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Accepted Paper:

Selfies in Auschwitz: Narcissism, Witnessing or Working through Trauma?  
Jackie Feldman (Ben Gurion University of the Negev) Norma Musih (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

Paper short abstract:

In recent years, taking and circulation of selfies at the death sites of Auschwitz have become common and have raised controversy. Are selfies a desecration of the dead, an act of witnessing that takes responsibility for the memory of the Holocaust, or a new form of engagement with traumatic memory?

Paper long abstract:

As death-factory, memorial, and mass cemetery, Auschwitz-Birkenau has become the iconic Holocaust site. Over the last fifteen years, visitors increasingly remember the site by taking selfies at Auschwitz, and circulating and posting these photos on various social media platforms.

In this presentation, we will ask: Do such selfies debase the memory of the Holocaust dead, or do they enable members of a younger generation socialized in social media to propagate their experience? Could selfies be considered an act of witnessing that seeks to take responsibility for the memory of the Holocaust? How do gatekeepers of memory react to these selfies? What role do they play in popular culture's collective memory, and how do they interact with previous representations, such as photos, postcards, and films?

To this end, we examine selfies in the context of the digitalized transmission of the memory of the Holocaust. Given the pervasiveness of digital and social media and the demise of the last of the eyewitnesses, selfie-takers may see themselves as secondary witnesses. This is a role already prepared by pre-digital representations- such as the national narrative developed in Israeli youth voyages to Poland - that position young visitors' bodies as the redemptive answer to the Holocaust. Our question then is: are selfies a narcissitic indulgence, a continuation of a tradition or a new form of engagement with the memory of the Holocaust?

Panel Mora04b
Life at the cemetery II
  Session 1 Monday 29 March, 2021, -