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Book Recommendations & Tiny Docs

I do a lot of reading about the Holocaust. Recently I read that the more you know about the Holocaust the less you can understand it. I'll vouch for that.

In this week alone, I read two books by Wendy Lower, The Ravine and Hitler's Furies. The Ravine traces the fate of those photographed at the moment of their death in a small village in Ukraine, during the Holocaust of bullets and Hitler's Furies is about the role played by women during the 3rd Reich.

I had avoided reading Hitler's Furies for some time, because I wrongly surmised that the book was about the most sadistic female Nazi guards and honestly, I just didn't have the emotional bandwidth.

How wrong I was about the book. I have learned through reading Hitler's Furies that the predominant depictions of women in the 3rd Reich as stereotypes of the seductress, the sadistic b*tch, the cold, glamorous wife of a high-ranking official, or the devoted mother are insufficient. These stereotypes do not help us to understand the biggest question - how was this possible?

The consensus in Holocaust and genocide studies is that the systems that make mass murder possible would not function without the broad participation of society, and yet nearly all histories of the Holocaust leave out half of those who populated that society, as if women’s history happens somewhere else. - Wendy Lower

In other news, on January 17th, Gidon and I will be launching a series of "tiny docs" on TikTok and Instagram. The impetus for this project was that sometimes on our social media, commenters say that they had the chance to visit a concentration camp and that it had changed their lives forever. I am so struck by the power of being in such a place and yet for most of us, actually visiting a concentration camp memorial is out of reach. Europe is distant and expensive.

So it struck me that perhaps Gidon could take his followers on virtual mini-tours of several sites. But how on earth could I make that happen? Because I have done work with Hebrew University's unique program of helping Holocaust memorial museums and sites "onboard" to social media to better amplify their messages, I developed relationships with several of the participants.

What if I just reached out to a number of them and asked them to contribute a one-minute video showing their memorial site and giving viewers a simple, thumbnail lesson about it? Then I could direct viewers to the websites or social media accounts of these memorials where they can learn more. To my great delight, a number of memorials agreed and participated.

This has created a metric ton of editing and work for me but somehow, I feel this is important. In this time, when Holocaust education is so pressingly important, there is no consensus on how educators should go forward. TikTok seems like a silly app (and perhaps it is) but that half a million people follow Gidon's account is a strong indication that there IS interest and a willingness to learn.

Not all memorials I approached wanted to participate. For many, the idea of using Tiktok to talk about the Holocaust is too silly and degrades their mission. But my view is that given the high levels of ignorance about the Holocaust, and the rising antisemitism, we who have a stake in Holocaust education must use whatever means we have at our disposal to teach about it. You can only learn so much in a minute-long TikTok but the point is for viewers to become curious and want to learn more. There is a whole, wide world (and Google) out there brimming with books, testimonies, and documentaries about the Holocaust. I hope these tiny docs will serve as an amuse-bouche for more learning. They will be uploaded to our TikTok and Instagram accounts.

The schedule for the tiny docs is:

January 17th: Theresienstadt

January 18th: Treblinka

January 19th: Maly Trostenets

January 20th: The Wannsee Conference Memorial

January 21st: Majdanek

January 22nd: Neuengamme

January 23rd: Dachau

January 24th: Flossenburg

January 25th: Mauthausen

January 26th: The Arolsen Archives

I hope you tune in to this labor of love. The memorials who participated worked so hard; they went out, in the freezing winter cold, on short notice, and showed us their sites and told us a bit about their history. I will be forever grateful.


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