This heartbreaking Instagram Holocaust diary Eva.Stories makes sure we never forget

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The Background

Eva Heyman’s ambition was to be a top news photographer. 

Sadly, like another 6 million Jews, she was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. In February 1944, in her native Hungary, on her 13th birthday, she started writing a diary. She was murdered in Auschwitz eight months later. Her mother survived the Holocaust and after the liberation Eva’s diaries were discovered.

Every year, in memory of Eva and all the other victims who perished, there is a Holocaust Remembrance Day. The date varies slightly as it follows the Hebrew calendar, and this year it took place on 2 May.

It is surprising how little people know about the Holocaust and what actually happened. 

I remember doing some research on the subject a few years ago and we interviewed a lot of people about it. Knowledge was sketchy at best amongst the younger age group in particular.  

Elie Wiesel, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and Holocaust survivor, famously said that “for the dead and the living we must bear witness” and various educational projects have been undertaken over the years to inform future generations about what happened so that they will never forget. And therefore hopefully mankind will never repeat such an abomination.

The Big Idea

In the same way that Anne Frank’s diaries brought the horror of Jewish life in Europe to life to a new generation of readers in 1947, the big idea was that via Instagram Stories, with their short, quick-burst videos and ability to annotate, they might do the same today.

Eva.Stories went live on Instagram on the evening of 1 May.

You can see the full story here.

What They Did

Produced with a big budget, 400 staff and actors, and elaborate sets including tanks and train carriages, a stream of dozens of mini-stories were released and aired throughout Holocaust Remembrance Day.  

It starts of with a young actress playing Eva Heyman saying “Hi, my name is Eva, this is my page, follow me”.  

She is filming herself selfie-style, talking about her school crush and her future dreams. 

Other posts add emojis, surprise film other people; the usual sort of video content one is used to seeing on Insta. Although the scene is Eastern Europe in the early 1940s.  

The tone of the Instagram videos turns darker as the Nazis increasingly target Hungary’s Jews, confiscating Eva’s family’s business, making them wear yellow stars on their clothing, and forcing them into a ghetto. Before deporting them to the Auschwitz death camp. Eva’s character uses hashtags like #lifeduringwar and geotags her location as “GHETTO”, so that you soon start relating to the content like you would a regular Instagram story.

Sadly, I think you know how and where the story ends.

The Review

Eva.Stories racked up 1.7m followers on the day. It no doubt brought attention to a part of history that many young people know little about, especially as the number of ageing Holocaust survivors shrinks. 

The vignettes used all the modern techniques that one would expect and balanced this with a story that was reliable and authentic and did a lot as a result to dispel the disgusting narrative of Holocaust deniers.

There was loads of chatter on social media as each new Instagram story was released throughout the day. The content was gripping, particularly for what one could describe as an educational project.

I have watched it several times now.  I have cried each time.  And I will never forget.
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