YOLOCAUST: Satire or Sickening?

Tourist captures the light at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin | HdeK


Y.O.L.O, the acronym for ‘You only live once’, has been branded on everything. From phone cases to jumpers to cushions – anything that could have it printed on it, has had it printed on it. These 4 letters became synonymous with the youth of today; the ‘selfie’ generation.

Yolocaust, a hybrid of the acronym and holocaust, is a project by Israeli satirist Shahak Shapira that “explores our commemorative culture by combining selfies from the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin with footage from Nazi extermination camps.” The memorial was opened in 2005, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the fall of the Reichstag.



The pretty simple site allows for readers to have full focus on the photos. They’re colourful depictions of people in the sun, posted to social medias (namely instagram, twitter, facebook and, interestingly, grindr). From dance moves to juggling, people “take goofy pictures, jump, skate or bike.”

However, a casual scroll of the cursor over each image unveils a new horror. The pictures fade to black and white as the image subjects become superimposed on actual images from the holocaust. Piles of dead bodies surround a girl doing a yoga pose, while another dances amongst the bodies.

Yolocaust Vs. Holocaust: The shocking reality

Located in Berlin, a city that held one of the largest European Jewish populations prior to the holocaust that claimed the lives of those in the photos, the soil on which the monument is laid is not that of a death camp. So while those in the selfies should not be excused for their ignorance to the commemorative element of the 2711 concrete slabs, it could hold the key to the dissonance between the intended commemoration and portrayed celebration.

This isn’t, surprisingly the first time controversy has been sparked from selfies at the memorial. Back in January 2011, Totem and Taboo posted their first screenshot of a Grindr user using the memorial as a backdrop. Becoming somewhat of a trend, Grindr’s CEO, Joel Simkhai expressed how “deeply moved” he was in users becoming a “part [of] the memory of the holocaust”. Many people did not share this view, citing the app members – and the blog – as being “disrespectful.” It should be noted that members of the LGBTQ+ society were also targeted during the holocaust. As many as 15,000 died at the hands of the Nazis.

However, having visited both Auschwitz 1 & 2, it seems outrageous that we are so caught up in ‘selfie culture’ to stop for a moment and think. 3 million names are listed at the memorial of Jewish victims of the holocaust. This isn’t even half of the 6 million+ believed to have lost their lives to the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. Over 12.5 million are believed to have died at the hands of the Nazi’s – more than the entire population of Bejing, China. Statistically, 1000 people visit the memorial each day; At their peak, the SS euthanized 6000 people each day.

A tongue-in-cheek FAQ at the bottom of the site allows for those in the pictures to get in touch if they wish to have them removed by contacting undouche.me@yolocaust.de. 

What do you think – should we be allowed to take selfies at such sensitive sites? Is captioning your image ‘jumping on dead Jews’ entirely appropriate? Let us know your thoughts over on iCov’s Twitter and Facebook.

Holly McLaren

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