On Monday, British model Rhian Sugden decided she’d post a selfie of herself on Instragram with the caption “E.T. Phone Home.”
The selfie was taken at the Holocaust memorial in Berlin.
As the New York Post reported, backlash erupted; comments included:
Imagine having such little respect for the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust that you think this is appropriate. What an embarrassment of a human.
If you want to document the experience take a picture of the memorial. You don’t have to be in it, I think that is the issue. It becomes self-absorbed at that point.
Your caption is inappropriate considering your setting. It’s weird you don’t realize that.
Would you take a selfie at a funeral and post it on Instagram? There is a time and place…if you are at a memorial it is a time for reflection not for selfies. It is disrespectful.
Silly pouting/duck faces at a Holocaust memorial? Narcissist.
Sugden, who wrote in the Instagram post’s comments section that critics should “just remove” themselves from her Instagram page, later changed the caption to “#sightseeing #museum #Berlin.” She also fired back, ‘If anybody disagrees with me taking a selfie at a famous museum/memorial where every other person there was taking a pic – just remove yourself from my page. I’ve got no time for this moaning generation. I’m on holiday. Sightseeing and took a pic. Under no circumstances is this disrespectful.”
She also tweeted, “This is insane! I posted a pic of me sightseeing in Berlin – took a pic at a memorial and made a comment that I look like ET -the abuse I got is mental! I’m actually gutted people are saying I am disrespectful – I’m really really not. And for this to be picked up on is unfair.”
Asserting that she received death threats for posting her selfie, Sugden added, “All the decent things I do for charities, for other people and this is how I get spoken to for posting a selfie that wasn’t intended to cause any harm or disrespect. Thank you to all those who took my innocent site seeing selfie to a whole different level and made me out to be some awful person. Sending me abusive bullying messages.”
The Holocaust memorial in Berlin is a memorial for the Jews killed in the Holocaust located one block from the Brandenburg gate; it is comprised of a 200,000 square foot site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. An attached underground “Place of Information” lists the names of approximately 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The information center starts by detailing how the Nazis Final Solution was implemented; four rooms include personal items from the Holocaust.
The New York Times wrote in 2005:
But the memorial’s central theme is the process that allows human beings to accept such evil as part of the normal world — the incremental decisions that collectively lead to the most murderous acts. There is no way to glean this from photographs; it can be understood only by experiencing the memorial as a physical space. No clear line, for example, divides the site from the city around it … These moments speak to one of the Holocaust’s most tragic lessons, the ability of human beings to numb themselves to all sorts of suffering — a feeling that only intensifies as you descend into the site. Paved in uneven cobblestones, the ground between the pillars slopes down as you move deeper in.