Facebook puts a damper on Holocaust Remembrance Day

April 9, 2021 • 11:15 am

I had forgotten that yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day (in transliterated Hebrew: Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah, or in the original יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה), marked around the world but especially in Israel. The date varies from year to year as it’s fixed in the Hebrew calendar, which isn’t synchronized with ours.  The time will come soon when those who survived the Holocaust, including those who spent time in concentration camps, will no longer be among the living.

As I didn’t post anything yesterday, here’s a bit of news that shows that this genocide is remembered by many and denigrated by others. 

As a Jewish website notes, the picture below was taken in 2015 at the entrance to Auschwitz by Miriam Ciss, daughter of Julius Ciss, the executive director of Jews for Judaism, Canada. It shows Miriam holding the Israeli flag at the entrance through which so many doomed Jews (and gays, Romas, and so on) passed. The photo could be seen as a statement that the state of Israel was a result of what happened during the Holocaust.

If you find that offensive, there’s probably something wrong with you. But Facebook did! As the site notes:

Ciss has given us permission to repost what he wrote on Facebook, presenting Facebook’s response to the picture:

Last week I posted the following regarding how Facebook had tagged the attached photo as “insensitive”:

“It seems that someone complained to Facebook about this previously posted photo of my daughter at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. When I posted it, I stated:

“My daughter, Miriam Ciss, was in Auschwitz Concentration Camp today. My mother Helena and Aunt Dolly survived Auschwitz Birkenau. This is just one of the amazing photos she took. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Passover.

“What I didn’t say was that aside from my parents and aunt, the Nazis murdered both my father’s and mother’s entire families.

“Well, today I received the following notice from Facebook: ‘Your photo wasn’t removed because it doesn’t violate our community standards, but it has been marked as insensitive because it could offend or upset people.’

I don’t know what that means, except that someone must have complained, and some functionary of Facebook in some country must have agreed with the assessment.  Fortunately, people complained about the “insensitive” label and Facebook apologized this way:

“It has come to our attention that a piece of your content was mistakenly flagged by one of our reps. This was a mistake and we’ve reversed the action taken. We apologize for our error.” – Eleanor, Community Operations, Facebook

The article ends with a touching incident that Miriam experienced in her 2015 visit to the death camps in Poland, but I’ll let you read that for yourself.

Primo Levi, who survived Auschwitz, and wrote the moving book If This is a Man about his experience, said of the Holocaust:  “It happened, therefore it can happen again. . . It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.”  I am not as pessimistic as he (his death was likely a suicide), but neither am I as certain as I used to be that we’ve moved beyond the possibility, at least in the West, that such a genocide could recur.

36 thoughts on “Facebook puts a damper on Holocaust Remembrance Day

  1. I think it is high time that social media be regulated as a public utility. Can you imagine if Western Union had censored people’s telegrams, or Ma Bell ended a call because someone said something someone might find offensive? People and businesses use these platforms for communication, and the operators shouldn’t be managing content, which, let’s be frank, they aren’t doing for anyone but themselves, so they don’t get bad press or because they don’t agree with the message.

    1. There was a time when, if you lived in Boondocks, Idaho and believed Hillary Clinton was running child sex ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., or that the U.S. Government blew up the World Trade Center on 9/11/01, or that Bill Gates has inserted some sort of microchip into the COVID vaccine, you would repeatedly be told by the people around you that your belief was nonsense and in most cases you would eventually decide they were right. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now, anyone with a computer can reach an audience of billions and can readily find thousands – even millions – of people willing to share any crazy belief whatsoever, with the result that crazy beliefs are more difficult to filter out.

      I’m sure it will sound overly melodramatic to some, but I’m convinced that the unfettered dissemination of conspiracy theories and other demonstrably false factual information (I’m not talking about “opinions”) on social media will result in the death of democracy and perhaps of civilization as we know it. People simply cannot coexist and function as a society when vast groups of them are living in alternative realities.

      I understand and appreciate the free speech concerns, including the issue of “who decides,” but I can’t help but believe that an imperfect solution is better than no solution at all.

      1. Well put and agreed. The dynamics of human thinking and communication have dramatically changed and some new rules and constraints are needed. There are dangers, of course, but as long as society makes changes slowly and are willing and enable to fine-tune and adjust, we should get where we need to be.

        1. I don’t claim to be a soothsayer, but I won $100 from 3 different people in January as a result of a bet I made with them that if Trump lost there would be a violent uprising by his supporters to try and prevent his removal from office. I just don’t think we should underestimate the consequences that will result from the creation and perpetuation of these alternative realities.

          1. Not to say you aren’t a soothsayer but it seemed pretty obvious something might happen if Trump lost. He fanned the flames of violence for months before the election. Telling everyone that the only way he could lose is if the other side cheated was a big part of it. The other part was his claim that everyone with strength and guns was on his side and would rise up should it be necessary.

      2. In the early days of the Internet I was a staunch optimist: it was clear that in this new world of gatekeeper-less publishing the education system would have to respond by teaching students the hows and whys of evaluating evidence, thinking critically, resisting confirmation bias, etc. The alternative would just be too horrible. Oops.

    2. A telephone call or a telegram is a private communication between two individuals. A Facebook post is a public pronouncement. There is a difference.

      That said, there is a huge problem. We have allowed some of our most important communications methods to be completely controlled by one or two large private companies. Back in the day, the Internet was democratic; its protocols were distributed. It had social media in the form of email and chat (IRC) and news servers, but no one person or company was in charge of any of them but they were completely interoperable. Now, if you’ve got something to say, you need to be on Facebook or Twitter, and if those companies don’t like what you have to say, there’s no real alternative.

      There’s a group of about four or five large companies that, if they got together, could take control of the entire internet and it’s really scary.

      1. Although Facebook and Twitter seek to dominate their markets, what you say here makes it sound like this consolidation is all their fault. From a user’s point of view, they are public places that enable them to speak to the masses. The fact that they dominate is unavoidable. People use Facebook to talk to their friends and neighbors because that’s where they are. Similarly with Twitter. When a group decides that access to the masses is not that important, there are many, many choices of discussion platforms on the internet, each offering unique experience, functionality, and control. I’m not saying that Facebook and Twitter don’t enjoy their dominance but that it would happen regardless of the company. If it wasn’t Facebook, it would be some other platform. Given this dynamic, regulating it like a public utility makes a lot of sense. Something must be done and leaving it up to Facebook and Twitter just doesn’t work, but it isn’t close to being all their fault.

    3. AND a publisher, since they already are – they remove material they don’t like, I’m told that means they have crossed the line into Publishing.

  2. I got a facebook ‘strike’ when I posted the picture (without the addition) when I used it to explain why the “Arbeit Macht Frei’ was offensive – the original post was left up!

    FB seems to allow a lot of right-wing nonsense up…

  3. We seem to have two holocaust memorial days in the UK – Jez did explain to me why, but I cannot recall. Is this the international one?

  4. I wonder to whom the Facebook functionary thought the photo was insensitive. To Nazis? To the Proud Boys? To anti-Semites in general, which the functionary may just be one?

    1. I’m sure this is some anti-semitic group gaming Facebook’s content flagging system. Flagged images go to human reviewers who have to process thousands of images and videos every day. They probably did a quick scan, verified that it didn’t violate standards, then ticked a box or pressed a button that said “Ok, but notify poster that people may find it insensitive.”

      I doubt there’s more to it than that.

      1. My guess is that an Israeli flag is assumed to be offensive to pro-Palestinian types. It’s a racist, apartheid state, yada yada.

        1. I find this terribly annoying. So much so I devoted my column to it some months ago.
          Syndicated later, first here at TMV –

          ***The “Woke” and the Left’s Israel Problem***

          – I’m a leftist in the same way our friend PCC (E) is – traditional style, not woke.

          This idea of Israel as an apartheid state is obnoxious, but the kids suck it up apparently – the more elitist the college the more they suck it up and protest Israel. Guilt? Stupidity?

          Educating them about the reality of the Middle East or the treatment of Jews in… well read my damn article above. hehhee

          I’ve never been to Israel but in a hilarious cosmic joke I was bombed by them while I was in Lebanon. And I’m STILL pro-Israel!

          best regards,


  5. I’m currently proofreading chapters of a book about the negotiations between West Germany and Israel, over reparations following the holocaust, and the separate but simultaneous Jewish Claims Conference ones.

    Interestingly, the author conducted a telephone interview with Benjamin B. Ferencz earlier this year. He’s one hundred years old, and was the chief prosecutor for the United States Army at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, held at Nuremberg. (He was the youngest of the prosecutors, aged just 27.) Following the trial, he stayed on in Germany and served as the Director of the Jewish Restitutions Successor Organization which dealt with claims regarding heirless Jewish property in the US zone and as a result of his experience he became Special Legal Advisor to the Jewish Claims Conference delegation.

    The author writes,

    In the course of a later conversation, [Ferencz] thanked me for never having asked him directly about what he remembered of the recently liberated concentration camps. ‘I am still traumatized by what I saw ‘, he said, speaking to me seven decades on.

  6. My guess is that some Artificial Intelligence algorithm was triggered by this image and caused it to be censored. Then humans got involved and were too scared to de-censor it for fear of missing something to which the Woke mob (or some other mob) would object.

    1. Most checking is done by bots, they seldom ‘get’ nuance, sarcasm or context…

      I’m guessing AI is terrible at that

  7. How close this county is to giving up it’s original republic to insane politicians and ignorant voters. The holocaust happen, there is no doubt about it, and it can happen again. Those who think not are not paying attention.

  8. In my opinion, there are more psychopathic and sociopathic people (from the so-called dark triad etc.) than we would like to admit to ourselves.
    People who act like machines.
    I am not talking about people who can kill another person (because every healthy person can do it under certain circumstances)People who torture other people without problems, oppress, humiliate, take pleasure in it, or feel nothing.

    It seems to me that if people don’t take a closer look at this genetic heritage, it will be reminiscent of, for example, massacres in American schools (and elsewhere) and discussions about restricting access to firearms.
    Ultimately nothing will be done because someone has an interest in keeping the madness going.

    Perhaps also in the face of the lack of remedial measures (medicines) and a large percentage of people in society with this problem.The idea that your neighbor, partner, friend can hurt you without too much emotional trouble is also uncomfortable.

    Without an insightful and scientific approach to this issue, genocide can always repeat itself (anywhere in the world) if other conditions are met

    1. I think a lot of times the genetics is baked in. The only added ingredients required is money. It is part of the Trump mission plan. It is part of nearly all politicians in the congress. Take away the money and you are left with nothing. Just look at the current status of the NRA and Wayne LaPierre. He is fighting for his crooked and corrupt life in bankruptcy trial right now. He and other leaders of this nonprofit and corrupt organization scammed tons of money for their own personal use. And all this was possible while they made guns in America the next greatest thing since Jesus. Hopefully they will go down in flames but who knows?

      1. A certain percentage of people are born without higher feelings, with a malfunctioning system responsible for compassion and empathy. There are more and more people, so there are more and more such people. In the meantime, the technical revolution provides us with better and better tools to murder each other. Some time ago nuclear weapons were added. .
        This is happening all over the world (in the US, simply, having a murdering tool has been made one of the basic rights of citizens)

        I made up one more fantasy while thinking about it.

        An advanced alien civilization arrives on Earth and provides Earthlings with the technology they need to save humans (because, for example, Earth is threatened with catastrophe and humans are threatened extinct, classic apocalyptic fantasy)
        Unfortunately, rescue technology can be used as a weapon.
        I wonder what the people would be up to in such a situation.
        In my opinion, the fight for domination on “Titanic” and creating hell, even before the catastrophe destroys everything. Not all people are good, not all people are responsible, many are additionally stupid (although they have a different opinion about themselves)
        I wonder how to end my fantasies so that they are not so pessimistic? Because generally hope is a good thing.
        Maybe good, common sense, wisdom will win? After all, people still live on this rock “earth”
        Despite strenuous attempts to murder each other, they are still alive.

  9. F/book complaint re Israel flag at A.
    Haven’t a clue.
    I visited A-B.
    Nothing prepares you.
    And will never forget, walking Birkenau, alone, thankfully reading advice NOT to join a “tour”, alone in thought, and then towards sites of gas chambers I did see an Israeli flag bobbing among pine trees, being carried.
    Very moving.
    Yes their families consumed right there.
    Yes the H did speed Israel’s birth and so it should have.
    Funny thing about the Jews is that unlike the two other monotheist faiths they have NEVER predated on other peoples or faiths, just got on with life.
    So did the militant Mediaeval Western Christian Church hear Constantinople’s plea as the Islamised Turks got closer and 1195 did launch a self serving Holy War against Islam, including a detour in 1204, 4th Crusade, to clean out their Orthodox cousins!
    And just as over 3 centuries earlier an Islamic hurricane ranged back and forth, from Morocco to the Indus, sharing the Prophet’s message.

  10. You start from the proposition that facebook is anything useful – that it isn’t just a disaster for humanity.
    Because in so many ways it is a disaster – not just today’s ridiculous example you cite – but in countless ways.

    ———-What a beautiful, haunting and yet hopeful photo though – I’m glad YOU published it. For facebook to censor it is… well… very fuckn facebook.

    I printed it. We also need to think about how “Never Again” has been “again and again” in Indonesia, Cambodia, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, Columbia, fmr Yugoslavia ….etc. There are too many exceteras. And facebook is now helping – see many lynch mobs and murders caused by facebook in countries with languages too obscure for Silicon Valley to “monitor”: Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Burma, etc.


    ps – sorry. Angry. Hate that social media shit.

  11. Primo Levi’s pessimism was far from misplaced. As David Anderson comments above there have been repeated instances of one group of people turning on another with extreme violence since the Holocaust. Our knowledge of the horrors of the Holocaust failed to stop the terrible events in Rwanda for example. And we should be very cautious about assumptions that such horrors will only occur in other parts of the World. The wilder elements of Trump’s support may represent only a small minority of American thought, for example, but there are many more people whose views are very susceptible to being nudged toward acceptance of those extreme ideas if we let it happen.

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