets containing offensive content, the company had failed to delete most of the messages. He added that in nine of the cases, he was told the tweets were not in violation of the company’s policies.

Due to Twitter’s inaction over the offensive tweets, Shapira decided that “if Twitter forces me to see those things, then they’ll have to see them too,” leading him to travel to the company’s Hamburg offices and draw 30 of the tweets outside the entrance using chalk from a spray can.

Among the tweets that Shapira painted on the ground were messages such as “JEWISH PIG,” “LET’S GAS SOME JEWS TOGETHER,” “GAYS TO AUSCHWITZ,” and “GERMANY NEEDS A FINAL SOLUTION FOR ISLAM,” next to which he wrote “HEY TWITTER: DELETE THIS CRAP.”

While the tweets drawn on the sidewalk outside the office were later cleaned, the messages written in the street and on the stairs across from the building were left untouched, which Shapira said “fits well with Twitter’s policy of cleaning in front of their own door and leaving the rest to be someone else’s problem.”

A number of passersby said they supported Shapira’s painting of the messages outside Twitter’s offices, saying they hoped it would bring attention to the company not deleting such tweets.

In contrast, Shapira praised Facebook for removing within days some 80 percent of the 150 posts he reported to the company.

Shapira’s latest project follows January’s YOLOCAUST, which targeted the phenomenon of taking selfies at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, whose installation of 2,711 rectangular blocks in grid formation became a popular site for everything from picnicking to skateboarding to staging fashion photography shoots.

In the online exhibit, viewers could first see a photo of a couple of guys in colorful ski jackets and knit hats having fun by jumping above the memorial’s stone slabs. When dragging the cursor over the image, the youth were suddenly leaping over piles of corpses from historical Holocaust footage.

Similarly, his work showed young people of today juggling, doing gymnastics and posing in other carefree ways in front of — or on top of — bodies in mass graves, or with inmates in camp barracks.

Detail from YOLOCAUST by Shahak Shapira (
Detail from YOLOCAUST by Shahak Shapira (

Shapira took down the highly viewed online project one week after launching it, deciding 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 in January 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.

Renee Ghert-Zand contributed to this report.

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