Today’s Solutions: April 21, 2024

Visitors routinely overwhelm Tova Friedman’s TikTok account with tough questions, such as: Why didn’t she try to flee Auschwitz? Could she hear screams coming from the gas chambers?

The 84-year-old strives to depict the brutal reality of Auschwitz, a World War II Nazi extermination camp in occupied Poland, with the help of her 17-year-old grandson, while avoiding violent language that would shock her young viewers.

“I don’t want to turn them off, so I have to be careful a little bit how to do it,” Friedman explained. “I’m very careful in choosing my vocabulary.”

A survivor’s obligation

Since she and her grandson, Aron Goodman, started the page in September 2021, about 500,000 individuals have subscribed to Friedman’s TikTok account, as previously reported by Their project is meant to combat online Holocaust denial and misinformation by sharing Friedman’s own experience, guaranteeing that the truth lives on, especially in the face of widespread antisemitism in the United States.

“I have a terrific obligation to speak,” Friedman once said in an interview. “I don’t have survivor’s guilt, but I have survivor’s obligation so that I speak to remember.”

Who is Tova Friedman?

Friedman, who was born in Poland just before the beginning of World War II, was deported by Nazis first to a Jewish ghetto and subsequently to Auschwitz. She was taken from a gas chamber at the age of six for reasons she still does not understand. According to her recently published memoir, she reportedly hid next to a still-warm corpse to avoid Nazis gathering captives for a death march, and she eventually was freed when Auschwitz was liberated in 1945.

Friedman sits on a couch at Aron’s home in Morristown, New Jersey, and speaks directly to the camera in the majority of her TikTok videos. She also takes her audience to other locations, such as a radio recording studio.

In one video, Friedman is seen putting up her sleeve while the camera zooms in on the Auschwitz identification number tattooed on her forearm: A-27633. Friedman also shows the Red Cross card she used to travel after the Holocaust ended in another video.

Friedman had never heard of TikTok before, and initially believed Aron was saying “Tic Tac.” She is still getting to know the tech but says that her grandson has made the transition to the platform as easy as possible. He advises her on how to make the most of the films’ limited length and tweaks the posts afterward.

The dangers of uncontrolled hatred

Aron also protects Friedman from antisemitic comments made about their account, and he tries not to linger on them himself. According to the Anti-Defamation League, while much of TikTok’s material is benign, antisemitic extremists have occasionally used the network to propagate hateful content and conspiracy theories.

“Those give me fuel to try to continue this work,” Aron said. “For the most part, I think about the positive impact we have.” One commenter is a teacher in India who wishes to use some of the account’s material for her class.

Holocaust teaching has been limited in Aron’s classes, he claims. While TikTok videos cannot replace traditional school lessons, Aron believes his channel will motivate young people to learn more on their own. Friedman, who works as a therapist, routinely speaks to students and other groups.

She claims that everything she and her grandson are doing is to make people realize the dangers of uncontrolled hatred.

“It’s a warning to be careful with the hatred that you feel about somebody or something,” Friedman said. “It’s okay to feel dislike. … But it’s a different thing to act on it.”

Next steps for TovaTok

While Aron and Friedman work to expand their material to Instagram and other platforms, they are also determining the fate of the “TovaTok” account. Aron is leaving New Jersey this September to attend college in St. Louis, and he’s not sure what that means for the project. He plans to expand the account to include interviews with other Holocaust survivors and video chats with his grandma via FaceTime.

Friedman, for her part, isn’t ready to abandon their TikTok page.

“I just want to speak as long as I can and reach as many people as is possible as long as I’m alive,” she declared.

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