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Succeeding in the Face of Adversity: How the Auschwitz Study Group Have Embraced Social Media

Whatever the subject may be, being present on Social Media is now a full time occupation for pages who wish to expand their readership. Over the years, we have seen several users with accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter lose momentum and eventually shutdown. The common misconception with social media is that it should dictate the user. We strongly disagree with this opinion and have fought against this misapprehension for several years now, often bucking the trend with how a templated format seems to push the account holder into interacting. If we have a growing audience and our message is clear, concise and thought provoking, then there should be no reason why we cannot become one of the pioneers for educational accounts and persuade platforms to give us more flexibility.

Popular accounts on Instagram are recognised as either business, product or brand. Therefore, the algorithms are often currently giving us less priority in follower’s news feeds resulting in much less interaction than we would have previously been accustomed to. It can be disheartening for many accounts, particularly those such as ours who rely on the good nature of volunteers who are rewarded by success for hard work. However, this mentality is not present within the Auschwitz Study Group. It comes back to our work ethic, planning (often several months in advance) and belief in what we do in the face of many adversities.

Of course, the evidence of success or failure with social media is transparent and open for everyone to analyse or interpret. It is often a brutal, harsh and unforgiving environment. And this is often from accounts who supposedly believe in the same cause as yourself. As the platforms become more user popular, pages such as ours either evolve with it or disintegrate into obscurity. Those who successfully evolve, spawn a new generation of users who attempt to mimic with varying degrees of success. We of course take this as a compliment and encourage likeminded accounts to flourish. It is after all, the benchmark of success to monitor performance against those closest to you.

Every action we make on social media is planned and considered. The subject we tackle is highly sensitive and we are mindful to correctly proportion and tailor how we educate to an ever evolving social media world. Accounts such as ours are beginning to gain recognition and we are proud to join an elite group of high quality, well researched pages but not isolate our audience. We do thrive in testing our followers though. Auschwitz is a very difficult subject, yet one that is often seen within closed walls by definition. The Auschwitz Study Group (ASG) is here for this very reason. There exists a complete incompetence to educate the devastation of Auschwitz on social media platforms, confining the subject geographically and historically. This can be damaging for future generations’ as it may well play in the hands of deniers, something we face daily. But also, who decides where commemoration begins and ends? The answer ultimately lies with the individual. Of course memorial zones should be respected, and if a network of hotels and snack bars have to be built on these grounds, the passing visitor should at least be given the knowledge how this ground was also used during the camps existence. Using the example of Auschwitz, there is no denying this is the case. Hotels, snack bars and burger joints litter the areas formerly known as the ‘Holzhof’, ‘Industriehof’ and ‘Bauhof’. Testimonies given after the war all suggest these were the locations of incredible human tragedy, sometimes between 200-400 deaths per day. Of course, the modern day imagery does not correlate with how the Holocaust is digested by mainstream media and interest. The outer zones are not surrounded by barbed wire, Nazi slogans, watch towers or the bleak grey soulless landscape of a preserved camp area. This renders outer zone imagery, unpalatable as click bait. Yet we do not see our mission to persuade our followers opinions, merely present a new perspective of consideration. This has ultimately been key to our success.

Many of our so called obscure focusses manifest themselves in planned projects showcased across our social media platforms. The duration of each project is usually spread over one calendar month and often planned months in advance. We are careful to correctly translate original testimonies, prepare a balanced and often unbiased opinion before presenting to our followers. Only our project conclusions offer our reflective piece, or sometimes footnotes where a lack of clarity is present in the source material.

Ultimately, we look to the number of followers we have to determine if we are successful. But is this something we should be largely focussed on? The answer is yes and no. We could probably have doubled our follower numbers by this point in time, but we favour an interactive cross section of followers that help us build credibility, believe in what we are doing as a research team and how we present it. The phrase ‘Auschwitz Sub-Camps’ has now entered many people’s vocabulary due to the work of the ASG team. Many people do not realise we spent many years in the Auschwitz archives painstakingly translating every testimony from the sub-camps into English whilst trying to find each of the 45 or so locations. Many were simply not known to anyone, including the museum archives.

As we continue to evolve, we are always looking to recruit likeminded volunteers to help build our team. If you feel you can make a difference, then get in touch. Our work is only just beginning and you can be part of it.

Michael Challoner

 

The Auschwitz Study Group is a non-profit making organisation who rely on a team of over 15-part time volunteers to support our projects.
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