On the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the “TikTok – Shoah Education and Commemoration Initiative” was presented by American Jewish Committee Berlin, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and werk21 Kommunikation (Berlin), with support from TikTok Germany and Partners Partners & Company (Jerusalem). Together with Daniel Botmann, the director of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, the cooperation partners introduced the pilot project, in which memorial sites and museums in Germany and Austria use TikTok January to shed light on their work, thereby preserving the memory of the Shoah.

In a series of seminars, the “TikTok - Shoah Education and Commemoration Initiative” aimed to encourage German and Austrian memorial sites and museums to integrate TikTok into their own memorial and educational work, and to provide them with the necessary knowledge to reach new audiences. In light of the widespread problem of Holocaust relativization and denial both on and offline, particularly in the context of the Corona pandemic, the initiative is also directed against distribution of such content on TikTok. The project is accompanied by a quantitative and qualitative study conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Shoah memorial and remembrance work on TikTok. On the occasion of International Holocaust Memorial Day, the participating institutions launched their digital presence on TikTok to raise awareness about the Shoah. In the clips, the memorial sites offer background information about locations, buildings, and objects in their exhibitions. A TikTok video produced by the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial explaining the markings on prisoners’ uniforms was viewed by over 400,000 users. Several institutions use formats in which employees and volunteers introduce themselves and their work. The project launch is accompanied by a blog post on TikTok with background information about the initiative and related content from the project. This will be part of the global TikTok campaign for International Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th.

The following memorial sites and museums participated in the pilot project:

  • Bergen-Belsen Memorial
  • Ravensbrück Memorial Museum
  • Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum
  • House of the Wannsee Conference
  • Jewish Museum Berlin
  • Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
  • Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Memorial
  • Mauthausen Memorial
  • Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial
  • Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility, and Future (EVZ)
  • Villa ten Hompel

The director of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Daniel Botmann, welcomes the initiative: “Every day, we see people trivializing or even denying the Shoah. It is unacceptable that such content can apparently still be spread without consequences. Unfortunately, the platform operators frequently do not fulfill their responsibilities. With the campaign, ‘TikTok - Shoah Education and Commemoration Initiative’, TikTok is moving in the right direction. I hope that this step will serve as an example for other companies.”

AJC Berlin Director Dr. Remko Leemhuis describes the motives for the initiative as follows: “For some time, we have seen Shoah relativization and even Shoah denial posing a massive problem on internet platforms, and that problem has worsened further in the course of the pandemic. Although these incidents occur in the digital arena, they affect the real and everyday life of Jews. Both the internet platforms and politicians are called upon to ensure that the internet is not a legal vacuum, as it still sometimes appears to be. However, government repression alone will not solve the problem. It is also essential to raise awareness. We intend to contribute to that effort with this initiative.”

Dr. Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem explains the background of the work with memorial sites and museums: “We are seeing young users actively engage with the subject of the Shoah on platforms like TikTok, and that this is thus becoming an increasingly important aspect of our social and political life. But often, there is a lack of positive examples and content that reflects the many years of experience of experts in the field while still ‘speaking the language’ of TikTok. Our initiative aims to help on that point. For us, the memorial sites and museums are important ‘influencers’. They not only establish visibility for the subject, but also enter into dialogue with people who wish to know more about the background of the Shoah, individual biographies, and the historic locations. This will hopefully influence the treatment of the subject just as much as the successful accounts of Shoah survivors like Lily Ebert, Tova Friedman, and Gidon Lev.”

Tobias Henning, General Manager of TikTok Germany, describes the motivation behind this local initiative: “TikTok represents a diverse, authentic, and intergenerational community, which stands for mutual understanding, inclusiveness, and doing away with stereotypes. There is no place for antisemitism on our platform, and we do not tolerate any content that denies or relativizes the Shoah. We are constantly improving our guidelines and systems to counter hateful behavior, and we also rely on external expertise and our community to create a safe environment on TikTok. Therefore, we are grateful to the institutions involved in the ‘TikTok - Shoah Education and Commemoration Initiative’. With their content on TikTok, they make a very important and inspiring contribution to awareness building and remembrance. Education is one of the most important means to face and combat hate and misinformation.

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