The POV trend on TikTok is home to many aspiring actors, creating characters or situations to express themselves. It also dips into some very dark territory, where violence or abuse is romanticized or normalized. That includes young people pretending to be Holocaust victims.
In a thread earlier this week, Twitter user @gazpachomachine posted a TikTok in which a young woman, who appears to be wearing makeup to make her face look more gaunt, plays the part of someone who's died at Auschwitz and is now in heaven.
The woman made her TikTok account private, and apparently apologized for the video, which is a couple months old and was allegedly for a Holocaust "tribute." But it's not an anomaly: The "holocaust" tag has more than 16 million views on TikTok, and includes "comedy" videos about Jews walking into gas chambers. In several POV videos, participants are wearing makeup that makes them appear burned or bruised. Other questionable videos were addressed on Twitter, including one horrific POV acting out a "Jewish little girl" who's "being inspected by the nazis."
Last month, a song about the Holocaust was removed from TikTok for violating its hate speech guidelines, but not before it got more than 6 million views. The platform banned accounts associated with an anti-Semitic white nationalist group in April. That same month, a video showing high school students pretending to skip into Auschwitz, with the caption "Me and the boys on the way to camp," was called out.
The POV videos are a little harder to assess in terms of intent (though clicks and virality are likely part of it), and TikTok's format doesn't really allow for more nuance or historical context. A 15-year-old creator from Florida told Wired she was attempting to "spread awareness" about the Holocaust with her video, and share her "Jewish grandmother's story."
As Maddy Albert writes for Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "Acknowledging your victimhood is complex, and can be validating in a lot of ways." But, she adds, those who are not Jewish and are playacting in this trend are doing more harm: "By sharing these videos in such a nonchalant and triggering way, on a platform mostly used for silly jokes and distractions, you disrespect the families of Jews and the many others who perished in the Holocaust."
TikTok's community guidelines prohibit posting of content or symbols that represent "dangerous individuals and/or organizations." It makes an exemption for "Educational, historical, satirical, artistic, and other content that can be clearly identified as counterspeech or aims to raise awareness of the harm caused by dangerous individuals and/or organizations."
We've reached out to TikTok for comment.