YOLOCAUST: A Call for Cultural Recognition


Sadie Neville, Co-Editor in Chief

Selfies are taken quite frequently. Scroll through any amount of hashtags on any number of social media platforms and you will find hundreds of thousands of them taken at monuments and historical locations all around the world.

One such attraction to tourists is the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. The dedication site has been taken advantage of for years as a hub for “aesthetic” pictures to fill up one’s timeline.

28-year-old Israeli-Jewish artist Shahak Shapira, however, has taken it upon himself to shame those who do.

Shapira’s project, “YOLOCAUST” pays reference to the circa 2011 acronym “YOLO,” according to the Huffington Post.

He spoke on his motivations, saying that “people obviously didn’t [care] about where they were. Didn’t invest any thought. To do yoga or juggle […] at a memorial that marks the deaths of six million Jews?”

Shapira describes his work as an exploration of “our commemorative culture by combining selfies from the Holocaust memorial in Berlin with footage from Nazi extermination camps.”

His work took pictures off of Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, and Grindr and used photoshopping to impose disturbingly real images into the backgrounds of the photos. Many feature piles of dead bodies or people living in concentration camps, close to death by starvation.

However, the haunting images sparked immediate praise towards Shapira from many advocates and citizens.

One anonymous source wrote, “Your project brings to light a very serious problem with visitors to that site.”

Another commented, “Thank you for your web exhibition and for using these images to raise consciousness. I too was struck by the irreverence of visitors to the memorial on several occasions and think your [project] deserves a permanent home at the memorial.”

Shapira’s page was visited by more than 2.5 million people, including the 12 people whose pictures were used. “Almost all of them understood the message, apologized, and decided to remove their selfies from the personal […] profiles,” according to the artist.

An email from one of the culprits referenced his picture, captioned “Jumping on dead Jews at the Holocaust Memorial,” was touchingly shared by Shapira, recounting mistakes and reading, “I just keep seeing my words in the headlines. I have seen what kind of impact those words have and it’s crazy and it’s not what I wanted.”

Shahak Shapira’s project served as an eye opener for not only those 12 people, but for the millions who visit the memorial every year. YOLOCAUST stressed the importance of respect for all cultures, especially of such a sensitive matter.

All in all, be careful where you selfie.