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“Miss Auschwitz” posts shows antisemitic side of social media



A grotesque image of a skeletal woman wearing a banner saying, “Miss Auschwitz 1943” looks like something out of a Neo-Nazi handbook, but it was shared by an ordinary South African on Facebook in January 2023. Commenting on the post, his Facebook friends mocked the image with crude allusions to starvation and the gassing of Jews in Auschwitz, as well as denying the Holocaust.

The South African in question, Riaan Eksteen, lives in the Eastern Cape. Responding to questions from the SA Jewish Report, he said, “I post controversial topics to get dialogue going. It was posted as dark humour that got a bit out of hand.” After the SA Jewish Report pointed out the antisemitic and offensive nature of the image, he deleted it.

“The meme was created in 2017. It’s not a new one. I didn’t create it, I just shared it,” Eksteen told the SA Jewish Report. “I took it down because I realised it was taken in the wrong context. It was posted as dark humour and not to disrespect anyone. It wasn’t intended to be degrading.” He says he knows about the Holocaust. On the comments other people made on the post, he says, “What others post is on them, not me. I can in no way control what others do, especially on social media.”

Eksteen’s profile says, “I post what I like. Don’t like it? Unfriend me.” Yet community member Leanne Kupritz saw what he posted, expressed her disapproval, and then alerted Jewish community leadership and the SA Jewish Report. She also laid a complaint with Facebook but no action was taken by the social media corporation.

“I hope there will be repercussions for his actions. The comments that followed are just as disgusting. How despicable it is that this kind of content would be allowed on social platforms. It sickens me that any racial comment would be dealt with in seconds, but antisemitism of that nature goes unseen. As you can see in the comments, there are people laughing and Holocaust deniers freely voicing their views.

“It hits me to the core – the ignorance and hate towards us,” Kupritz says. “Comments like that should never be allowed to be voiced. It’s the same principle as racism. No one should ever post an image like that and feel it’s okay and that it’s just a bit of ‘dark humour’. He posts for his followers because he enjoys the response. We’re the last voices of a dying generation. There are hardly any survivors left. I feel it’s our duty [to call this out]. Let comments and posts like that never go unnoticed. Unfortunately, we’ll be defending ourselves as a Jewish nation forever.”

South African Jewish Board of Deputies National Chairperson Professor Karen Milner says “The level of depravity and offensiveness of this post is appalling. The dehumanisation represented in the picture is exactly what the Nazis were trying to achieve. Reducing a starved human being to a trigger for humour or conversation is shocking, upsetting, and shameful.

“The sheer gratuitousness of posting such harrowing imagery displays a casual, flippant attitude towards the subject, making light of it in people’s minds and degrading the victims, almost turning them into objects of repulsion rather than the sheer evil of those who perpetrated such crimes. The SAJBD condemns in the strongest terms this vile, hateful post and understands that it has now been taken down.”

Antisemitism expert and emeritus professor of history at the University of Cape Town, Milton Shain, says, “This is more than antisemitism. It’s the product of crass insensitivity – something one could never countenance, not even from a child. It’s crude, idiotic, and beyond stupid. The person responsible is in serious need of education.”

Eksteen says he would be open to visiting the Holocaust & Genocide Centre in Johannesburg, Durban, or Cape Town if he visits any of these cities. Speaking on behalf of all three centres, Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre Director Tali Nates says the centre would welcome such a visit, which is a crucial part of the education process.

“I’ll definitely think twice before posting anything [like this again],” Eksteen says.

The Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Cape Town recently conducted a study on antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia on social media in South Africa. The centre’s director, Professor Adam Mendelsohn says, “Given the architecture of Facebook – many Facebook groups are private and therefore not readily accessible to researchers – it’s more difficult to assess how pervasive antisemitism is on the platform relative to Twitter.

“Our research, however, did reveal that Facebook groups can produce particularly troublesome dynamics. When like-minded individuals band together to discuss contentious topics on closed groups, users can egg each other on and adopt overheated language unconstrained by the guardrails that typically contain discourse in the real world. Empathy is often an early victim in the frenzy.”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. yitzchak

    Jan 22, 2023 at 1:48 pm

    Maybe a picture of a starving Boer Afrikaner in a POW camp should get the ball rolling.
    Was he looking for new advertising material for weight watchers?
    His fondament should be kicked hard

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