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Yolocaust art project critiques Holocaust remembrance

January 19, 2017

Combing superficial snapshots with stark historic Holocaust images, satirist Shahak Shapira has critiqued the selfie obsession and Germany's remembrance culture, days after an AfD leader's divisive Holocaust remarks.

Bildergalerie 10 Jahre Holocaust Mahnmal Berlin
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Pilick

A man juggles bright pink balls in a mass grave, a group of tourists poses "German gangster" style at an internment camp and a woman strikes a yoga pose amid hundreds of corpses - her way to make a "connection with everything around us."

These photos aren't real, but for Shahak Shapira, the sentiment behind them is just as disrespectful. The Israeli satirist and author, based in Berlin, has published a response to the thousands of superficial, flippant photos taken at Berlin's Holocaust memorial in a new art project called Yolocaust.

Yolocaust  Shahak Shapira
Image: yolocaust.de

The idea is simple: Shapira combined selfies taken at the memorial found on social media with historical images from the World War II extermination camps run by the Nazis, fading one into the other to juxtapose the frivolity with the facts.

Reaction to Shapira's art project on social media has been mixed. Many have applauded his efforts, calling the project "powerful," "fascinating" and a "controversial yet effective lesson of appropriate behavior."

Others, however, questioned whether Shapira's idea was the best way of addressing tourists' lack of respect. While agreeing that is disrespectful to snap selfies at a memorial, some thought it was far worse to steal photos and "publicly shame" tourists who may not even know what the memorial commemorates.

The Holocaust memorial, a field of around 2,700 concrete slabs in central Berlin, was set up in 2005 to honor and remember the up to 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Response to AfD attack on 'policy of Holocaust remembrance'

Shapira's project comes just days after a leader of the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) attacked Germany's national Holocaust memorial and criticized the heavy focus on teaching its citizens about the Nazi genocide.

Björn Höckr
Höcke's inflammatory comments have been condemned by Jewish groups and the political establishmentImage: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Heimken

Björn Höcke, the AfD leader in the eastern German state of Thuringia, stirred up anger with a speech to party supporters on Tuesday evening in which he called for a "180-degree" reversal when it comes to remembering Germany's past and its role in World War II.

"We Germans are the only people in the world who have erected a monument of shame in the heart of their capital," he said, to cheers from the crowd in Dresden, home to the anti-immigrant PEGIDA movement.

Höcke has said his comments were misinterpreted, but he has nonetheless been roundly condemned by Jewish groups and the political establishment. German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said the speech had sent shivers down his spine.

"Never, never must we allow ourselves to let the demagogy of a Björn Höcke go unchallenged," Gabriel said Wednesday.

Martin Kuebler Senior editor and reporter living in Brussels, with a focus on environmental issues
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