Last summer, when Pokémon Go was the latest rage, the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. made a special request for visitors to stop playing the game within the museum. Doing so, the museum explained, brought a new level of disrespect to those who had lost their lives to the prejudices of Hitler and his followers.
Unfortunately, the D.C. museum is not the only Holocaust memorial that has been treated with insensitivity and disrespect. The Berlin Holocaust Memorial, consisting of 2,711 concrete slabs which many interpret as a graveyard for the Jews who died under Hitler, has also been the scene of disrespect. This disrespect has been particularly evident through the many pictures individuals have posted of themselves on social media.
According to the Times of Israel:
“Israeli-German writer and satirist Shahak Shapira had enough of it.
Shapira, 28, copied a dozen selfies posted online that were taken at the 12-year-old memorial and imposed them over actual photos documenting Nazi crimes. He put the resulting montages on line last week on a website he dubbed Yolocaust — tacking on the acronym for ‘you only live once’ for an extra jolt.”
A sample of Shapira’s pictures (before and after) is below.
Amazingly, it seems that many were more aghast at the insensitivity Shapira showed with his photoshopped images than the originals posted on social media. In response to the backlash, Shapira noted:
“‘Just imagine, your grandfather – or you – lost your entire family in the Holocaust, or half of them… And then you go to Berlin to this memorial, and then you see how someone hops around here on their bicycle, or mountain bike. I don’t know if you’d find it cool.
‘And I find it dangerous, that this is becoming normal. It kind of suggests that people are not dealing with the real purpose of this memorial.’”
Shapiro has a point that there is something disquieting about the normalization of this behavior. The question is, how did we get to this place? Two explanations come to mind.
The first is a lack of knowledge concerning history. According to a global survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in 2014, nearly half of respondents had never heard of the Holocaust. Of those who had, over 30 percent were skeptical of its reality.
Such ignorance was recently exhibited in a man-on-the-street video about the Holocaust. As student Christopher Lazano noted, the blame for this ignorance can be laid directly at the feet of the education system, which “has failed to teach such important facts.”
But is such behavior also the result of misdirected respect?
Think about it for a moment. Respect and sensitivity have become buzzwords in society. We primarily are taught to respect our selves, be our own person, and form our own values—regardless of whether they are consistent with objective truths which have endured for centuries.
Is it possible that in over-emphasizing respect for self, we have eliminated respect for those individuals, places, and events that deserve it most?
Image Credit: Yolocaust
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.