Aron Goodman took to TikTok in a bid to combat antisemitism, with the help of his 85-year-old grandmother Tova Friedman. The response to her personal testimony has been incredible.
Holocaust survivor Tova Friedman is a TikTok star at age 85, thanks to her 17-year-old grandson Aron Goodman.
In the family living room in Morristown, New Jersey, he records and posts short videos of his grandmother's memories of her life in Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp in Poland.
The idea came from Aron. “I realized throughout my years of using TikTok that it's not just for dancing or memes, but it's actually used as a way to spread ideas, messages and culture. So I started using TikTok because I've seen a lot of these anti-Semitic and radical ideas spread throughout social media and specifically TikTok, that I wanted to combat."
The followers can ask any questions about Tova’s memories of her life in Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp located in the part of occupied Poland which was directly incorporated into the Third Reich. She was imprisoned there at just five years old.
“Since September 2021, we've gotten over 75 million views worldwide," says Aron. "Many people haven't even met a Jewish person or never heard of the Holocaust, which is surprising to me."
The pair have certainly made an impact on the TikTok community, gaining millions of views on their videos as well as nearly half a million followers.
"We realised it was a fabulous medium for the Holocaust, for young people who don't want to read the books, who don't like the classes in school, who don't like the way the teachers teach or whatever, who are bored with it, or some who never heard of it. Here (on TikTok) they are listening”, explains Friedman.
It’s hardly surprising that many creators and outlets are turning to social media to educate young people, considering that approximately 60% of Gen Z-ers (typically born between 1997 and 2012) say they get news through social media. That’s according to a study by Oliver Wyman and the News Movement and other research backs that up, showing that people in Gen Z don’t trust or engage with traditional news outlets as much as their elders.
Joining other TikTok stars like Lily Ebert who, at 99, has 2 million followers on the app for explaining her Auschwitz experiences, Tova and Aron are truly providing an educational service to those who don’t know much about the atrocity.
Anti-Semitismis still rife online
Last year, a study by UNESCO - the UN’s Department for Global Communications - and the World Jewish Congress found there was a significant amount of Holocaust denial across social media, with the Telegram messaging app the worst culprit. Around half of all references to the Holocaust were said to deny or distort the truth.
Aron Goodman is using his and his grandmother’s platform to counter such anti-Semitic rhetoric. "If there's no education about right from wrong”, he says, "then that can lead to a genocide or more hatred and violence against Jews and people in general".
The history of the Holocaust
In January 1945, Soviet troops liberated the infamous Auschwitz death camp in Poland. By then, there were few survivors; only around 7,000 prisoners were left inside the camp when the soldiers arrived.
Tova, more than 6 years old at the time, was one of them. Yet she still recounts every detail of the happenings in her videos like it was yesterday.
Friedman, who still works as a therapist and social worker, says, "I think what we have learned from this is the resiliency of human nature, maybe we were made like this. Life is resilient, and you can live again”.
Watch the video above to learn more about Tova’s story.