The teenager's Instagram posts start out breezily enough. Eva Heyman, who just got her first pair of heels for her 13th birthday, films herself eating ice cream in the park. There's also a teenage crush.
But everything rapidly turns dark.
Eva's Instagram account, based on a diary kept by the real Eva Heyman in 1944, will go live Wednesday afternoon (Thursday 1am NZ time) for the start of Israel's annual Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day.
In 70 short episodes, a British actress playing Eva takes followers along on her Holocaust journey: a happy bourgeois pre war existence interrupted by the Nazi invasion of her hometown in what was then Hungary; her family's forced move into the cramped chaos of the ghetto; and the packed train that ultimately transports her to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp from which she never returns.
A creation of Mati Kochavi, an Israeli tech executive, and his daughter Maya, "Eva Stories" is an innovative, if provocative, effort to engage screen-hooked postmillennials in Holocaust education and remembrance as the last generation of survivors is dying out. The Kochavis said the project cost several million dollars to produce.
"The memory of the Holocaust outside of Israel is disappearing," Mati Kochavi said in an interview. "We thought, let's do something really disruptive. We found the journal and said, 'Let's assume that instead of pen and paper Eva had a smartphone and documented what was happening to her.' So we brought a smartphone to 1944."
The buzz around the project has been intense. Even before the fictional Instagram account was activated, it had more than 200,000 followers, the result of an aggressive marketing campaign involving billboards and online promotions by celebrity social media influencers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed the project Monday.
But a storm of criticism has emerged in Israel over the use of so-called selfie culture and of its visual language — replete with hashtags, stickers and emojis — to try to convey the horrors of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed.
Online, some Israelis have accused the Kochavis of trivialising and cheapening the Holocaust, calling the Instagram version an insult to the intelligence of today's young people. Ridiculing the concept, many asked how Eva — who, in her diary, documented the dark nights in the ghetto without electricity — might have charged her phone.
"First of all, we are talking about a display of bad taste," Yuval Mendelson, a musician and civics teacher, wrote in an op-ed in the newspaper Haaretz. "Second, and much worse, there will be consequences. The path from 'Eva's Story' to selfie-taking at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau is short and steep, and in the end, all those tut-tutters and head shakers will join in telling us about the lost and disconnected youth, devoid of values and shameless."
Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial center, said in a statement that it had no knowledge of the project other than that published by its marketing campaign.
"Yad Vashem believes that the use of social media platforms in order to commemorate the Holocaust is both legitimate and effective," it said in a statement.
"Yad Vashem is active and engages the public in a myriad social media channels including Instagram albeit in a different style and manner," the statement continued. "Not only do Yad Vashem's posts contain authentic material and historically based facts, we ensure that its content is both relevant to the public while being respectful to the topic."
In its own presentation for Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yad Vashem has uploaded an online exhibition called "Last Letters From the Holocaust: 1944," a selection of Holocaust victims' final correspondence with family and friends.
Mati Kochavi, who said he had invested "less than $5 million" in the nonprofit project, said he had decided upfront not to involve any government or official institutions. "Because in Israel, the Holocaust is a holy topic," he said. "I didn't want to confront them with this project and have them say no."
Responding to critics of his use of Instagram to tell Eva's story, he said: "Why disrespectful? It's the way people communicate. I have no doubt in my mind that young people around the world want to have serious content and be connected in the right way."
Maya Kochavi, who lives in New York and Tel Aviv, said "a lot of serious movements are happening on social media." She said she and her father had worked hard to make the Instagram experience authentic and real, with hashtags and captions, while seeking to "maintain the sense of honor."
Eva Heyman was born into a secular, middle-class family in Nagyvarad, a town that then had 100,000 residents, a fifth of them Jewish. She lived with her grandparents after her parents divorced. She made the perfect subject for the Instagram project: She dreamed of becoming a news photographer and began writing her diary on her 13th birthday, February 13, 1944.
The Kochavis read about 30 diaries written by teenagers during the Holocaust before settling on Eva's, because there was "something very modern and relatable" about her, Mati Kochavi said.
The Holocaust struck late and swiftly in Hungary, with only three months between the German invasion in 1944 and the mass deportation of its community of more than 400,000 Jews to Auschwitz — a historical tragedy telescoped into little more than 100 days.
"Eva Stories" was filmed over three weeks in Ukraine, and 400 people were involved in the production. The Kochavis sourced tanks, trucks and motorcycles from the period for the invasion scenes. They developed a camera that the actress could hold like a phone.
In her diary, Eva gave vivid expression to her inner secrets, hopes and fears as her world shrank. Soon after the German invasion, Jews were forced to wear yellow stars and were only allowed outside for one hour a day, between 9 and 10am.
When police came into Eva's home to send her family to the ghetto, she wrote: "Everything happened like in a film." Once there, she described the notices pasted on every house with rules and prohibitions.
"Actually," she wrote, "everything is forbidden, but the most awful thing of all is that the punishment for everything is death."
Eva's diary ended May 30, 1944, a few days before her deportation. Mati Kochavi said the Instagram stories from the train were based on descriptions that Eva heard in the ghetto and included in her journal.
Eva was killed in Auschwitz on October 17, 1944, one of 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust. Her mother, Agnes Zsolt, survived the Holocaust and found the diary when she returned to Nagyvarad. She eventually killed herself.
On Thursday morning, when sirens wail across Israel, bringing the country to a standstill in a moment of collective remembrance and mourning, Eva's Instagram story will end.