A baffling TikTok trend, where young people cosplay as Holocaust victims, rightfully enraged the internet this week. As the pain and anger circulated on Twitter, the Auschwitz Memorial issued a statement denouncing the videos, calling them “hurtful and offensive.” But the organization also said this moment should be treated as an “educational challenge” and that it did not seek to shame or attack young people.
In the “Holocaust challenge” videos, teens pretend to be genocide victims in heaven, made up to make themselves look gaunt or burned. Dazed first reported that some dress up in striped outfits like the uniforms worn in Nazi concentration camps and pin a Star of David badge on their sleeve. For some awful reason, lots of these TikToks are scored to Bruno Mars's song "Locked Out of Heaven." It’s enough to make any rational-minded person want to barf, and it makes you wonder how so many of these kids thought this sort of clout-chasing was okay.
Some creators who uploaded Holocaust cosplay videos were inevitably chasing the trend, and that’s really disgusting. But as the Auschwitz museum noted in its statement, a significant chunk of the young people were misguidedly trying to memorialize Holocaust victims.
“Social media is part of our everyday lives and communication. That is why we should continuously raise awareness that not every social media activity can commemorate the Holocaust. It always demands respect towards the victims, proper language and context as well as factual accuracy,” the Auschwitz Memorial said.
At least two other recent TikTok trends echo the Holocaust videos, according to Teen Vogue. In the “mugshot challenge,” creators made themselves up to look intentionally rough, with smudged mascara and bruises, to emulate fake mugshots. Influencer James Charles even participated, though amid criticism that the trend glamorized domestic violence, he apologized and deleted his video. In another misguided challenge, users film themselves pretending to be victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Suffice to say, content that exploits other people’s trauma is never okay.
Read the Auschwitz museum's statement in full, below: