“It’s 1944, and Nazis have conquered most of Europe … They do terrible things to us Jews … I’m about to turn 13 — finally.”
If that wasn’t a common diary entry for every pre-teen Jewish girl during World War II, it was for Eva Heyman, and the creator of a new Instagram account is determined to show what Eva's life was really like, in a way that her peers now could relate to: through Instagram.
Many of us are familiar with Anne Frank, but Eva was also a real person who endured the tragic life of being a Jew in the 1940s.
She began journaling her life on her 13th birthday, Feb. 13, 1944. She died on Oct. 17, 1944, as one of six million Jews killed at the hands of Nazis in the Holocaust.
An Israeli tech executive, Mati Kochavi, created the Instagram account as an innovative way of getting millennials who are attached to their phones and social media to engage in Holocaust education as the last of the survivors are dying out, according to The New York Times.
Kochavi and his daughter, Maya, created the project that went live on Israel’s annual Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.
In 70 short episodes, Eva, played by a British actress, takes followers with her on her Holocaust journey. And these are based on real entries from a real diary by a real girl.
We witness Eva, through the Instagram posts, go from a happy, imaginative and fun-loving young woman to a scared, lost and hopeless girl.
She talks about her crush and wanting to be a news photographer when she grows up.
Then, as she and her best friend are playing one day, before things get really bad, a man walks past them, spits on the ground and mumbles, "Dirty Jew."
"I'm surrounded by war, but I'm always seeing the sun." -- Eva
As we begin nearing the end of Eva's journey, once the Nazis begin to take over her community, her tone changes drastically.
“You are so lucky that you cannot feel what terrible things are happening to us ... I so much want to live,” she says as she cries.
In her last post, Eva is put on a train to Auschwitz.
The project then ends with a glimpse into the life and death of the real Eva Heyman.
Kochavi's project has received a ton of support, including an endorsement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and plenty of Instagram followers (there were 1.6 million followers of the page as of Tuesday).
"What a great idea. 👏 Thank you for this. I am a teacher in Germany and will bring that to my students," one Instagram user said.
And another responded to one of the posts, "I think this is great idea to ensure also the younger generations remembers the holocaust!!!"
But the project has not come without criticism.
Some Israelis say the use of “selfie culture” and the use of hashtags and emojis to try to simulate life during the Holocaust is cheapening and trivializing that period of history.
Regardless, Kochavi said he spent several million dollars on the project because the Holocaust needs attention from today's youth.
“The memory of the Holocaust outside of Israel is disappearing,” Kochavi said in an interview with The New York Times. “We thought, 'Let’s do something really disruptive.' We found the journal and said, ‘Let’s assume that instead of pen and paper, Eva had a smartphone and documented what was happening to her.’ So we brought a smartphone to 1944.”
After searching through about 30 young people's journals from the Holocaust, Kochavi and his daughter chose to tell Eva's story because of something very "modern and relatable" to her.
"I have no doubt in my mind that young people around the world want to have serious content and be connected in the right way,” he said.
h/t The New York Times.