February 15, 2022 – It was August 2020. Tom Divon, 34, who researches social media users’ behavior, was working out in the gym. As he would often do, he browsed through TikTok, the ubiquitous social media network which attracts many teens and is known for its popular – and sometimes dangerous – challenges. Suddenly, something caught his eye.
“I see this report about kids on TikTok dressing up as Holocaust victims as part of a challenge,” says Divon, a faculty member at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Communications and Journalism. Since his doctoral dissertation is about Gen-Z behavior patterns on TikTok and the way that teenagers encounter the Holocaust, he knew this peculiar challenge was something he couldn’t miss.
The videos he watched seemed unusual, even for a wild and unpredictable platform like TikTok. With gloomy music, a black-and-white filter and jumpy texts, teenagers – mostly girls – were seen looking like victims of serious violence: with makeup that resembles blood on their faces, dressed in prison garb or donning kerchiefs on their head.
The girls in these TikTok videos either depict themselves as someone who was murdered in Auschwitz or another camp or do some “time travel” that takes them to a concentration camp, where they plead for their lives before an imaginary Nazi who screams at them, are led to the gas chambers or show the yellow patch worn on their clothing.
“The challenges on TikTok don’t come with a guide who tells you what you have to do,” Divon says. “From watching, you understand the nature of the challenge and you bring your own interpretation and creativity to it.” Divon informed his university colleague, Dr. Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann, a lecturer in film studies, German studies and visual culture, of this strange trend. They realized that they had to act fast.
To read the entire original Haaretz article, click here.