The power of a controversial message, or YOLOcaust

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is one of the most important monuments in Berlin. It is a labyrinth of 2271 concrete blocks of varying heights. The number of obelisks is a reference to the number of pages in the Talmud, one of the most important books of Judaism. The monument is visited by an average of 10,000 people every day.

In contrast, the acronym YOLO ('You Only Live Once') is the life motto of modern teenagers. Joy, carefree, prosperity, peace, no real problems and living in the moment are slogans eagerly echoed by Millenials and Zetas. And while the very premise of YOLO is perfectly valid - after all, in reference to the good old 'carpe diem' it's all about noticing and celebrating important moments - it's been downplayed to a commercialised, four-letter slogan and blissful, youthful carefreeness.

What does the Holocaust victims' memorial have in common with YOLO? The answer, of course, is 'YOLOcaust', the controversial, shocking project behind which is Shahak Shapira - an Israeli artist and satirist who has lived in Berlin for years. On the project's website - - its author shows idyllic photos found on social media of smiling young people taken against the backdrop of... the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin. By hovering over a particular photograph, we can see that it has been superimposed over moving pictures of Holocaust victims from the Nazi death camps.

Shapira wants, through his project, to draw attention to the unreflective attitude of many, modern teenagers towards Europe's difficult history. For how else to call the use of the Monument as an attractive backdrop for the next photo on Fb, Instagram or, even worse, Tinder? How can we comment on the photos of a person juggling pink balls against the backdrop of the Monument, practising yoga or cheerfully jumping from one obelisk to another with the caption 'Jumping over dead Jews'? We can describe this as behaviour that is shocking to say the least. What should also shock, then, is the reaction to such behaviour, which the Israeli artist succeeded 100 per cent in doing. It is one thing to effectively reach an audience, but to move them and make them think sometimes requires drastic solutions.

Author of the text: Martyna