Eva Heyman died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1944, but an Instagram account is recreating her life — and the horrors of the Holocaust — for a younger generation.
Based on a diary kept by Heyman during the Nazi invasion of her hometown in what was then Hungary, ‘Eva’s Story‘ re-enacts the young girl’s life through a series of Instagram stories. A British actress plays Heyman, recreating her bourgeois existence turned upside down as she and her family are first sent to a ghetto, and ultimately, to Auschwitz, the infamous Nazi death camp.
The account was created by Israeli tech executive Mati Kochavi and his daughter, Maya, who said it cost several million dollars to produce. It went live on Wednesday to mark Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. It has since attracted a million followers, as well as some detractors who say it trivializes one of the most horrific events in human history.
“The path from ‘Eva’s Story’ to selfie-taking at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau is short and steep,” wrote one critic in the newspaper Haaretz, “and in the end all those tut-tutters and head shakers will join in telling us about the lost and disconnected youth, devoid of values and shameless.”
But many others have hailed the project as a way to teach screen-hooked youth about the Holocaust through a format that appeals to them. Its 70 episodes depict a teenager not much different than they are. Before the horrors of Nazi occupation begin, Eva shops for shoes, eats ice cream and has crushes on boys. Kochavi said making this connection for young people is crucial to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive in the long run.
“The memory of the Holocaust outside of Israel is disappearing,” Kochavi told 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.”