The project – an Instagram-stylized version of the story of the real-life Eva Heyman – went live on Wednesday, the eve of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. The team behind the project – which is spearheaded by billionaire Mati Kochavi and his daughter, Maya – said Thursday morning that it had already received more than 100 million views in its first 14 hours.
As of Thursday evening, the account had close to 1 million followers.
Instagram stories are short photos or video clips that are posted online and disappear 24 hours later. But the project has used Instagram’s “highlight” feature to save the videos, pinning them to the Instagram account’s page for more permanent viewing.
The popularity of the initiative has been boosted by high-profile endorsements, as well as coverage around the globe. The project’s backers said Thursday that it has been written about in 50 different countries. The story was covered in The New York Times, The Washington Post and dozens of other media outlets.
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged his social media fans to follow the account. On Wednesday, the official Instagram of the White House – with 4.7 million followers – promoted the project.
And many celebrities – both in Israel and outside it – have used their social media platforms to endorse the project. Gal Gadot posted about it on Instagram, as did Bar Refaeli, French comedian Gad Elmaleh and many others.
Comedian Sarah Silverman posted on Twitter late Wednesday: “Who’s watching @eva.stories on IG? Wow.”
Many have praised the project for its innovative storytelling aimed at the next generation. But others have criticized it for cheapening the memory of the Holocaust, and turning a tale of genocide into a series of hashtags.
“Dumbing down history? Or bringing history to a new generation?” asked Andrew Stroehlein, European media director for Human Rights Watch on Twitter.
In a column in Haaretz, Yuval Mendelson wrote that the Instagram account was in exceptionally poor taste.
“It’s a display of bad taste, being promoted aggressively and crudely. And second, even worse, it’ll have ramifications,” he wrote. “The path from ‘Eva’s Story’ to selfies at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau is short and steep.”
But writing in Mako, Neta Hoter defended the project.
“The Holocaust is already part of pop culture,” she wrote, referencing films like Schindler’s List, which also faced some controversy when it was released. “It’s not cheapening it, it’s memorializing it... maybe the Instagram story of a girl in the Holocaust sounds a bit strange at first, but it’s totally worthy.”