You might not immediately recognize Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
But you might soon be seeing it on Grindr, if Zion Afuta and Boris Cukierman have their way.
The memorial – a 19,000-square-metre field of 2,711 grey slabs set at various heights – is in the southern Berlin suburb of Friedrichstadt. It seems that the memorial is a prime location for guys to take their Grindr display pictures.
No one may have been the wiser to the trend of guys taking their picture amidst the grey slabs of the memorial, had Afuta and Cukierman not been on the case. The two started a blog in 2011 to compile them all. They did not respond to requests for comment.
A post from Totem and Taboo.
The site captures instances of guys using the locale in their Grindr images, framing it as a queer commemoration of the Holocaust. “Remembering those who cannot text anymore,” reads one blog, featuring fit 20-something Schulle1986 leaning against one of the pillars, shooting a steely glance into the distance.
“In an age when ignorance is prevalent [sic] than ever,” reads the blog, “[Grindr] has wowed its members in relentlessly promoting the memory of the Holocaust.”
Another post contains a picture of Hungry@Berlin, a thin 37-year-old, a “btm iso [sic] naughty guys. Hungry 4 top.” The title of the post? “Commemoration is a dish best served cold.”
In one of the more clumsy metaphors, the authors posted a photo of François, from Amsterdam. “Just like Anne Frank,” reads the title.
The unconventional commemoration also features profiles from GayRomeo, Growlr and Israeli’s own Hebrew-language location-based gay app, Atraf.
The blog has garnered a spectrum of responses – everything from confusion, to disgust, to acclaim and praise.
“This is bizarre,” was the first reaction from Jeffrey Freeman, media and traffic manager for Pink Triangle Press, Xtra’s publisher. “I don’t get the significance of it.”
Another Totem and Taboo post.
As far as understanding the Holocaust goes, says Freeman, “I don’t think that using Grindr is the contemporary context.”
Grindr CEO Joel Simkhai
is a fan, as it turns out. “As a Jew and an Israeli, I’m deeply moved by how users are coming together as a community on Grindr to share and inspire others to take part in memory of the Holocaust,” he told Israeli entertainment site AbbaNibi.
But Jordan Cares, director of member and community relations at Kulanu
– Toronto’s only Jewish queer social, educational and cultural organization – echoes Freeman’s analysis.
“This does not make a lot of sense to me,” Cares says, scanning the site. “I don’t know what to think.”
Cares says he’s not sure whether these Grindr users are trying to send a message with the pictures or if they’re just using the locale because it’s “photographically appealing.”
While he doesn’t think the blog is offensive, he acknowledges that there are those who think that memorials such as this should be treated with the utmost respect and reverence, and there would certainly be those who would not take kindly to the blog. “It’s up to one’s personal taste,” he says.
Cares does chide the blog owners with crediting Grindr for the photographs. It’s individual users who chose the pictures.
“The medium isn’t necessarily the message; it’s a vehicle,” he says.
There’s also a certain irony in the website, as the memorial is specifically dedicated to the Jewish people who lost their lives under Adolf Hitler. When it was built, the monument received some criticism for not being inclusive of all who had lost their lives. Some years later, a monument was erected across the street to remember the queer population that was persecuted in Nazi Germany. That monument – a single concrete cube with a small television screen inside of it – doesn’t appear anywhere on the blog.