TikTok and Holocaust Memory: Print Project Proposal

There is no doubt that TikTok has taken over social media. TikTok presents an insane amount of content and a large variety of entertainment such as trending dances, storytelling, challenges, tutorials, etc. In addition to the pop-culture side of TikTok, there is also a popular academic side where academics of all disciplines make fun and entertaining videos about their subjects. I’m not the best at TikTok but I do follow some history accounts, one of my personal favorites is Dylan Hollis @bdylanhollis who makes weird recipes from different time periods, even as early as the Civil War period! While those videos are fun interpretations of history, for my print project I would like to look at TikTok accounts associated with Holocaust memorial sites in Germany.

I have found five Holocaust Memorial sites, namely concentration camps, that have TikTok accounts associated with the museum or site. The five accounts I will be looking at are: the Mauthausen Concentration Camp memorial in Austria @mauthausenmemorial, the Bergen-Belsen memorial @belsenmemorial, the Gedenkstätte Roter Ochse a part of the Sachsen-Anhalt memorial foundation @gedenkstaetteroterochse, the Dachau memorial @dachaumemorial, and the Neuengamme memorial @neuengamme.memorial.

The Neuengamme Memorial TikTok

These TikTok accounts are all relatively new, @neuengamme.memorial has the most videos with the first dating back to November 11, 2021. The account is run by three volunteers at the memorial who from my understanding are doing a Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, a voluntary social year. According to the first video Daniel, a volunteer from England, states that he started this TikTok account because when he was assigned to work at the memorial, he had never heard of it before. His goal for this account is to make information about this memorial more accessible and available. It seems the @neuengamme.memorial account kickstarted the trend on TikTok and other memorial sites followed suit. The @dachaumemorial and @mauthausenmemorial both reference videos from @neuengamme.memorial in their first TikToks but the other accounts all started around the same time, about 2 weeks ago. Most of the accounts only have a handful of videos but seem to have a solid posting schedule.

The TikTok videos are mostly in English, sometimes German is used alongside English or German with English subtitles added to the video. The videos mostly introduce the memorials, how long they were open, when they were liberated, etc. The @neuengamme.memorial has also started to post survivor memory videos where relatives of survivors make TikToks for the account and talk about their relatives experiences there. Another important factor of these TikToks is the interactions in the comments. In their first video, @dachaumemorial asked viewers to comment questions or ideas for future videos and the @mauthausenmemorial account made a whole video about interacting with people over TikTok. These accounts are trying to make these memorial sites more accessible for people who might be interested but unable to visit.

I don’t have a research question yet, but I am interested in the collaboration/interaction aspect of these accounts. What are people commenting/what are they interested in? How are people interacting with the videos, do they just watch them and keep scrolling? How are these videos affected by algorithms? I read an article earlier today about Holocaust deniers on TikTok and how TikTok is trying to fight their presence on the app. I wonder if these videos and accounts are a part of that? Using institutions to educate people? These sites and memorials are trusted sources of information. These accounts could be a way to counteract some Holocaust deniers on TikTok. Here is the article link if interested, https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-60156673. I am also interested in the fact that these sites are on TikTok and how Holocaust memory is being talked about on this platform.

– Emma Todd

Introduction: Emma Todd

Hi all! I’m Emma and I’m a first year Public History MA student. I’ve spent most of my life in Florida, but I’ve lived in New York City, Germany, Long Island, and now DC. Germany was by far my favorite place to live though, and I could talk about it for hours. I graduated from the New College of Florida in Sarasota where I double majored in History and German Studies. We don’t have grades at New College and honestly, I miss that a lot. History has always been my favorite subject and although I have no idea what I want to do with my life I have always hoped it would have something to do with history. At New College I wrote my thesis on Nazi historiography which was wildly fascinating, and I learned that I love historiography! I first encountered Public History as a field of study in my third year at New College and I knew it was the route I wanted to take in graduate school.

me and my little sister molly! I am on the right 🙂

The main reason I was drawn to public history is the emphasis on accessibility and inclusivity. I think history has a little something for everyone! I am so excited to develop my skills as an interpreter/translator of history in this program and help show people that history is really cool! In this class I am most excited to grow my tech knowledge and abilities. I am not tech savvy in the slightest and I constantly feel outsmarted by Gen Z kids. In all honesty even the Tik Tok interface confuses me a little bit. Technology is not going away, and I think it will be beneficial to have a better understanding of what I will have to work with in the future. Hopefully this class will help me learn a little about a lot of things so I can learn what I enjoy doing in the digital world!

I am interested in historiography, beer history, food history, German immigration, Jewish history, American Expats in Germany, the Weimar Republic, women’s history, and labor history! I would like to get my PhD in history, but I’d have to decide on a topic and I’m not very good at that. A little bit about me: I have a younger sister, Molly (pictured above) and we are the exact same and complete opposites! In my free time I really love to read, my goal for this year is 60 books! I also love to cook and bake and this year I am trying to eat more intentionally, locally, and seasonally. I sew and crochet as well and I have lots of projects I am excited about this year! I’m looking forward to getting to know you all this semester 🙂