Teen Breanna Mitchell said she was just happy that she fulfilled a promise to her dad, who recently passed away. But the grinning selfie she snapped at one of history’s most grim and evil places, the Nazi Auschwitz death camp in Poland, definitely sent the wrong message when she posted it on Twitter about a month ago.
Selfie in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp pic.twitter.com/cPVpGl3Hpb
— Princess Breanna (@PrincessBMM) June 20, 2014
The backlash it created took a while to go viral, but over the weekend, Mitchell was bombarded with both online anger — and support. Unfortunately, Breanna only made the problem worse by tweeting about the media reaction to her Auschwitz selfie — specifically a story in Business Insider — with the comment, “I’m famous yall [sic].”
@PrincessBMM How can you be happy and smile in this pic? Do you not understand the horrors and murders that happened here? I’d be crying.
— Tara Simpson (@TeighLeigh) July 8, 2014
@PrincessBMM @ianbhough Did you manage to take any of you laughing inside a gas chamber or maybe one with your head stuck in a cremator?
— Sh!t Be Meltin (@sh1tbemeltin) July 20, 2014
Mitchell later said that she and her father had studied the Holocaust together and had always planned a trip to Auschwitz to get the full impact of that unspeakably horrific period in history. But her dad never made it. He died last year, and by grinning in her selfie, Breanna said she was not intending to treat Auschwitz lightly, but rather to honor her father.
“That trip actually meant something to me and I was happy about it,” she later said.
But her selfie came around the same time as a New Yorker article spotted a trend in teens taking selfies at Auschwitz and a Facebook page (since deleted) “With My Besties At Auschwitz” appeared, ridiculing young people who seemed to believe that the one of the primary sites for the Nazi mass extermination of Jews and other people they considered inferior was a cool place to take a selfie.
“The pictures have fed a perception of today’s youth as a bunch of technology-obsessed, self-indulgent narcissists,” wrote New Yorker journalist Ruth Margalit.
The “Besties At Auschwitz” Facebook did, in fact, succeed in shaming many of the teens who took the offending selfies into deleting them.
Breanna Mitchell, meanwhile, has retweeted dozens of messages supporting her smiling Auschwitz selfie and expressing sympathy for the loss of her father.
@PrincessBMM people will always find a reason to be hateful and judgemental. Keep smiling at everything that reminds you of your dad.
— D’Etta Mason (@detta_mason) July 21, 2014