Executive summary The context. Abuse, excuse, misrepresentation and manipulation of the history of the Holocaust are far from a fringe phenomenon. They have an international dimension and considerable weight (e.g., governments that seek to minimize their historical responsibility, conspiracy theorists who accuse Jews of exaggerating their suffering for financial gain, and online users who make use of imagery and language associated with the Holocaust for political, ideological, or commercial purposes unrelated to its history). As for social media, while their rise has enabled individuals and groups to connect on a global level and to gain instant access to information and knowledge, they have also allowed dissemination and spread of hateful content, including antisemitism and Holocaust denial and distortion, at an unprecedented rate. The problem. Although agencies and institutions concerned with Holocaust education and remembrance are well aware of the growing role of digital communication, there is little understanding of how small- and medium-sized Holocaust museums and memorials use social media to disseminate knowledge and memory of the Holocaust to the general public and to counter manipulation and distortion of Holocaust history. Both academic research and stakeholders have so far focused on the mission and practices of major Holocaust agencies, while neglecting to investigate the potential and critical issues that small and medium-sized museums and memorials face in both disseminating historical content and dealing with the phenomenon of distortion on social media. The contribution. This project focuses on a group of Holocaust museums and memorials located in two countries – Italy and Germany – in order to investigate their use of the main social media - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube - for the purposes of disseminating historical content, carrying out commemorative practices and countering the spread of Holocaust distortion. The project adopts an approach that conceives social media as a positive technology both for detecting good practices and for exploring critical issues in the very use of social media themselves. The approach is based on an investigative method that employs a range of quantitative and qualitative research tools. The idea is to analyse how museums and memorials use social media to expand Holocaust knowledge and memory, especially among the younger generations, and to activate groups of users and co-creators involved in user-generated content to protect the facts about the Holocaust and mitigate the challenges of distortion. The results. The various analyses carried out in the project have revealed a number of good practices and limitations that can currently be found in the social media profiles of the surveyed museums and memorials. Furthermore, although Holocaust remembrance has become a global, transcultural phenomenon, especially within European countries, national differences also exist between different local environments. The results achieved have made it possible to identify a number of current limitations, such as a mismatch between scholarly debates and public knowledge, limited bi-directional interaction with social media users, and the provision of materials that are not generally suitable for younger generations. A number of recommendations and guidelines have also been produced, such as further expanding historical knowledge of the Holocaust, investigating users’ preconceptions and biases, promoting the digital culture of remembrance, actively involving the follower/fan communities, and networking between entities with limited resources to share good practices and plan joint activities. These are all measures that Holocaust museums and memorials may adopt to encourage the development of forms of Holocaust knowledge and remembrance that are participatory, innovative and critical.
Abusi, scuse, travisamenti e manipolazioni della storia della Shoah si possono riscontrare a tutti i livelli della società. Si tratta di un fenomeno tutt'altro che marginale: se ne possono trovare esempi nei governi che cercano di minimizzare la loro responsabilità storica, nei teorici della cospirazione che accusano gli ebrei di esagerare le loro sofferenze a scopo di lucro e negli utenti online che fanno uso di immagini e linguaggio associati alla Shoah per scopi politici, ideologici o commerciali che non hanno legami con la sua storia. Indipendentemente dalla sua forma, la distorsione della Shoah e i suoi potenziali effetti diretti o indiretti - antisemitismo, negazione della Shoah, miti cospirativi e nazionalismo estremo - hanno una dimensione e una rilevanza internazionale e pertanto richiedono una risposta internazionale. Per quanto riguarda i social media, se da un lato la loro ascesa ha permesso a individui e gruppi di connettersi a livello globale e di avere accesso istantaneo a informazioni e conoscenze, dall'altro hanno consentito l’esponenziale diffusione e la divulgazione di contenuti carichi d’odio, tra cui l'antisemitismo e la negazione e distorsione della Shoah. Il presente rapporto intende fornire ai musei e ai memoriali della Shoah una serie di linee guida e raccomandazioni per contrastare il fenomeno della distorsione della Shoah sui canali dei social media. Poiché queste istituzioni si configurano come pilastri sempre più importanti contro la distorsione della Shoah, esse non solo hanno molteplici opportunità di salvaguardare la documentazione storica ma hanno anche bisogno di aiuto per affrontare le sfide poste da coloro che distorcono la verità. In quest'ottica, il rapporto evidenzia diverse azioni che i memoriali e i musei della Shoah possono intraprendere per contribuire a ridurre l'impatto delle diverse forme di distorsione della Shoah sui social media. A differenza della negazione della Shoah, cioè il tentativo di cancellare la Shoah dalla storia, la distorsione della Shoah giustifica, minimizza o travisa la Shoah in una varietà di modi utilizzando vari mezzi di comunicazione non sempre facilmente identificabili. Mentre vi è un ampio consenso sul fatto che la negazione della Shoah sia alimentata dall'antisemitismo, la distorsione della Shoah è considerata una forma di antisemitismo secondario o una manipolazione della storia della Shoah e della sua memoria per vari scopi. Sebbene la narrazione storica irresponsabile e abusiva possa riguardare qualsiasi evento storico, oggi il numero di mutazioni e distorsioni della storia della Shoah sta crescendo e sta progressivamente assumendo diverse forme dilaganti. Poiché non esistono misure uniche e generali contro tutte le forme di distorsione, dovranno essere attuate diverse azioni specifiche a seconda del contesto geografico o sociale.
Abuse, excuse, misrepresentation and manipulation of the history of the Holocaust can be found at all levels of society. This is far from a fringe phenomenon: examples may be found in governments that seek to minimize their historical responsibility, conspiracy theorists who accuse Jews of exaggerating their suffering for financial gain, and online users who make use of imagery and language associated with the Holocaust for political, ideological, or commercial purposes unrelated to its history. Regardless of its form, Holocaust distortion and its potential direct or indirect effects – antisemitism, Holocaust denial, conspiracy myths and extreme nationalism – have an international dimension and relevance, and require an international response. As for social media, while their rise has enabled individuals and groups to connect on a global level and to have instant access to information and knowledge, they have also allowed spread and dissemination of hateful content, including antisemitism and Holocaust denial and distortion at an unprecedented rate. This report aims to provide Holocaust museums and memorials with a set of guidelines and recommendations to counter the phenomenon of Holocaust distortion on social media channels. As these institutions are increasingly important bulwarks against Holocaust distortion, they have manifold opportunities for safeguarding the historical record and need help to face the challenges posed by those who distort the truth. In this light, the report highlights several actions that Holocaust memorials and museums can take to help reduce the impact of different forms of Holocaust distortion on social media. Unlike Holocaust denial – the attempt to erase the Holocaust from history – Holocaust distortion excuses, minimizes, or misrepresents the Holocaust in a variety of ways and through various media which are not always readily identifiable. While there is broad agreement that Holocaust denial is fuelled by antisemitism, Holocaust distortion is either considered a form of secondary antisemitism or manipulation of Holocaust history and its memory for various purposes. Although irresponsible and abusive history may affect any historical event, today the number of mutations and distortions of Holocaust history are growing and are progressively assuming diverse rampant forms. As there are no single, general measures against all forms of distortion, several specific actions will have to be implemented depending on the geographical or social context.
Digital technologies and social media platforms have been used in museum communication for over a decade now, and Holocaust museums have increasingly adopted them in their modes of commemoration and provision of educational content. Nevertheless, very limited research has been conducted into the potential of social media as new memory ecologies. In this exploratory study, we conceive social media platforms as socio-technical-ecological systems whereby users develop and engage with memory practices of the Holocaust. We adopt a networked socio-ecological approach to analyse how a sample of Holocaust museums (N = 69) develop practices of digital Holocaust memory in social media. The institutions are analysed in terms of “size” (small, medium, or large), how they differ in their attitudes towards these practices, and to what extent they circulate Holocaust memory on social media. The study adopts multiple quantitative approaches and combines the results of a survey with a set of social media metrics analysing how museums engage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube in terms of generated content, interactivity, popularity, and type of content. Results show that museums have an overall positive attitude towards social media although some concerns were expressed, mostly by smaller institutions; they tend to use mostly Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and to share educational content and information about the museum's activities. However, despite a tendency to aggregate a large number of fans and followers, especially in the case of larger institutions, interaction with users remains limited. Prospects for more interactive participation and its implications are also discussed.
In this report, we present the findings of a Delphi Study aimed at validating a framework which has been designed to analyse Holocaust-related content published on the social media profiles of Holocaust museums. The study may also be considered as a pedagogical tool for teachers to provide orientation for conducting their own analysis or research and find best practices to navigate the various materials available on social media for studying and teaching about the Holocaust. The framework serves the purpose of providing guidance on how to classify information pertaining to three major domains: Historical content of the Holocaust, Contemporary issues related to the Holocaust, and Museum activities and communication. Each domain comprises a set of macro and micro categories, for each of which a definition and examples have been given. Depending on the nature of the posts, some categories may be selected, and others ignored. Key Findings • This Delphi study involved a comprehensive panel of 22 international experts who, in a three round process, reached consensus on a framework composed of a set of macro and micro categories organised into three domains that are suitable for capturing the various topics addressed by Holocaust museums in their social media profiles in the field of Digital Holocaust Memory. • The framework was extensively revised from Round 1 to Round 2, while Round 3 served the purpose of refining some micro categories and their definitions. • The final framework comprises three domains and is constituted by 18 macro categories and 68 micro categories. • Periodisation of historical content, agency and stages of the Holocaust remain open issues as there is still much debate among historians about these notions.
In this report, we present the findings of a survey which was aimed at investigating if and how a large sample of Holocaust museums and memorials use Social Media (SM) in their communication channels. The findings reported in this study reflect the responses of 69 Holocaust museums and memorials from across the world. The most representative countries are Germany (36.2%), the United States of America (13.0%), Italy (10.1%), Austria (5.8%) and Poland (5.8%). The institutions vary widely in age, ranging from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and Památník Terezín, established in 1947, to the most recent KL Plaszow Museum and Memorial in Krakow, opened in 2021. In terms of type, they are mostly Memorial Sites (54%), Holocaust Museums (38%) and Former Concentration Camps (41%), but War and Military and Virtual museums are also included in the sample. Almost all the institutions have a website (99%) and 61 out of 69 (88%) reported using SM as a communication channel. Key Findings • Attitudes towards social media are globally positive, with 96% of respondents that consider SM beneficial for the museum/memorial and an important means for outreach (91%). While respondents consider SM a worthwhile investment (83%), they also expressed a need for dedicated resources to be set aside for SM (72%), with 54% reporting that SM require more resources than the museum can currently afford. • 59% of the institutions using SM have been doing so for over three years. • The Museums/memorials that use SM tend to concentrate on a few platforms. Facebook is the most frequently used (87% use it daily or weekly), followed by Instagram (62%, daily and weekly use) and Twitter (45%, daily and weekly use). • 48% of the institutions have an internal SM manager, while only 10% use an external SM Manager. In 31% of cases, the Director is in charge of social media profiles. Persons in charge of SM profiles have specific expertise in SM management or marketing only in 38% of cases. . • In terms of SM content, the institutions tend to publish mainly educational material (80%), to use SM for sharing information about activities and initiatives (74%) and to organise educational events (70%) often or very often. • 90% of the respondents reported that their institution follows the SM profile of other museums/memorials and 67% declared that they draw inspiration from those profiles. • Only 30% reported the intention to change their SM policies and strategies, mostly to diversify content according to the nature of the different platforms, to develop specific content for SM, to increase the number of platforms used, and to improve strategies and interaction with followers/fans. • As for changes induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, 89% reported pandemic-induced changes in various activities. Most institutions have increased the number of online events (79%), the frequency of posting (75%), and the variety of contents (74%). Other activities such as fundraising campaigns (80%) and contests/competitions (79%) have remained constant, while training on SM marketing has only increased in 25% of cases.
The use of digital technologies and social media has become an increasingly significant means for engagement in many fields, and that of cultural heritage is no exception. Specifically, Holocaust museums have long been committed to providing historical and educational content to their audiences, and to this end digital communication channels and social media in particular figure among the means employed. Despite this, relatively few research studies have investigated the potential of Holocaust museums' use of social media as new memory ecologies. This preliminary study investigates how three prominent Holocaust museums (Yad Vashem in Israel, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland) use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to enhance knowledge and understanding of historical and remembrance events among the general public. Using a mixed-methods approach, we analysed the museums’ social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to investigate the topics and phrases that appear most often in the posted contents. Through latent semantic analyses, we determined the words most frequently used by the three museums themselves and within the three social media channels. Additionally, we employed topic modelling to determine underlying themes. This approach allowed us to identify possible similarities and differences between the museums’ communication output and their social media channels. Moreover, to illustrate these potential similarities and differences, we also conducted 2-Mode network analyses. Our results show that the museums’ use of each social media channel exhibits different types of topical foci. For example, Twitter posts specifically include terminology on the Auschwitz camp, Facebook communication is more centred on the “exhibition” and the “Nazi” regime, while on Instagram the combination of “holocaust” and “photo” can often be found. Furthermore, similarities were also found, namely that the topic of “Auschwitz” is omnipresent and that all museums appear to focus on the 1941–1945 timeframe. The study has implications for the kind of historical knowledge and contemporary information that Holocaust museums and memorials contribute to disseminating on their social media profiles.
Along with advances in communication technology that are making new forms of historical memorialization and education available, social media are researched as valuable tools for supporting forms of digital memory and for engaging students and teachers about historical knowledge and moral education. This study aims to map the current state of Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust education and to identify main topics of research in the two areas. It adopts a mixed-method approach that combines qualitative analysis with bibliometric approaches to review publications that use social media for digital memory and history education about the Holocaust. Results based on 28 publications reveal several research topics and that, despite some common theoretical references, the two subfields mostly rely on separate conceptual backgrounds. While Holocaust remembrance is a well-established research field, there are few studies and a lack of theoretical elaboration about social media use for teaching and learning about the Holocaust.
With the passing of the last testimonies, Holocaust remembrance and Holocaust education progressively rely on digital technologies to engage people in immersive, simulative, and even counterfactual memories of the Holocaust. This preliminary study investigates how three prominent Holocaust museums use social media to enhance the general public’s knowledge and understanding of historical and remembrance events. A mixed-method approach based on a combination of social media analytics and latent semantic analysis was used to investigate the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube profiles of Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Auschwitz–Birkenau Memorial and Museum. This social media analysis adopted a combination of metrics and was focused on how these social media profiles engage the public at both the page-content and relational levels, while their communication strategies were analysed in terms of generated content, interactivity, and popularity. Latent semantic analysis was used to analyse the most frequently used hashtags and words to investigate what topics and phrases appear most often in the content posted by the three museums. Overall, the results show that the three organisations are more active on Twitter than on Facebook and Instagram, with the Auschwitz–Birkenau Museum and Memorial occupying a prominent position in Twitter discourse while Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum had stronger presences on YouTube. Although the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibits some interactivity with its Facebook fan community, there is a general tendency to use social media as a one-way broadcast mode of communication. Finally, the analysis of terms and hashtags revealed the centrality of “Auschwitz” as a broad topic of Holocaust discourse, overshadowing other topics, especially those related to recent events.
Nur wenige Studien haben bis dato untersucht, wie Holocaust-Organisationen Soziale Medien in ihrer Öffentlichkeits- und Bildungsarbeit einsetzen. Diese Studie präsentiert die Resultate einer Literaturrecherche zur Nutzung von sozialen Medien für die Holocaust-Gedenkarbeit und -Erziehung sowie die Ergebnisse einer quantitativen Vorstudie zur Twitter-Nutzung von sechs Holocaust-Museen und -Organisationen in Deutschland und Italien. To date, few studies have investigated social media use in Holocaust organizations to engage general public and to help expand their knowledge of the Holocaust. We present an overview of the literature about the usage of social media for Holocaust memorialisation and education and a preliminary study on the usage of Twitter in a sample of six Holocaust museums or organisations in Germany and Italy. Along with the results of a first quantitative analysis, we also provide indications for future research.