Von Susann Eberlein
Being a fan of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial on Facebook and liking pictures of the camp or new exhibitions might sound strange at a first glance. However, social media activity could be a new way – at least a new attempt – of preserving the memory and not forgetting one of the darkest chapters in history. Some years ago, survivors who were physically fit and willing to do so, sometimes accompanied groups through Birkenau for example. But 69 years after the liberation of the concentration camp, it is already an exceptional privilege to meet survivors, to talk to them about their time during the Holocaust and get their part of the whole story.
Five years ago, a Facebook page about Auschwitz-Birkenau was set up. “In the beginning, I thought I will not sleep at all. Because when I am going to bed, America wakes up. So what is going on while I am asleep?”, Pawel Sawicki, spokesman of the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial says, stressing the fact that people are allowed to leave comments on the Facebook page whenever they want, without having to go through a special control mechanism.
Up to now, 98.218 people like the page of the memorial site. “It sounds strange that you are a fan of Auschwitz memorial. That is a linguistic problem that we discussed right at the beginning. But you can like something or be a fan of it without offending anybody. And after five years of experience it seems that people treat our Facebook page with huge respect”, Pawel Sawicki says, who is also responsible for the memorial’s accounts on Twitter and Instagram.
For him, the followers are a huge classroom. „Whatever I post goes out to them. Of course, some of them just click it and forget about it, but some are very active“, Pawel Sawicki says. This way the memorial could reach people from all over the world who are not able to come to Auschwitz, because of the distance or travel costs for example. People from South America for instance. “There is one guy from Uruguay who is harvesting honey and translates our texts from English to Spanish. He is doing this since four years now, for free. That’s fantastic”, Pawel Sawicki says.
However, he also puts emphasis on the fact that being a Facebook fan and getting a lot of online information about the memorial is not comparable to an actual visit. “We do not want to replace this experience by using social media but we try to make people think that it is important to come here”, spokesman Sawicki says.