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Countering Holocaust distortion on social media. White Paper

Authors:

Abstract

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the potential and critical issues that small and medium-sized museums and memorials face in both disseminating historical content and dealing with the phenomenon of distortion on social media.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their use of the main social media - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube - for the purposes of disseminating historical content, carrying out commemorative practices and countering the spread of Holocaust distortion.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.
COUNTERING
HOLOCAUST
DISTORTION
ON SOCIAL MEDIA
WHITE PAPER
© 2022, “Countering Holocaust distortion on social media” project
This publication was made possible through nancial support from the International Holocaust
Remembrance Alliance (IHRA Grant Strategy 2019-2023, line 2 “Countering distortion”, IHRA
Grant #2020-792).
The views, opinions and positions expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent
the views of the IHRA.
All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may be freely used and copied for
educational and other non-commercial purposes, provided that any such reproduction is
accompanied by an acknowledgement of the “Countering Holocaust distortion on social
media” project as the source.
Design and layout: Antonio Raga
How to cite this report: Manca, S., Rehm, M., Haake, S., & Guetta, S. (2022). Countering
Holocaust Distortion on Social Media. White Paper. IHRA Project Report.
3
The aim of the project is to provide insights and recommendations on how Holocaust
museums and memorials can play a key role in safeguarding the historical record of the
Holocaust and provide factually correct information. In this sense, rather than focusing on
how social media can amplify distortion, antisemitism and hate speech, we have adopted a
perspective according to which social media is a positive technology that may contribute to
expanding Holocaust knowledge and memory especially among the younger generations.
The project team is composed of the following members and institutions: Stefania Manca
(Institute of Educational Technology, Italian National Research Council; Project coordinator),
Martin Rehm (Institute of Educational Consulting, University of Education Weingarten),
Susanne Haake (Department of Media Education, University of Education Weingarten), Silvia
Guetta (Department of Education, Languages, Intercultures, Literatures and Psychology,
University of Florence), Donatella Persico (Institute of Educational Technology, Italian
National Research Council), Davide Capperucci (Department of Education, Languages,
Intercultures, Literatures and Psychology, University of Florence).
The project team was also supported by work carried out by Marta Testa (Department of
Education, Languages, Intercultures, Literatures and Psychology, University of Florence),
Ilaria Bortolotti (Department of Psychology of Developmental and Socialisation Processes,
Sapienza University of Rome) and Marcello Passarelli (Institute of Educational Technology,
Italian National Research Council).
Three participating organisations provided support and guidance: Yad Vashem, Mémorial
de la Shoah de Paris, Mauthausen Memorial.
This publication has been developed in
the framework of the project “Countering
Holocaust distortion on social media.
Promoting the positive use of Internet
social technologies for teaching and
learning about the Holocaust” (IHRA Grant
Strategy 2019-2023, line 2 “Countering
distortion”, IHRA Grant #2020-792), https://
holocaust-socialmedia.eu.
About the project
4
We are very grateful to the following organisations, which offered their advice and expertise
to the project team and actively collaborated in collecting valuable data: Fondazione Fossoli
(Italy), Fondazione Museo della Shoah (Italy), Memoriale della Shoah di Milano (Italy), Museo
Nazionale dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della Shoah MEIS (Italy), Gedenkstätte Buchenwald
(Germany), Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen (Germany), KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau (Germany), KZ-
Gedenkstätte Neuengamme (Germany), Mahn- und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück (Germany).
Without them, this project would not be possible.
Special gratitude is expressed to Aurora Fino for her organisational support.
For the language proong of this publication, particular thanks are extended to Stella de
Robertis.
Members of the International Advisory Board responsible for guiding the publication’s
production are: Prof. Ilya Levin (Tel Aviv University), Dr. Michael Gray (Hereford Cathedral
School, UK), Dr. Dietmar Sedlaczec (KZ-Gedenkstätte Moringen).
Editors of this publication are Stefania
Manca (Institute of Educational
Technology, Italian National Research
Council), Martin Rehm (Institute of
Educational Consulting, University of
Education Weingarten), Susanne Haake
(Department of Media Education,
University of Education Weingarten),
Silvia Guetta (Department of Education,
Languages, Intercultures, Literatures and
Psychology, University of Florence).
Contact information: Stefania Manca,
stefania.manca@itd.cnr.it
Acknowledgments
5
tAble of contents
Executive summary
Introduction
Use of social media by Holocaust
Museums and Memorials. An international
analysis
Users’ interest and perspectives in two
countries: Italy and Germany
The point of view of German and Italian
museums and memorials
A glance at content posted by museums
and memorials on their social media
channels
Implications for addressing issues of
Holocaust distortion on social media
Conclusion
Annex. IHRA working denition of
Holocaust denial and distortion
References and sources
6
8
12
17
28
33
48
60
63
65
6
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.
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 nancial
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.
7
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 proles 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.
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.
8
introduction
This White Paper presents the main results
of the project “Countering Holocaust
distortion on social media. Promoting the
positive use of Internet social technologies
for teaching and learning about the
Holocaust”. The aim of the project was to
provide insights and recommendations on
how Holocaust museums and memorials
can play a key role in safeguarding the
historical record of the Holocaust and in
providing factually correct information,
while also receiving help to limit the
phenomena of antisemitism and
Holocaust distortion on social media
through implementation of a number of
targeted strategies.
Memorials and museums are increasingly important bulwarks against Holocaust distortion:
they have manifold opportunities for safeguarding the historical record of the Holocaust
and need help to face the challenges posed by those who distort the truth. In this sense,
rather than focusing on how social media can amplify distortion, antisemitism and hate
speech, the project has adopted a perspective according to which social media are a positive
technology that may contribute, on the one hand, to expanding Holocaust knowledge and
memory especially among the younger generations, and, on the other hand, to activating
groups of users and co-creators involved in user-generated content in order to protect the
facts about the Holocaust and mitigate the challenges of distortion.
Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram have become the
preserve of an increasing number of users, who are exposed to thousands of different types
of textual and visual information on a daily basis. As of January 2022, 3.96 billion total social
media users across all platforms have been counted, with an average person bouncing
9
between seven different social networks per month and with 95 minutes per day as the
average amount of time that adults spend on social media across all platforms. Among
the various platforms, TikTok was found to be the fastest-growing social network, with a
staggering 105% user growth rate in the US over the past two years (SproutSocial, 2022).
This gure is particularly important considering that TikTok has become the platform of
choice for children and young adults and that a growing number of Holocaust organisations,
museums and memorials are entering the scene with the clear intention of reaching this
target group. Despite an increase in hate speech and the alarming presence of antisemitic
messages in the various media formats supported by the platform (video clips, songs,
comments, texts, and pictures) (Weimann & Masri, 2021), experts have started to analyse
ways of seriously dealing with the complex history of the Holocaust and with antisemitism
on TikTok (Divon & Ebbrecht-Hartmann, 2022; Ebbrecht-Hartmann & Divon, 2022).
While social media have enabled individuals and groups to connect on a global level and
gain instant access to information and knowledge, they have also allowed the spread and
dissemination of hateful content, including antisemitism and Holocaust denial and distortion
at an unprecedented rate due to the potential virality of content (Nahon & Hemsley, 2013;
Wetzel, 2017). It is nevertheless important to emphasise that antisemitism and Holocaust
distortion are more likely to surface on some platforms than others. Platforms like TikTok,
for instance, until recently were less open to regulation, public pressure and measures to
defend users from hateful content or did not apply their own Terms of Service regarding
hate speech or other offensive content. However, on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2022,
UNESCO and the World Jewish Congress launched a new partnership with the platform
to tackle Holocaust distortion and denial online1. Users searching for terms relating to
the Holocaust will be redirected to veried
information. In January 2021, Facebook
had already reached an agreement with
UNESCO and the World Jewish Congress to
redirect users searching for terms related
to the Holocaust or Holocaust denial to
the website AboutHolocaust.Org (www.
aboutholocaust.org). The website provides
factual answers to fundamental questions
about the Holocaust, presents the facts
of the Holocaust, educates readers on
the historical roots of the genocide, its
processes and consequences, and now comprises 19 languages for social media users
around the world. Today, both Facebook and TikTok users searching for terms related to the
Holocaust, such as ‘Holocaust victims’ or ‘Holocaust survivor’, will see a banner at the top of
their search results which invites them to visit the AboutHolocaust.Org website2.
Another important initiative to address Holocaust denial and distortion as contemporary forms
of antisemitism was promoted by UNESCO, the UN, the International Holocaust Remembrance
Alliance and the European Commission, which launched the campaign #ProtectTheFacts
(https://www.againstholocaustdistortion.org) in January 2021. This international campaign,
which is available in six languages, is aimed at raising awareness of Holocaust distortion
and suggesting measures to recognise and counter it. Besides, The IHRA Toolkit Against
Holocaust Distortion (https://againstdistortiontoolkit.holocaustremembrance.com/) was
designed to help policy and decision makers as well as civil society take steps towards
recognizing and countering Holocaust distortion. It provides leaders with practical tools,
guidance and sample activities to empower them as ambassadors for change in their
institutions, governments, and communities.
1 TikTok joins forces with UNESCO and the WJC to combat
denial and distortion of the Holocaust online, https://
en.unesco.org/news/tiktok-joins-forces-unesco-and-wjc-
combat-denial-and-distortion-holocaust-online
2 For more information about policy actions taken by
social media companies to address online antisemitism,
see Online Antisemitism: A Toolkit for Civil Society (ISD,
2022).
10
Among the recommendations developed to help address Holocaust distortion, the most
signicant are those contained in the IHRA Report “Recognizing and Countering Holocaust
Distortion. Recommendations for Policy and Decision Makers”3. However, while the IHRA
report addresses countering Holocaust distortion as a broader phenomenon, this project
concentrates on guidelines and recommendations specically focused on how museums
and memorials can address Holocaust distortion on social media.
Holocaust museums4 are among the main agents
for Holocaust education, awareness-raising and
memorialisation. Through online and on-site
exhibitions, conferences and seminars, educational
activities and social media strategies, Holocaust
museums play a key role in disseminating awareness
and knowledge of the Holocaust among broad
segments of the population (Oztig, 2022). One reason
for their prominence is that they do not act as isolated
actors but are embedded in Holocaust memorial
cultures (re)constituted through the practices of
international organisations, ceremonies and personal
stories of survivors.
Memorials and museums are also increasingly
crucial in contrasting Holocaust distortion. Since
they can reach large sections of the population, their
commitment to both commemoration and education
may prove to be a major pillar against distortion. From
this point of view, their role as gatekeepers in digital
communication may become increasingly prominent
in promoting educational and counter-distortion
actions. As recently stressed by Elisabeth Ungureanu,
Director of Communications and Administration at
the “Elie Wiesel” National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust5, museums and memorials
can play an essential role in safeguarding the historical record of the Holocaust and making
accessible artifacts and documents which they hold in trust for society (Preserving history)
and can continue to be physical and digital places of learning for the diverse sectors of
civil society (Educating society). Additionally, museums and memorials can counter
Holocaust distortion by engaging their social media followers: they can use the potential
of communication not only to build up a passive following, but also to activate a group of
co-creators involved in user-generated content - thus moving on from being gatekeepers
to gameplayers or part of a community learning together (Building community). Distortive
narratives are more unlikely to enter the mainstream, and distortion will be detected more
easily, if all the following actions are combined: making historical evidence available to all,
educating people to critically reect on their own role in preventing distortion, and providing
digital spaces for people to explore complex stories for learning and inspiration.
The core aim of this project was to raise museums and memorials’ awareness of the
potential of social media channels for Holocaust education and for countering Holocaust
distortion. In this way, they can engage their public not only for promoting their cultural
activities and initiatives, but also by producing good practices of social media adoption
as a means for disseminating accurate historical information and for community building
in order to minimise trivialization and distortion. In order to achieve this objective, it was
necessary to rst carry out an investigation of social media practices enacted both by
museums and memorials, and by users. This provided the background for a fan/follower
questionnaire and for interviews with those responsible for social media communication
in order to gain further in-depth insights into the handling of Holocaust distortion on social
3 Recognizing and Countering Holocaust
Distortion. Recommendations for Policy
and Decision Makers, https://www.
holocaustremembrance.com/resources/
reports/recognizing-countering-holocaust-
distortion-recommendations
4 In this report, from time to time we will use
the term “Holocaust museum” for brevity
to refer to both museums and memorials,
as dened by the Encyclopaedia Britannica:
“any of several educational institutions and
research centres dedicated to preserving the
experiences of people who were victimized by
the Nazis and their collaborators during the
Holocaust (1933–45)” (Parrott-Sheffer, 2019:
n.a.).
5 What is the role of museums and memorials
in countering distortion?, https://www.
againstholocaustdistortion.org/news/
museums-and-memorials-countering-
distortion
11
media channels. Besides, it was also important to analyse the range and quality of content
usually provided on social media by museums and memorials. This investigation was
conducted in line with global recommendations for countering Holocaust distortion, such as
the #ProtectTheFacts campaign6, which aims to promote awareness of Holocaust history.
In order to offer further guidance and suggestions to combat distortion, it was therefore
important to understand to what extent disseminating historical facts on social channels is
standard practice in museums and memorials, and to what extent this is reected by users.
Once this investigation had been carried out, it was possible to draft further suggestions
more specically aimed at containing the phenomenon of distortion and considering other
measures, such as those recommended by the IHRA.
In addition to the reported activities, a number
of focus groups were set up with museums
and memorials, and with stakeholders from
secondary target groups (policy makers and
media specialist), with the aim of assessing
knowledge and effectiveness of the IHRA
recommendations (e.g., the use of specic
hashtags, such as #SayNoToDistortion,
participation in the #ProtectTheFacts campaign, the use and promotion on social media
of the short video “Holocaust Distortion: A Growing Threat”7, etc.) and identifying further
measures to combat distortion.
Specically, research activities involved two specic countries which were partners in
the project – Italy and Germany and focused on analysing the use of four social media
platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube8. Nine museums and memorials
collaborated in the investigation, carried out through a number of activities: Fondazione
Fossoli (Italy), Fondazione Museo della Shoah (Italy), Memoriale della Shoah di Milano
(Italy), Museo Nazionale dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della Shoah - MEIS (Italy), Gedenkstätte
Buchenwald (Germany), Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen (Germany), KZ-Gedenkstätte
Dachau (Germany), KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme (Germany), Mahn- und Gedenkstätte
Ravensbrück (Germany).
This White Paper adopts a mixed-method
research approach and is based on a
review of academic literature, current
media reports, public-oriented government
documents, active involvement of museums
and memorials and on input from various
stakeholders in secondary target groups
(e.g., media professionals, educational policy
makers). The main results of the project are presented below, through a brief description of
the main activities that have been performed. A section is devoted to the implications of
the various results for the drafting of guidelines and recommendations for museums and
memorials to counteract Holocaust distortion on social media.
6 #ProtectTheFacts,
https://www.againstholocaustdistortion.org
7 “Holocaust Distortion: A Growing Threat”,
https://youtu.be/ovdF4pGhew8
8 At the time the proposal was submitted and received a
grant, TikTok had not yet had the relevance for Holocaust
issues that it has today. Moreover, none of the museums
and memorials that collaborated in the project had an
active prole on this platform.
12
use of sociAl mediA
by holocAust museums And
memoriAls
An internAtionAl AnAlysis
An initial investigation was conducted
in the rst half of 2021 with the aim of
revealing the perspective of Holocaust
museums and memorials on their social
media use. The survey explored attitudes,
benets, challenges and modalities of
social media usage and also focused on
how the COVID-19 pandemic affected
modes of commemoration and education
on social media1.
The study involved 69 Holocaust memorials and museums across different countries, of
which 61 use at least one social media platform as a communication channel. More than
half have used social media for over three years. The institutions were analysed in terms of
“size” (small, medium, or large) to inspect how they differ in their attitudes towards digital
and online practices, and to what extent they circulate Holocaust memory on social media.
1 For a complete report on the
results, see Manca (2021c).
number of
insTiTuTions per
counTry
13
Memorials and museums have an overall positive attitude towards social media, with large
and medium-sized institutions that tend to view social media more positively, although
some concerns were expressed mostly by smaller institutions, especially due to lack of
resources. This is because these institutions often have limited staff, a highly localised
audience and possibly low technological and digital skills, which are essential for social
media communication. As stressed in similar studies (see Agostino & Arnaboldi, 2021), lack
of social media competencies may prevent museums from offering real-time data for visitor
entertainment and interaction, as well as dialogue between the museum and its online
visitors. On a positive note, use of social media to counter Holocaust distortion was rated
high by all three subgroups of organisations.
Overall, museums and memorials tend to concentrate on a few platforms only. Facebook
is the most frequently used, followed by Instagram and Twitter. As for social media staff,
almost half of the institutions have an internal social media manager, while in one third of
cases the Director is in charge of social media proles. Respondents also declared that just
over one third of those in charge of social media proles have specic expertise in social
media management or marketing.
4 . 2
4 . 2
4 . 3
4 . 3
2 . 3
2 . 1
3 . 6
4
3 . 4
2 . 8
3 . 7
3 . 9
2 . 1
4 . 1
4 . 8
4 . 6
4 . 7
4 . 8
1 . 5
1 . 5
3 . 8
4 . 6
3 . 6
3 . 6
3 . 9
4 . 5
1 . 6
4 . 2
4 . 7
4 . 1
4 . 7
4 . 4
1 . 6
1 . 4
4 . 4
4 . 3
3 . 6
3 . 3
4
4 . 3
1 . 3
4
00.511.522.533.544.55
If the museum uses social media, the museum will benefit in the future
Social media is a welcome change for the museum
S o c i a l m e d i a i s a n i m p o r t a n t m e a n s f o r m u s e u m o u t r e a c h
Museums need to have a defined social media policy
Social media distracts museums resources from its primary function
Digital media has usurped the role of museums
The museum has to set aside dedicated resources for social media
S o c i a l m e d i a p r o v i d e m u s e u m s w i t h t h e f r e e d o m t o t r y n e w t h i n g s
S o c i a l m e d i a r e q u i r e s m o r e r e s o u r c e s t h a n t h e m u s e u m c a n c u r r e n t l y e m p l o y o n
t h e m
W e w a n t o u r m u s e u m t o h a v e t h e b e s t s o c i a l m e d i a p r e s e n c e , c o m p a r e d t o a l l o t h e r
m u s e u m s
We are eager to support innovative social media projects at our museum
Ex pen di ng res ourc es on so cia l m ed ia com mu nic ati on is a wor th whi le inve stm ent
A n y t i m e s p e n t b y t h e m u s e u m s c o m m u n i c a t i o n d e p a r t m e n t o n s o c i a l m e d i a w o u l d
be better used elsewhere
Museums should use social media to counter Holocaust distortion
Attitudes towards social media
L a r g e M e d i u m Small
Museums should use social media to counter
Holocaust distortion
Any time spent by the museum’s
communication department on social media
would be better used elsewhere
Expending resources on social media
communication is a worthwhile investment
We are eager to support innovative social media
projects at our museum
We want our museum to have the best
social media presence, compared to all other
museums
Social media requires more resources than the
museum can currently employ on them
Social media provide museums with the
freedom to try new things
The museum has to set aside dedicated
resources for social media
Digital media has usurped the role of museums
Social media distracts museum’s resources
from its primary function
Museums need to have a dened social
media policy
Social media is an important means for
museum outreach
Social media is a welcome change for
the museum
If the museum uses social media, the
museum will benet in the future
ATTiTudes TowArds sociAl mediA
Large Medium Small
14
As for the type of content that is being published, respondents report that educational
content, information regarding educational events and information regarding institutional
activities are the most frequently posted types of content, consistently with museums’ role
as providers of education and awareness regarding the Holocaust. Hashtag campaigns,
which are commonly used on Twitter and Instagram but not so much on Facebook, are
not very frequent in postings, probably for the very reason that their prevalent platform is
Facebook. However, it is expected that this mode of communication may increase in the
future, as underlined by other initiatives in the eld of cultural heritage (Uimonen, 2020) and
in recent initiatives by Holocaust organisations (Ebbrecht-Hartmann & Henig, 2021; Walden,
2021a). Fundraising campaigns are also rarely posted, although they are expected to grow in
the near future as they can also be seen as a powerful outreach mode (see Barnes, 2019).
Networking is an important activity for most museums and memorials, with almost all
respondents reporting that their institution follows the social media proles of other
museums/memorials and more than half declaring they draw inspiration from those
proles.
3. 8
3. 7
3. 9
2. 7
2. 5
1. 7
4. 3
4. 3
4. 3
2. 9
2. 5
2. 2
4. 6
3. 8
3. 7
2. 9
2. 7
1. 9
00.511.522.533.544.55
Educational contents (e.g., historical content, moral
education content, personal stories of victims/survivors)
Educational events (e.g., workshops, conferences,
podcasts, webinars, virtual/audio tours)
M u s e u m / m em o r i a l a c t i v i t i es a n d s e r v i c e
communications (e.g., information about Museum
operation)
Material intended to counter Holocaust distortion
Hashtags campaigns
Fundraising campaigns
T Y P E S O F C O N T E N T
L a r g e M e d i u m Sma l l
Types of conTenT
Fundraising campaigns
Hashtags campaigns
Educational contents (e.g., historical
content, moral education content,
personal stories of victims/survivors)
Material intended to counter Holocaust
distortion
Educational events (e.g., workshops,
conferences, podcasts, webinars, virtual/
audio tours)
Museum/memorial activities and service
communications (e.g., information about
Museum operation)
Large Medium Small
15
As for changes induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, a very large majority reported pandemic-
induced changes in various activities. Most institutions have increased the number of
online events, the frequency of posting, and the variety of contents. Other activities such as
fundraising campaigns and contests/competitions have remained constant, while training
on social media marketing has only increased in a limited number of cases.
3
7
7
2
2
5
5
2
3
54
18
20
20
49
80
79
52
72
43
75
74
79
49
15
16
46
25
0 % 2 0 % 4 0 % 6 0 % 8 0 % 1 0 0 %
N u m b e r o f p r o f i l e s
Frequency of posting
Variety of contents
Online events
SM campaigns
Fundraising campaigns
Contests/ Competitions
I n t e r a c t i o n s w i t h f a n s / f o l l o w e r s
Training on SM marketing
To what extent the museum/memorial has increased or decreased the
following activities duringthe covid-19 pandemic (%)
Decreased Unchanged Increased
To whAT exTenT The museum/memoriAl hAs increAsed or
decreAsed The following AcTiviTies during The covid-19
pAndemic (%)
Training on SM marketing
Interactions with fans/followers
Online events
Variety of contents
Frequency of posting
Number of proles
Contests/Competitions
SM campaigns
Fundraising campaigns
The results of the survey were further complemented with data from the metrics usually
employed to measure engagement and outreach on social
media in order to inspect levels of activity, interaction and
popularity in the museums’ Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
and YouTube proles2.
2 For a detailed report of this study, see
Manca, Passarelli & Rehm (2022).
Decreased Unchanged Increased
16
The amount of content published on the three most interactive platforms (Facebook, Twitter
and Instagram) shows similar trends, except for activity on Twitter, which is more intense
for larger institutions. This difference can be explained not only by the more dynamic nature
of Twitter, which provides a quick way to disseminate information, but also by the greater
“political” and civic engagement that large institutions tend to have on this platform, such as
in the case of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and its intense activity in conducting Twitter
campaigns against Holocaust denial and antisemitism (Dalziel, 2021).
In terms of interaction, Facebook posts tend to receive more reactions than Twitter posts,
while post interaction was found to be higher on Instagram than on the other three platforms.
On Instagram, user experience is enhanced by widespread use of pictures, short videos and
stories, contributing to a higher rate of engagement than on Facebook and Twitter and, on
average, greater interaction per post.
Large museums are a “high card” that tends to aggregate most of the interest. With the
exception of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum’s Twitter prole, which accounts for over
one million followers, most of the following takes place on Facebook. For Instagram and
YouTube, the amount of content does not promote page popularity, but it does increase the
amount of interactivity (although, as noted, for YouTube interactivity is usually very low). In
the case of Facebook, readership is relatively more passive as it is easier to engage on a
supercial level (subscribing to the page), but harder to engage on a deeper level (having
conversations).
Overall engagement and interaction remain low on all analysed platforms, and the percentage
of comments and reactions from Facebook pages with respect to user comments is equally
low. Comments and interactions were found to be particularly scarce on YouTube, where
comments are often disabled, and users are far less likely in general to leave comments.
17
users’ interest
And perspectives in two countries:
itAly And germAny
The nine Holocaust museums and
memorials that took part in the project
(based in Italy and Germany) distributed
a specic survey on their social media
channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
and YouTube) so that a study could be
conducted into user interaction with their
social media proles.
The objective was to collect information
about users’ experience and interest in
Holocaust issues, their use of social media
to access content posted by Holocaust
museums on their proles/pages, and
opinions/satisfaction with the use of social
media by these museums.
The survey took place between February
and December 2021 and resulted in 530
useful responses (276 from Italy and 254
from Germany).
18
The majority of respondents were Facebook users (80.4%
in Italy and 46.1% in Germany), although in Italy more
participants selected Facebook and YouTube as the social
platforms they referred to in their answers and in Germany
more participants selected Instagram1 and Twitter2.
Respondents were predominantly women (75.4% in Italy
and 56.7% in Germany) with an average age of 47.9 years
(52.3 years in Italy and 42.4 in Germany) and a higher
education qualication (a university degree was held by
73.2% of respondents in Italy and by 67.7% of respondents
in Germany). Respondents had a variety of professional
backgrounds, including teachers, clerical staff, retired people
and students3.
1 A signicant portion of German users
(39.0%) indicated Instagram as the
social media they referred to in their
answers, against only 2.5% of Italian
respondents.
2 Twitter was selected by 13.8% of
German respondents against only
2.9% of Italian respondents.
3 The German sample had a higher
proportion of students (12.2% vs
4.0%), while there were more teachers
in the Italian sample (28.3% vs 3.9%).
SOCIO-DEMOGRAPHICS
64.0% RESPONSES FROM FACEBOOK USERS,
20.2% RESPONSES FROM TW ITTER USERS
66.4%
FEMALES
47.9
YEARS
70.6 % HIGHER
E D U C A T I O N
QUALIFICATION
16.6% TEACHERS
12.6% RETIRED
10.2% CLERICAL STAFF
7.9% STUDENTS
19
When investigating users’ experience in a number of activities related to Holocaust education,
it was found that “Visits to museums and sites of the Holocaust” was the most frequent
activity, especially for the German respondents, followed by “Participation in events/courses,
initiatives/contests, eld trips, etc.”, and by “Teaching in educational activities at school or
museums, eld trips, etc.”, with the latter activity more frequent in the German sample.
experience
Visits to museums and sites of the
Holocaust
Planning educational activities at school
or musems, ied trips, etc.
Participation in events/courses/
initiatives/contests, ied trips, etc.
Organisation of educational activities at
school ot museums, eld trips, etc.
Teaching in educational activities at
school or museums, eld trips, etc.
2.3
2.3
2.5
2.8
3.1
2.3
2.4
2.9
2.9
3.3
0. 0 0 .5 1 . 0 1 .5 2 . 0 2. 5 3 .0 3 . 5 4 .0
P l a n n i n g e d u c a t i o n a l a c t i v i t i e s a t s c h o o l o r m u s e u m s , f i e l d t r i p s , e t c .
O r g a n i s a t i o n o f e d u c a t i o n a l a c t i v i t i e s a t s c h o o l o r m u s e u m s , f i e l d t r i p s ,
e t c .
T e a c h i n g i n e d u c a t i o n a l a c t i v i t i e s a t s c h o o l o r m u s e u m s , f i e l d t r i p s , e t c .
P a r t i c i p a t i o n i n e v e n t s / c o u r s e s , i n i t i a t i v e s / c o n t e s t s , f i e l d t r i p s , e t c .
Visits to museums and sites of the Holocaust
Experience
G e r m a n y I t a l y
Germany Italy
20
If we look at the issues that appeal to users the most, at the top of the list we can see
“Personal stories of victims or survivors”, “Historical events”, but also “Human Rights” and
“Antisemitism”, as well as “Remembrance and Commemoration” and “Fascism and other
Nazi accomplices’ ideology”. Less attention seems to be paid to issues such as “Wars and
conicts”, “Trauma psychology”, “Nazi ideology” and “Other genocides”. In almost all cases,
averages in the Italian sample were statistically higher than in the German sample.
inTeresT of users
3.6
3. 7
3. 5
3. 8
3.8
3.9
4. 1
4. 1
4. 1
4.0
4. 3
4. 2
4.1
4.1
4. 1
4. 3
4.4
4. 3
4. 2
3.1
3.2
3. 7
3. 3
3.3
3. 6
3. 4
3. 6
3. 8
3. 9
3.7
3.8
3. 9
4.0
4. 1
3. 9
3.9
4.0
4.2
0 . 0 0 . 5 1 . 0 1 . 5 2 . 0 2 . 5 3 . 0 3 . 5 4 . 0 4 . 5 5 . 0
W a r s a n d c o n f l i c t s
T r a u m a p s y c h o l o g y
Nazi ideology
O t h e r g e n o c i d e s
Totalitarian regimes
R e f u g e e s a n d i m m i g r a t i o n
T h e R i g h t e o u s a m o n g t h e N a t i o n s
J e w i s h c u l t u r e
Heritage from the Holocaust: Hope, Faith and Resilience
R a c i s m
C u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e
Holocaust denial and distortion
D a r k t o u r i s m
F as c is m a n d o th e r Na z i a cc o mp l ic e s id e ol o gy
R e m e m b r a n c e a n d c o m m e m o r a t i o n
Antisemitism
H u m a n r i g h t s
H i s t o r i c a l e v e n t s
Personal stor ies of victims or survivors
In te res ts o f us er s
G e r m a n y I t a l y
Personal stories of victims or survivors
Historical events
Human rights
Antisemitism
Remembrance and commemoration
Fascism and other Nazi accomplices’
ideology
Dark tourism
Holocaust denial and distortion
Cultural heritage
Racism
Heritage from the Holocaust: Hope,
Faith and Resilience
Jewish culture
The Righteous among the
Nations
Refugees and immigration
Totalitarian regimes
Other genocides
Nazi ideology
Trauma psychology
Wars and conicts
Germany Italy
21
In terms of usership, half of the respondents have followed
the page or prole for 1 to 3 years, and a quarter either for less
than one year or for over three years respectively. Almost half
started following the page or prole on the basis of a personal
search. More than half follow at least one other museum from
the same country and at least one international museum4. Finally, almost half only access
their page or prole when they receive a notication of new content.
4 More German users tend to follow
international museums than Italian
users (68.1% vs. 41.3%).
49.6% have been following the page or profile for 1 to 3
years, 26.4% for less than a year, 24.0% for more than 3
years
44.7% decided to follow the page or profile on the basis of
a personal search, 15.2% saw the link on another page or
profile
53.4% follow the pages or profiles of at least another
Holocaust museums/memorials in their own country,
54.2% follow the social media profiles of at least one
internat ional museums (e.g., Yad Vashem, Auschwitz-
Birkenau Museum, USHMM, etc.)
39.9% access their page or profile only when they receive
a notification, 27.5% weekly and 18.2% daily
22
The most important reasons given for following a page/prole are the desire for such events
not to happen again, the need to understand the historical facts leading up to the Holocaust,
empathy for the victims, etc. Less important are factors such as the desire to expand one’s
network of personal and professional contacts and the need to share with others. Also, for
these items, in almost all cases average values in the Italian sample were statistically higher
than in the German sample.
moTivATion To follow The pAge or profile
I want that such a horric occurrence
may never happen again
I want to understand what happened during
the Holocaust
I feel empathy for the victims
I want to be able to tell the story further to
next generations
I want to be informed about expositions/
evidence/artefacts of the museum
I want to learn more about the Holocaust/
Second World War
I feel responsible for the coming generations
I want to commemorate the victims
I am curious to know what happened during
the Holocaust
I am afraid that something can happen in the
future again
It is a part of my history/heritage that I want
to know more about
I want to speak for those who no longer can,
but also for humanity more generally
It’s a way of coming to one’s senses and
thankfulness
I want to share personal opinions/
ideas on the topic with others
I want to expand my personal network of
contacts in the eld of Holocaust
I want to expand my study/professional network
of contacts in the eld of the Holocaust
I want to share my study/professional
interests with others
Germany Italy
23
On the whole, users are satised with the quantity and quality of content related to historical
knowledge, the ethical and moral message, and the personal stories of victims and survivors,
but a little less so with the information provided about contemporary events. Overall,
satisfaction with quantity and quality of “Moral content” was found to be statistically higher
in the Italian sample.
sATisfAcTion wiTh quAnTiTy And quAliTy of conTenT
4 . 1
3 . 9
4 . 2
4 . 1
4 . 2
4 . 1
4 . 3
4 . 3
4 . 3
4 . 0
4 . 3
4 . 1
4 . 2
4 . 1
4 . 3
4 . 3
0 . 0 0 . 5 1 . 0 1 . 5 2 . 0 2 . 5 3 . 0 3 . 5 4 . 0 4 . 5 5 . 0
I t a l y
G e r m a n y
I t a l y
G e r m a n y
Quantity Quality
Satisfacti on with quanti ty and quali ty of content
P er so na l st or ies of v ic ti ms o r su rv iv or s M o r a l c o n t e n t H is to ri ca l kn ow ledge News about contemporary events
Germany
Germany
Italy
Italy
QUALITYQUANTITY
Personal stories of victims or survivors Moral content
Historical knowledge News about contemporary events
24
In terms of satisfaction with media content, textual content is the most appreciated, while
interactive content is the least appreciated, with overall statistically higher values in the
Italian sample.
3. 9
4. 1
4. 0
4. 1
4. 2
3. 5
3. 6
3. 8
3. 7
4. 1
0 . 0 0 . 5 1 . 0 1 . 5 2 . 0 2 . 5 3 . 0 3 . 5 4 . 0 4 . 5 5 . 0
I n t e r a c t i v e c o n t e n t s
Streami ng contents
G r a p h i c b a s e d c o n t e n t s
V i d e o s
Textual contents
satisfaction with the media content
G e r m a n y I t a l y
sATisfAcTion wiTh The mediA conTenT
Textual contents
Videos
Graphic based contents
Streaming contents
Interactive contents
Germany Italy
25
Among the factors that motivate people to follow a page or prole, the accuracy of the
available information comes rst, which underlines that the reputation of museums as
reliable content providers is recognized, while the involvement of other users or the popularity
of the page or prole in terms of number of likes or followers are less important. Except for
the item “Accuracy of the information published on the page/prole”, in almost all cases, all
factors determining the “value” attributed to a page/prole were rated higher in the Italian
sample than in the German sample.
2.3
2.5
2.7
3.7
3.9
4.0
4.4
1.9
1.9
2.6
3.2
3.6
3.7
4.5
0 . 0 1 . 0 2 . 0 3 . 0 4 . 0 5 . 0
P o p u l a r i t y o f t h e p a g e / p r o f i l e ( e . g . , n u m b e r o f l i k e s ,
n u m b e r o f f o l l o w e r s )
D i r e c t k n o w l e d g e o f t h e a d m i n i s t r a t o r / s o f t h e
p a g e / p r o f i l e
Q u a l i t y o f t h e c o m m e n t s b y f o l l o w e r s / f a n s
F r e q u e n c y w i t h w h i c h n e w c o n t e n t i s p u b l i s h e d
R e p u t a t i o n o f t h e I n s t i t u t i o n i n t h e f i e l d
R e l e v a n c e o f t h e p o s t s a n d c o m m e n t s
A c c u r a c y o f t h e i n f o r m a t i o n p u b l i s h e d o n t h e p a g e / p r o f i l e
Factors determining the value attributed to a page/profile
G e r m a n y I t a l y
fAcTors deTermining The vAlue
ATTribuTed To A pAge/profile
Accuracy of the information
published on the page/prole
Relevance of the posts and
comments
Reputation of the Institution in
the eld
Frequency with which new
content is published
Quality of the comments by
followers/fans
Direct knowledge of the
administrator/s of the page/
prole
Popularity of the page/prole
(e.g., number of “likes”, number of
followers)
Germany Italy
26
The situation is less positive if we look at the actions that users take most frequently. Users
mainly limit themselves to liking content or comments and sharing or retweeting content.
Activities such as posting or replying with new content or interacting directly with other
users are very limited and infrequent. Comparison between the two samples shows that
the frequency of “Like comments”, “Use direct or private message to interact with the
administrators”, “Participate in donation campaign organized by the page/prole” is higher
in the Italian sample. Frequency related to “Use page/prole hashtags in my posts” is higher
in the German sample, where answers are associated with greater Twitter and Instagram
use.
1. 6
1.6
1. 7
1. 7
1. 9
1.7
1. 9
1. 9
2. 0
2.6
2.6
3. 4
1. 4
1.7
1. 6
1.7
1. 6
2. 0
1.8
1.9
2.0
2. 3
2. 6
3.4
0 . 0 1 . 0 2 . 0 3 . 0 4 . 0 5 . 0
Use direct or private message to interact with the administrators
Post new content (e.g., text, photo, video)
Use direct or private message to interact with other users
Reply to a content/comment with new content (e.g., comment with
text/photo/video/link)
P a r t i c i p a t e t o d o n a t i o n c a m p a i g n o r g a n i z e d b y t h e p a g e / p r o f i l e
Use page/profile hashtags in my posts
Mention or tag other users/accounts/pages
Reply to a comment
P o s t a c o m m e n t
Like comments
R e t w e e t / s h a r e a c o n t e n t
L i k e a c o n t e n t
what actions users perform most often
G e r m a n y I t a l y
whAT AcTions users perform mosT ofTen
Like a content
Retweet/share a content
Like comments
Post a comment
Reply to a comment
Mention or tag other users/accounts/pages
Use page/prole hashtags in my posts
Participate to donation campaign organized by the
page/prole
Reply to a content/comment with new content
(e.g., comment with text/photo/video/link)
Use direct or private message to interact with
other users
Post new content (e.g., text, photo, video)
Use direct or private message to interact
with the administrators
Germany Italy
27
2 . 1
2 . 9
3. 5
3 . 6
3. 7
3. 9
3 . 9
4. 1
4. 1
4 . 2
4 . 2
2 . 1
2 . 5
3 . 5
3. 6
3 . 7
3. 9
3. 9
3 . 9
4. 0
3 . 9
4. 0
0 . 0 0 . 5 1 . 0 1 . 5 2 . 0 2 . 5 3 . 0 3 . 5 4 . 0 4 . 5 5 . 0
I think that the administrators cen sor the discussions
I think something in the way administrators handle communication with
I am satisfied with how other fans/followers interact with me
I am satisfied with how the fans/followers interact with each other
I am satisfied with how the administrator interacts with me
I am satisfied with how the administrator interacts with fans/followers
I feel that administrators respond to fan/follower questions and comments in
I f e e l s a f e i n t h e f o l l o w e r / f a n c o m m u n i t y
I think administrators filter hate messages properly
I think the way in which the content is communicated by the administrators is
I think administrators filter fake news properly
satisfaction
G e r m a n y I t a l y
Finally, in terms of satisfaction, users appreciate how the pages lter out fake news and
hate messages, as well as how the page managers interact with users. Interaction between
peers seems to be less satisfactory. Agreement related to “I think something in the way
administrators handle communication with fans/followers should change” and “I think the
way in which the content is communicated by the administrators is consistent with my
expectations” was found to be higher in the Italian sample.
sATisfAcTion
I think administrators lter fake news properly
I think the way in which the content is
communicated by the administrators is
consistent with my expectations
I think administrators lter hate messages
properly
I feel safe in the follower/fan community
I feel that administrators respond to fan/
follower questions and comments in a timely
manner
I am satised with how the administrator
interacts with fans/followers
I am satised with how the administrator
interacts with me
I am satised with how the fans/followers interact
with each other
I am satised with how other fans/followers
interact with me
I think something in the way administrators
handle communication with fans/followers should
change
I think that the administrators censor the
discussions
Overall, these results illustrate that users are interested in the various topics expressed
through the social channels of museums and memorials, that they express appreciation for
the management practices of the different channels considered, and that their usage habits
mainly concentrate on basic activities such as liking, adding comments and re-sharing/
retweeting content. However, it is important to keep in mind that these results reect the
interests of the target group we identied and those of the users in the two countries
considered. It is therefore possible that the same survey might produce different results if it
were conducted in other countries.
Germany Italy
28
the point of view of germAn And
itAliAn museums And memoriAls
The nine memorials and museums
from Italy and Germany that took
part in the project acted as experts of
the remembrance culture with their
perspectives on Holocaust distortion
and their countermeasures. As part of
the project, qualitative interviews were
conducted with social media managers
(e.g., director, head of the communication
department, social media manager, etc.)
from the participating museums in both
countries and subsequently analysed.
They can provide a well-dened insight into the museum/memorial’s communication policies
and strategies. In the interviews, the following three categories were examined in detail:
Information about the organisation and its mission and identity●
Communication and social media strategies ●
The COVID-19 pandemic and plans for the future●
The interviews were also aimed at collecting information about the organisations’ mission
and their educational policy, the results of which were incorporated into the guidelines.
The results of the interviews are summarised in the following. Differences and similarities
between Italian and German perspectives are also discussed.
29
The nature and identity of the nine
museums and memorials are affected
by the history of the events that took
place during the Second World War and
the process of commemoration that
followed. In particular, while the ve
German memorials were all established
on the grounds of former concentration
camps, the four Italian museums have
varied backgrounds1. These differences
are reected in the educational and
commemorative practices of the two
groups of memorials and museums,
as well as in the memory policies that
distinguish the two countries.
The poinT of view of germAn
museums
All museums appeal to a broad target
group, ranging from contemporary
witnesses, family members (2nd and 3rd
generations) and schoolchildren (above
a certain age) to tourists and the local
population. Depending on which victims
were imprisoned in the concentration
camps, further specic target groups
emerge, e.g., surviving Jews, Sinti and
Roma, etc. According to the type of
activities related to Holocaust education,
the museums’ offerings are adapted to
specic target groups. The interviewees
mentioned studies and guided tours,
exhibitions and digital formats that
mainly focus on information presenting
the specic history of the memorial place
and take into account all categories of
victims. One important aim mentioned
in the interviews is to raise awareness of
what happened in the past and convey
a multi-perspective view of history. And
presenting historically correct facts is
precisely the way in which museums deal
with Holocaust distortion. The museums present videos, pictures and text-based facts to
support people in drawing the right conclusions and open up discussion. In the interviews, it
was emphasised that there is no general or standardised way of dealing with distortion, each
1 In particular, the Fondazione Fossoli, which was
established in January 1996 by the Municipality of Carpi
and the Associazione Amici del Museo Monumento al
Deportato, has among its objectives the dissemination
of historical memory through the conservation, recovery
and enhancement of the former concentration camp of
Fossoli. The camp of Fossoli was a concentration camp
established during World War II and located in the village
Fossoli, Carpi, Emilia-Romagna. It began as a prisoner of
war camp in 1942, later becoming a Jewish concentration
camp, then a police and transit camp, a labour collection
centre for Germany and, nally, a refugee camp, before
closing in 1970. It is estimated that 2,844 Jews passed
through this camp, 2,802 of whom were then deported.
Fondazione Museo della Shoah - Onlus was established in
July 2008 by the Committee promoting the Shoah Museum
project, which was formed at the end of 2006. The mission
of the Fondazione Museo della Shoah is to give impetus to
the construction of the National Museum of the Shoah in
Rome, which will allow the Italian capital to join the great
cities in the world (Jerusalem, Washington, Berlin, London,
Paris) that have museums dedicated to the Holocaust.
At the moment, the Fondazione Museo della Shoah has
a small exhibition space located in the area of the former
Roman ghetto (the Portico d’Ottavia) which hosts temporary
themed exhibitions. The Memoriale della Shoah di Milano is
located deep within the city’s Central Station on a sublevel
below the main tracks. It was here that deportees arriving
from San Vittore prison were loaded onto livestock cars.
Originally used for loading and handling mail cars, in the
years 1943–1945, this place was where thousands of
Jews and political opponents were loaded onto livestock
cars, which were then lifted to the track level above and
joined together into trains headed for Auschwitz–Birkenau,
Mauthausen, and other death camps or concentration
camps, both abroad and on Italian soil, such as the
deportation camps at Fossoli and Bolzano. Of all the
places in Europe that had been theatres of deportations,
the Memorial is the only one that has remained intact.
Finally, the Museo Nazionale dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della
Shoah – MEIS (National Museum of Italian Judaism and
the Shoah) was founded with the mission to recount over
two thousand years of Jewish history in Italy. It is a public
history museum in Ferrara opened in 2017, which traces
the history of the Jewish people in Italy starting from the
Roman empire through the Holocaust of the 20th century.
Chartered by the Italian government in 2003, MEIS contains
over 200 artefacts and exhibits that chronologically span
across Jewish history in Italy. The museum has continued to
expand through 2021.
30
case is specic, and it is important to pinpoint the context in which distortion appears and
who expresses it. In general, the interviewees underlined that education plays an important
role in all German museums, also in terms of activities aimed at countering Holocaust
distortion.
The interviews also closely focused on communication and social media perspectives.
All interviewed experts work in small to medium-sized organizations, with professional
teams having experience in technology and digital communication from an interdisciplinary
background (management, curators, educators, etc.), and all with extensive experience
in Holocaust education. In the digital context, museum websites play an important role.
The interviewees mentioned that this is the traditional way to present the memorials with
regard to general information (like opening hours, visit instructions, etc.), but also to present
their historical content and provide materials. From the museums’ perspective, website
presentation remains an important output channel. The importance attributed to social
media is considered by the social media managers as medium to high, with an upward
tendency. All ve museums use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. For video content, they use
the YouTube platform in particular, except for Memorial Neuengamme, which uses Vimeo
for presenting audio-visual material. The possibilities offered by the TikTok platform began
to arouse interest in several museums in 2021 and the rst attempts were made in this
eld, e.g., by the Neuengamme Memorial and at the beginning of 2022 by the Bergen-Belsen
Memorial. This platform opened a discourse about possibilities and forms of remembering
in the museum context. It is important to emphasise here that the interviewees stressed
that each platform addresses different target groups and therefore has its justication in
the museum context.
The COVID-19 pandemic posed major diculties to all organizations involved in this study,
as it did for other cultural and public institutions. Interviewees reported that activities such
as reaching their target groups and hosting visits to memorial sites drastically declined in
many areas. Dynamic changes and ocial restrictions made the work of museums very
dicult, also in view of the fact that little planning was possible in advance. By resorting to
social media and websites, the museums started to generate alternative ways of using the
service and timeframe for activation of visitors. With regard to education in combination with
the use of social media, live tours and online readings were mentioned in addition to pure
sharing of historical knowledge. To enable the public to visit the closed museum in a digital
way, 360°-tours were also made available. In addition to making use of the actual social
media channels, the museums created their own digital formats, such as webinars, online
workshops, apps and internal, restricted-access wikis. Regarding tools for monitoring digital
communication in a professional way, some social media managers reported for instance
on using the standard metrics from Facebook or Matomo or Google Business. However,
several limitations were encountered in this respect, especially nancial limitations and
data protection considerations. To conclude, the level of attention paid to the educational
dimension in the implementation of alternative service delivery strategies could mainly be
described medium to high. All interviewees stressed the importance to continue using digital
technologies and social media strategies developed during the pandemic in the future as
well. In this context, a considerable need for international cooperation was also emphasised.
From the perspective of the interviewed German memorial experts, increasing collaboration
and networking with other museums and memorials is one of the important steps to take in
the future.
31
The poinT of view of iTAliAn museums
The main target group for Italian museums is constituted by younger people, with school
children and their teachers playing a particularly important role. Further target groups
mentioned in the interviews are teachers, university students and researchers, or women
between 50 and 60 with a higher education qualication. All museums pay great attention
to activities related to Holocaust education, i.e., workshops, exhibitions, school projects and
training courses for teachers. Some activities in this area are also carried out in cooperation
with external partners. If we look at activities that are specically designed to address the
issue of Holocaust distortion, the situation seems to be more mixed. The weight attributed
to these activities could be classied as medium to high, mainly due to lack of time and
personnel. One museum directly offers training courses addressing Holocaust distortion
and hate speech on social media.
In terms of communication and social media, the size and experience of the technology and
digital communication team was mainly rated as low, but the person in charge has extensive
experience in using social media. Two out of the four museums consider the museum website
as highly signicant, as it is used for information, presenting exhibitions and educational
aims. All interviewed social media managers mentioned the considerable importance
of using social media, mainly Facebook, followed by Instagram and other social media
channels. However, the interviewees emphasised that the target group varies depending on
the adopted social media channel. It was stated that Facebook targets more middle-aged
people, whereas other channels such as Instagram also target younger audiences. The main
purpose of museums’ postings is described as that of conveying information. Other types
of content usually published on social media were also mentioned, such as information
about activities and symbolic dates, in-depth posts and videos, podcasts of meetings and
workshops. Frequency of post publication is usually scheduled, and some museums use
tools to prepare them. Paid services are rarely used. The occurrence of Holocaust bias and
how to deal with it were considered with particular attention. However, problems encountered
on social channels in the area of Holocaust distortion and denial as well as hate speech
were mainly rated as low-level. The way this phenomenon is handled must be on a case-
by-case basis, as the experts stressed. They delete obvious denials or insults. However, the
interviewees mentioned that critical voices are also tolerated in individual cases, if they are
within a certain range.
As for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the work of museums and their activity on
social media, museums were forced to close over most of the year 2020, except for the arena
of Museo Nazionale dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della Shoah. The museums started implementing
alternative events, like lectures, virtual tours, digital exhibitions and online guided tours.
Furthermore, some memorials organised conferences and developed educational courses,
like the Fondazione Fossoli, which launched a course in “Digital Citizenship Education”2.
The level of attention paid to the educational
dimension in the implementation of alternative
service delivery strategies was mentioned
as mostly high. Activities that were originally
2 http://www.fondazionefossoli.org/it/progetti_view.
php?id=52
32
planned in presence were transferred to digital formats, i.e., online projects3, exhibitions and
book presentations. The remarkable importance of events in presence was also emphasised:
maintaining existing online formats in combination with on-site events was mentioned as
a meaningful option by the experts. Nearly all museums strongly expect to continue using
digital technologies and social media strategies developed during the pandemic in the
future. Finally, the social media managers were asked whether they felt a need for greater
collaboration. Here, strong willingness was noted for the most part. Existing collaborations
should be strengthened, and new ones added.
summAry
The interviews conducted in Italy and Germany with experts from the nine memorials and
museums revealed detailed perspectives and practices adopted by these organizations in
dealing with social media. In both countries, the management of social media channels is in
the hands of a small number of experts who have to contend with a limited amount of time
and resources. The target groups they address vary between the two countries: the Italian
museums mainly focus on younger audiences and teachers, while the German museums
have a more diversied range of visitors, besides school children and teachers.
Different target groups are also addressed on social media channels. While Facebook, for
example, tends to appeal to middle-aged people, other channels such as Instagram are aimed
at younger audiences. Recently, the TikTok platform has been discussed on the German side
and initial steps in this direction were taken by the memorials of Neuengamme and Bergen
Belsen4. In Italy Fondazione Museo della Shoah has also started using TikTok5.
In addition to social media channels, the website also
plays an important role for most museums. Overall, it
was reported in the interviews that the level of Holocaust
denial or distortion directly encountered by museums on
their social media channels is very moderate, although the
recent pandemic increased this tendency and gave rise to
comparisons and distorting analogies. Clear insults and
denials are usually deleted and reported by the museums
to the various platforms. In addition, critical posts are also
discussed publicly or privately with users and among users
themselves.
The Covid-19 pandemic posed particular challenges for
museums. The museums were closed for a long time and
new ways had to be found to get in touch with target groups. Strategies have been developed
to make the historical sites and online exhibitions digitally accessible (e.g., live tours, 360°
tours, etc.). In terms of plans and strategies to further or improve and enhance the services
offered by museums and memorials, some differences between Germany and Italy were
found. In both countries, a desire was expressed for greater networking and exchange to
support each other in dealing with the culture of remembrance on social media, especially
towards certain common objectives.
3 See the projects “Storia in Viaggio
and “Storia in Viaggio 2.0”, https://
www.fondazionefossoli.org/it/
overview_view.php?id=171
4 https://www.tiktok.com/@
neuengamme.memorial and https://
www.tiktok.com/@belsenmemorial
5 https://www.tiktok.com/@
museoshoahroma
33
A glAnce At content posted by
museums And memoriAls on their
sociAl mediA chAnnels
meThodology
Both quantitative and qualitative research
approaches were adopted to investigate
the type of content and level of interaction
that museums and memorials exhibit on
their social media channels. In particular,
social media metrics were used to identify
activity patterns and users’ interaction,
while a qualitative framework was
developed to analyse contents of posts
and tweets.
Social media analytics were employed to investigate the way in which the nine institutions
use the four different social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube).
The activity around these social media proles was analysed in terms of (1) content (e.g.,
post frequency and format, and type of information), (2) interactivity (e.g., user response
and engagement), and (3) popularity (e.g., number of fans/followers, shares, etc.). This
approach is derived from an analysis framework that distinguishes between content and
relational communication strategies and that measures the effectiveness of fan pages and
posts (see Manca, 2021b).
A framework to analyse Holocaust-related content published on the social media proles of
Holocaust museums was designed and validated through a Delphi Study which involved a
comprehensive panel of 22 international Holocaust experts (Manca, 2021a). 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
34
of macro and micro categories, for each of which a denition and examples are given. The
framework may also be considered as a pedagogical tool for teachers to provide orientation
for conducting their own analysis or research and detect best practices to navigate the
various materials available on social media for studying and teaching about the Holocaust.
Data analysis covered one year of activity from 1 September 2020 to 31 August 2021.
Content analysis was applied to a subset of 10 posts, selected on the basis of the highest
post interaction value, for each museum on each of the four platforms, for a total of 281
posts. In some cases, the number of posts or videos considered was less than 10 because
fewer were available. In particular, for Italy, our analysis took into consideration only 2
videos on YouTube for Fondazione Museo della Shoah, only 8 tweets for Museo Nazionale
dell’Ebraismo Italiano e della Shoah, and no tweets for Fondazione Fossoli and for Memoriale
della Shoah di Milano1. For Germany, there was no Twitter
prole available for Dachau Memorial; Buchenwald and
Dachau Memorials do not have an Instagram prole; only
one YouTube video was available for Buchenwald Memorial,
while Neuengamme Memorial uses Vimeo instead of
YouTube.
resulTs
The gures provide a cross-country comparison starting with
frequency distribution across all social media platforms and
focusing on the following categories:
i) popularity (e.g., number of fans),
ii) interactivity (e.g., amount of comments), and
iii) content (e.g. amount of posts).
1 While the former, despite having a
Twitter prole, had no activity during
the time period considered, the latter
had no Twitter account.
35
Although Facebook is used by museums and memorials in both countries, it is evident that
this particular platform is more widely used in Italy. Not only are popularity and content
more than double in the Italian institutions, but also their posts have led to signicantly more
interactivity with their audience.
fAcebook
1502.00
8525.00
69505.00
872.00
2733.00
31450.00
C o n t e n t
Interactivity
P o p u l a r i t y
F a c e b o o k
G e r m a n y I t a l y
Popularity
Interactivity
Content
Germany Italy
36
The wordclouds provide some preliminary insights into the content that was shared. In
Germany the event “otd1945” appears to have created trac. Moreover, the sampled posts
indicate that popular posts are related to remembrance events that deal with the Holocaust,
but also with concepts such as antisemitism and homophobia. The Italian posts are centred
on Italian places of memory, Jews, exhibitions and references to Germany.
GERMANY
ITA LY
37
In contrast with the situation described for Facebook, Italian institutions are largely inactive
on Twitter, while their German counterparts are seemingly using this platform as their main
social media channel. Interestingly, the German memorials and museums are also able to
attain a sizable amount of interactivity.
TwiTTer
This might in part be explained by the Tweet that is provided by way of example. The content
of this Tweet specically deals with Holocaust distortion and how the German Anti-COVID-
19-Movement has continuously tried to instrumentalize Holocaust remembrance for their
own purposes.
Popularity
Interactivity
Content
3 5 . 0 0
151.00
4 1 5 3 . 0 0
9079.00
44662.00
16259.00
C o n t e n t
Interactivity
P o p u l a r i t y
T w i t t e r
G e r m a n y I t aly
Germany Italy
38
39
Additionally, a closer look at the wordclouds reveals that in the German context a lot of
information was being shared on the “Mittelbau-Dora” memorial, on events in the region
of “Hamburg”, on the concept of “Befreiung” (liberation) and even in relation to the former
concentration camp of “Auschwitz”. The Italian memorials and museums focused on “On
this day” type of content, iconic Italian testimonies, places of remembrance in Italy and
educational events.
GERMANY
ITA LY
40
Here, the differences between Italy and Germany are the least pronounced. Institutions from
both countries appear to have only started out on this platform and are taking tentative steps
to expand their portfolio there. Again, the exact reasons remain unknown at face value.
However, this data, in terms of comparatively low overall gures, ts the general notion and
discourse about social media usage for countering Holocaust distortion. There is an open
debate as to whether visual representations (e.g., re-enacted scenes) are disrespectful
towards Holocaust survivors in that the terrors of the Holocaust are trivialized.
insTAgrAm
Popularity
Interactivity
Content
36 3
29906
8642
26 5
24821
8453
C o n t e n t
Interactivity
P o p u l a r i t y
Instagram
G e r m a n y Italy
Germany Italy
41
Moreover, when considering the wordclouds, it becomes apparent that German memorials
and museums decided to extensively use the English language to share their posts. This
notion is supported by posts from the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, which particularly addresses
a UK audience, in this case to commemorate Anne Frank and her family. Findings like this
suggest a communication strategy that, among other things, aims at reaching new target
audiences that originate from beyond local, regional and national borders. In the Italian case,
references mostly involve Italian places of memory, commemoration events and various
concentration camps in Germany and Poland.
GERMANY
ITA LY
42
43
Finally, the data from YouTube indicates that German memorials are actively using this
platform to share visual artefacts. More specically, a closer look suggests that generally
YouTube was used, particularly during COVID-19 lockdowns, to share videos of events that
would otherwise have taken place on location, or to stream guided tours.
youTube
Popularity
Interactivity
Content
51 .0 0
892.00
1075.00
147.00
1368.00
1434.00
C o n t e n t
Interactivity
P o p u l a r i t y
Y o u Tu b e
G e r m a n y Italy
Germany Italy
44
This notion is supported by two popular videos which provided an online tour of the Bergen-
Belsen Memorial and of Memoriale della Shoah in Milan, and by the data represented in the
related wordclouds. Here, clear references can be seen for video recordings of events that
would normally be held in person (e.g. “Gedenkfeier” - Remembrance Event, and “Jahrestag”
- Anniversary). Moreover, the item “Überlebende” - Survivors suggests that interviews with
Holocaust survivors were shared. In the case of Italy, the wordclouds suggest that several
experts in the eld of Holocaust and Antisemitism studies and testimonies were involved in
online events.
GERMANY
ITA LY
45
46
Qualitative analysis was applied to the ten posts that generated more interaction. The results
show that there is a tendency to publish more content focused on “Contemporary issues
related to the Holocaust” (macro-category B) and “Museum activities and communication”
(macro-category C) than content focused on “Historical content of the Holocaust” (macro-
category A). However, the prevalence of these three types of content changes across the four
platforms: Facebook and Twitter seem to focus more on historical content (macro-category
A), while Instagram and YouTube seem to favour content related to contemporary aspects of
the Holocaust (macro-category B). YouTube, in particular, is mainly used to convey content
belonging to macro-category C, i.e., events such as conferences, book presentations, virtual
tours, etc. In terms of differences between the two countries, there is a slight difference in
provision of content related to macro-category A on Facebook and Twitter for the benet
of German memorials, while for Twitter German memorials publish more content related to
macro-category B than Italian ones, which seem to prefer publicising events and initiatives
organized by the museum or memorial. Finally, on YouTube, Italian museums tend to use the
platform more for sharing editorial initiatives than the German memorials.
2 0 .