May 15, 2022
Holocaust Survivors Use Social Media to Clap Back at Antisemitism

Holocaust survivors are taking to TikTok to share their stories, call out Holocaust denial and distortion, and offer messages of hope.

An Unusual Demographic – Holocaust Survivors on TikTok

Recent studies show that 43% of TikTok users are aged 18-24, while only 3.4% are older than 55. But within this tiny number we find some of the most powerful influencers and creators – Holocaust survivors. These include 98-year-old Lily Ebert @lilyebert, 87-year-old Gidon Lev @Thetrueadventures, and 84-year-old Tova Friedman @TovaTok who, among other survivors, have taken to TikTok to educate about the Holocaust, share stories of hope, and clap back at antisemitism and Holocaust denial.

Survivor Stories Spread Hope

With over 2.5 million followers between them, these survivors are reaching young people at staggering rates. They share their personal stories of tragedy as well as optimism and hope. They talk about their experiences in the Nazi death camps as well as their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who often show up in cameos or, in Lily Ebert’s case, help run her account. They discuss the repercussions of their suffering – depression, PTSD, and anxiety – and what has kept them going despite dark times and having to re-learn how to live life.

Through personal testimony, engaging in the latest viral trends, and entering into conversations through dueting and stitching with other influencers, they are creating a rich and vibrant tapestry that not only documents their history, but also engages young people in their language and on their terms. They are relatable. They are fun. Who doesn’t love seeing an adorable grandpa dance? 🕺

And during COVID-19 lockdowns, when so many young people were isolated and lonely, and with the global rates of mental health issues among children skyrocketing, hearing from Holocaust survivors about human connection and offering messages of love and support serves, for many, as a message of hope and a critical boost to their emotional wellbeing.

Importantly, one key message that these survivors impress upon their followers is “never again” – the plea and the promise to never forget the lessons of the Holocaust, to never be indifferent toward widespread hatred, and to never let the same systematic cruelties be unleashed ever again.

Social Media Spreads Hate

Recent statistics report that at least 17% of Holocaust-related content on TikTok denies or distorts it. Despite TikTok stating that they have taken active steps to remedy this, last year a study sampling the five major social media platforms, including TikTok, found that content denying the Holocaust remains online 80% of the time, despite being reported for violating platform policy. Sadly, the same study found that TikTok removed racially abusive comments from Jewish creators’ accounts only 5% of the time.

With antisemitic harassment and attacks at an all-time high, and online Holocaust denial and distortion present and popular, “never again” remains as relevant and necessary a message today as ever.

Holocaust Survivors Clap Back

Gidon Lev and his partner, Julie Gray, regularly call out antisemitic comments and videos, naming their harassers, calling on users to report them, and calling out the platform to take action. They use interesting and engaging tactics, such as taking their followers on an “antisemitism safari”. In this video, they identified emojis that are used as coded antisemitic lingo, such as two lightning bolts ⚡ representing the SS.

Lily Ebert and Susan Pollock (another survivor) share in one video that their goal in educating the next generation about the Holocaust is to, one day, eradicate antisemitism.

When asked if she ever thought about removing her tattoo Lily Ebert said, “I want to show the world. Because seeing something or to hear about it makes a big difference, and the world should know how deep humans can cut.”

By sharing their testimonies and active calling out Holocaust denial and distortion, these survivors are preserving history, rejecting silence, and demanding to be recognized. Holocaust survivors have experienced the worst atrocities imaginable. Having been through it and coming out on the other side, they have no qualms in standing up, calling out antisemitic individuals and companies alike, and demanding change – so that their descendants will never again have to suffer the horrors of their past.

Written by Lara Portnoy, Growth and Partner Relations Manager

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