By Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, Director of FSWC's Campaign Against Antisemitism
Earlier this week, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) spoke out against a new trend on the social media app TikTok dubbed the “Holocaust Challenge,” in which young people share videos of themselves playing the role of Shoah victims. Donning yellow stars or black and white striped concentration camp-type outfits, wearing makeup to make themselves look emaciated and burned, teenagers from around the world with a forlorn gaze and heavy breath tell their viewers how they died in the “showers” of Auschwitz.
Some of these young people may have been motivated earnestly by the desire to draw attention to the victims of the Shoah. Others perhaps saw this more cynically, as a dramatic role likely to catapult themselves to TikTok stardom. Regardless of personal motivations, the videos are tainted by gross historical inaccuracies about the Holocaust and, with the soundtrack of Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” playing in the background, trivialize the lived experience of those who endured it.
Recent studies show that one in five Canadian youth has never heard of the Holocaust or isn’t sure what it is. Fading awareness of the Holocaust presents a challenge to all of us who understand that in order to build a world in which never again will we see the horrors of the Shoah, we need to keep alive the memories of those horrors as a lesson for all of humankind. But TikTok’s unsettling “Holocaust Challenge” serves as a reminder that our goal is not to ensure that all young people have heard the word ‘Holocaust’ before, but that they come to learn about our community’s greatest tragedy in an accurate, respectful and appropriate way.
This week, our education team is busy preparing for the new school year, which will be a year like never before. The Tour for Humanity mobile human rights centre is parked, for now, but our team has created a whole new online curriculum on the Holocaust, genocide and human rights that we will be offering to schools across the country. Through intensive, interactive and age-appropriate workshops and programming offered to students from grades 5 to 12, we will continue throughout this unprecedented moment of pandemic to educate our young people and inspire them to join us in our commitment to countering antisemitism and hatred and promoting our shared values of mutual respect, democracy, and freedom.