HOLOCAUST STATE OF MIND

A Case Study of my Final Project

Visual Communication dep. at Minshar Tel Aviv, July 2017

a random page in my project

When I was a little girl in elementary school, I always thought that Holocaust Day meant wearing a white shirt, standing rigidly in silence with a serious face, listening to the one-minute siren, and be afraid of Hitler.

 

When I was seventeen, I flew to Poland to experience the concentration camps in person, which was also when I was told that the next year I’d go off to the IDF – that I’d have my opportunity for sweet revenge on the Nazis, that I would be the future of Israel and the reason that a second Holocaust would never happen. Too bad that my most prominent memory of that Poland field trip was that I kissed a girl during a game of spin the bottle in our hotel room. But that’s a different story.

 

Of course the Holocaust is a very real and a very personal trauma of many Israeli’s – including my grandparents – and it is imperative that it is remembered, but I believe that there are many ways of recounting and representing history and it seems that Israel has chosen only one, very specific way of doing so.

 

Our politicians remind us daily that the Holocaust must not return, warning us that it is always lurking around the corner. The Israeli media reinforces these words by publishing juicy headlines that capture our attention. The left side of the political map tells us that the occupation to the Palestinians is like the Holocaust to the Jews – that the kids in Syria are just like our grandparents in the 1930’s. The right side tells us that all the Arabs of the world want to throw us to the ocean – just like the Nazis wanted to do – and because of this threat, we should do everything in our power to protect ourselves and prevent the Holocaust from returning.

 

The Holocaust trauma continues to walk with us daily and we have reached a point where we are existing in what I have dubbed, a “Holocaust state of mind”. Every disaster is comparable to the Holocaust. Every decision is justified because of the Holocaust. We are entitled to everything in the name of the gas chambers. We are getting more and more racist, victimized and extreme.

 

My mother once told me that the Holocaust is mentioned in the Israeli media every single day. She heard that theory from her university professor, Dr. Sigal Barkai. That theory never left me and I decided to check whether it was true. I wanted to truly understand how often, and in which light the Holocaust was portrayed by the media. I set out and chose the three biggest newspapers in Israel: “Haaretz”, “Yediot Achronot”, and “Israel Hayom”. Over a period of two months, I opened these three newspapers every morning, eagerly looking for Holocaust references, words connected to the Holocaust dialogue such “Nazi Germany”, “Hitler”, “Auschwitz”, “Anne Frank” and many more. When I found such a word, I highlighted it with a yellow marker.

 

three piles of newspaper at my living room

During the period of my research, as three huge piles of newspaper started piling up in my living room, I started noticing that there were two distinct ways in the way the Holocaust was portrayed in the media. I then proceeded to divide the articles into two types as follows:

 

1. Articles that were directly associated with the Holocaust, such as raising allowances for Holocaust survivors (e.g. “One Shekel a Day”);

 

2. Articles that exploited the Holocaust to amplify a different political agenda, for example, Donald Trump’s Tweet:

 

“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into public. Are we living in Nazi Germany?"

 

Another example was an article written by Yair Lapid, head of “Yesh Atid” party:

 

“My father was a Holocaust survivor, hungry and condemned to death, just like the kids in Syria today.”

 

At the end of those two months of tirelessly gathering and analyzing countless amounts of data, I came to an unexpected conclusion: everybody exploited the Holocaust in the media.

Left, right, from all the corners of the political spectrum – at every opportunity.

the data of two months of research

I entered the data into three different books – one for each newspaper. Every page of the newspaper got a page in the book, using the same size, shape, and grid. To highlight the two different types of articles, I allocated two different colors to allow the reader to easily identify the context of the article. Holocaust-associated articles were marked with a black square, whilst Holocaust-exploited articles were labeled with a yellow square. The size of the square was determined by the original size of the article inside the page.

the design process - abstraction of the newspaper grid

My approach to filing and labeling the data in such a way was to allow the reader to quickly get an idea of how often the Holocaust appeared in the media over a period of two months; identify how many of the articles were directly related to the Holocaust OR used for other agendas; With quick browsing, the reader can recognize the words and context the writer chose to use, pinpoint the emotion the article aimed to elicit out of its readers – empathy, mercy, fear or hate?

 

My goal with these books was to show a different perspective and create awareness around how often and in which context the Holocaust appeared in the media over a period of two months. I wanted to visually summarize the information in a clear, easy-to-digest way.

 

Although the project was done in 2017, the subject is still relevant today, and I think it will only get stronger with the increasing of radical and extreme factors in the world, with the hate against migrants and minorities, and lack of tolerance. We will most likely continue to see these words in the headlines every time Netanyahu or Trump compares Hitler to Putin, or Nazi Germany to Iran. Having said this, I hope that maybe I’ll succeed in making someone stop and think about how the media portrays or references the Holocaust. We could ask more questions, doubt more, criticize more. we can choose our own words more carefully, and leave the Holocaust in its natural place - in history.