An American TikTok star who usually posts dance videos decided to teach her Gen-Z followers about the Holocaust in a series of short films she made during a recent trip to Poland.
Montana Tucker has built a huge following of nearly 9 million TikTok users by performing dance moves often with other artists in a variety of settings.
However, when she started telling her audience stories about her grandparents who survived the Holocaust, she was shocked by some anti-Semitic comments in America.
She even lost thousands of followers for talking about the experiences of her ancestors.
To combat this, starting November 1, she is posting short films on TikTok and Instagram in a series called How to: Never Forget.
“I am beyond sad and nauseous with all the ANTISEMITISM that is rampant in our world. HOW IS HATE towards ANY religion, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc. allowed/tolerated? !?”, she wrote in the introduction to her first film.
She added: “My grandparents are Holocaust SURVIVORS – 77 years later and it’s STILL happening?! Follow me as I travel the world to WITNESS the ATROCITIES of the Holocaust and dive in again deeper into my family’s Holocaust survival story.
During the summer of that year, Tucker took a film crew to Poland and, with a guide, made a journey beginning in Krakow and ending in Auschwitz, passing through Bełżec and other related places in Poland. to the Holocaust.
The trip and the series of ten short films were funded by the Claims Conference, an international organization working to provide reparations, property restitution and assistance to Holocaust survivors and heirs of victims.
The anticipation of the trip clearly had a huge emotional impact on Tucker, as the first episode released on November 1 opens with Tucker crying in his hotel room in the United States in anticipation of the trip.
“I will visit many places in Poland to learn more about the Holocaust. But it all leads to Auschwitz,” she said.
“It’s going to be a tough week but I’m ready for it. I know my grandparents are going to be very proud of me.
In the second episode, already in Krakow, she meets Zak Jeffay, a tour guide from a company called J Roots who accompanies her to Holocaust-related sites in Poland.
Together they visit the Tempel Synagogue in the Kazimierz district of the city, the last synagogue built in Krakow which was completed in 1862.
In a voice-over added later, she says: “Zak and I walk around Jewish Krakow and we talk about how the rise of hatred of Jews was a huge factor in the Holocaust and how it is again. up today.
In the episode, Montana broaches the topic of Holocaust denial.
“When I started posting that my grandparents were Holocaust survivors, I got comments saying the Holocaust never happened.”
In the film, a caption explains that a survey in 2020 showed that 63% of millennials did not know that 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust.
A montage of newspaper headlines highlights the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States and Western Europe in recent years.
Montana says, “All these years after that senseless tragedy, it’s still here.”
In Episode 4, Montana travels with Zak to Głogów in Podkarpackie Voivodeship where six thousand Jews were murdered in June 1942 by being shot over pits by Germans. The rest of the town’s Jews were deported to Bełżec.
It should be noted that in this part of the film, the filmmakers used footage of the murder of Poles in Palmiry during the extermination of the Polish elites by Aktion AB.
Montana broke down in tears as she said she visualized her grandparents being shot over the pits. His grandparents actually survived the Holocaust.
Afterwards, Montana lights a candle at the site and reads a Jewish funeral prayer on an iPad held by Zak.
In Episode 5, Montana says, “There were people who were willing to risk their own lives for others and that’s the definition of a hero.”
At this point, the filmmakers remind viewers that Yad Vashem has recognized over 27,000 Righteous Among the Nations, of which over 7,000 were Poles.
Episode 6 sees Tucker travel to Bełżec, which she says she didn’t even know existed. She visits the museum there and discovers some of the 450,000 Jewish victims of the camp.
“You hear the numbers, but when you start seeing the faces, everything changes.”
In Episode 7 titled Deleted, Tucker discovers that many of his grandmother’s family members from Uzhhorod, now in Ukraine but until the outbreak of the war in Czechoslovakia, fell victim to Bełżec.
“Now I realize that I lost more than my great-grandparents in the Holocaust. I lost many, many more relatives than I could have ever imagined. People I will never know ever. Or love.
The Tuckers series is an attempt by the Claims Conference to harness the popularity of social media influencers to reach young people, collectively known as Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012.
“Many social media influencers have platforms and audiences that we don’t typically reach with traditional Holocaust education campaigns.
“Holocaust education for the future must meet a younger generation where they are, and we must use the means of communication they use,” said Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference.
Three more episodes are set to air, with the latest announced for November 9-10 coinciding with Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany and Austria, dozens of Jews were murdered in public and 20,000 young men were sent to concentration camps. concentration.