Smiling for 'Auschwitz selfies,' and crying into the digital wilderness
This tweet from Breanna Mitchell sparked a fierce debate over selfies and sacred spaces.
July 22nd, 2014
08:53 AM ET

Smiling for 'Auschwitz selfies,' and crying into the digital wilderness

Opinion by Craig Detweiler, Special to CNN

(CNN) - It is understandable why Breanna Mitchell’s sunny tweet from Auschwitz as “PrincessBMM” would spark a viral outcry.

A tour of a concentration camp, where so many Jews lost their lives, may move us to take photos or post responses - but few would include smiles, or selfies.

But Mitchell is not the first teenager to generate Internet outrage by her response to the Holocaust.

When Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House last year, he wrote in the museum guest book, “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully, she would have been a Belieber.”

While many have ripped into Mitchell and Bieber for their insensitivity, I don’t think they intended to be disrespectful to the dead.

Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile devices (mobiquity!), adolescent mistakes and hard lessons that used to be learned in private can quickly devolve into public drubbings.

This is what happens when new technologies clash with ancient understandings of the sacred. The problem is so pervasive that a Tumblr site, “Selfies at Serious Places” is dedicated to such faux pas.

We have very few spaces that our culture considers sacred, where an association with the divine results in a feeling of awe or reverence. Death may seem especially abstract to young people who haven’t been shown how to grieve, mourn or respect the dead.

So how might we help the emerging generation to develop a digital decorum that accounts for sacred spaces? Can we incorporate electronic ethics into religious instruction?

This summer, I have been teaching students at Pepperdine University’s London campus, which has given my family remarkable opportunities to see the places that define European history. Traveling with my 12- and 14-year-old children has raised questions about what is appropriate and where.

While some churches such as Westminster Abbey prohibit photography, others such as the Salisbury Cathedral allow all kinds of cameras. Our eyes, ears and spirits were far more sensitized in Westminster Abbey, where we were freed from “getting the shot.”

Once an hour, an announcement at the abbey invites visitors to pause, wherever they are, for a moment of respectful silence and prayer. How rare and appropriate to see a church encouraging us to pause en masse for sacred activity - rather than mere digital documentation of our visit.

The selfie could provide a sacred pausing if it didn’t involve so much posing.

It is one way to record a moment, to fix an experience as a reminder, “I was here.” It can be a lovely way to communicate to friends and family, “Wish you were here.”

But it also involves a level of performance that often pulls us out of the place itself. And a selfie can veer toward the humblebrag, advertising our summer vacation to friends.

The temptation with social media is to turn our friends into an audience. We cast ourselves as the star and think about how to entertain our followers. Tours of revered spaces become an opportunity to post a photo.

Should we travel to Amsterdam or Auschwitz to acquire content, to have something to share on social media?

We may sink into the spiral described by poet T.S. Eliot, “We had the experience, but missed the meaning.” Our digital devices create a conundrum: how to be fully present in the moment we are also trying to broadcast?

This summer, the line to tour the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam snaked down the block and around the church next door. So many students have read her poignant “Diary of a Young Girl” for school assignments.

Yet John Green’s best-selling, young adult novel, "The Fault in Our Stars," also awakened interest in Frank. In the novel, two teens, battling cancer, climb the stairs to Anne’s attic hideaway, where they experience their first kiss.

Older and established film critics questioned the appropriateness of the scene, but the target audience of adolescents found it powerful and inspiring. Where critics saw blasphemy and disrespect, teens edged toward the transcendent.

As Green writes in “The Fault in Our Stars,” “You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice.”

When our family toured the house, no photos were allowed. The crowd was remarkably respectful. People of all ages climbed past the bookcase that covered the back half of the house and concealed the Frank family.

While I paused with my kids to take in the reality of the books still on the shelf, a woman in her 40s pulled out her phone and snapped an illicit photo. No personnel saw it. No one chided her actions. Perhaps she shared it on Facebook in a respectful way.

The wisdom in Ecclesiastes declares that there is “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Yet we may not weep or laugh or photograph the same things at the same time.

We found even more incongruous responses to the Holocaust in Berlin.

Architects Peter Eisenman and Daniel Libeskind navigated considerable controversies while crafting moving Holocaust memorials. They respected the concerns of families and survivors while making history relevant for generations to come.

But they cannot control the public’s response.

While my family walked reverently through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, others were playing hide-and-seek and jumping across the tomb-like steles.

At the Jewish Museum, we were haunted by the Holocaust Tower. When the door closed behind us with a thunderous boom, the huge, oppressive walls and darkness bore down upon us. Yet we also watched countless school groups cruise in, take a quick pic and hop out.

Should we be encouraged that so many young people were touring the museum?

Parents and educators are challenged to communicate the gravity of the Holocaust to the next generation. In “Night,” Elie Wiesel reminded us why we must continue to teach and speak and visit horrific places like Auschwitz, “For in the end, it is all about memory, its sources and its magnitude, and, of course, its consequences.”

Still, we cannot control what Justin Bieber or Breanna Mitchell post.

Where most of us saw disrespect in Mitchell’s smile, she claimed it was a moment of bonding with her deceased father. Their shared experience of studying about Auschwitz found fruition in her visit. Her selfie and smile was a positive form of grieving - and an affront to others.

Perhaps the wisdom of Viktor Frankl can help us navigate a world where privacy has nearly collapsed and everything is open to self-promotion.

In “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Frankl noted: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

We must continue to provide sacred spaces and opportunities for us all to pause, to turn off our devices long enough to experience the divine. But that space must also be open to indifference, to blasphemy, to selfies.

For even in its intense inward focus, the selfie posted on social media is also a cry into the void: “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

May Bieber and Mitchell hear an affirming whisper rather than merely a massive outrage.

Craig Detweiler is a professor of communication at Pepperdine University and the author of "iGods: How Technology Shapes our Spiritual and Social Lives." The views expressed in this column belong to Detweiler. 

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Death • Ethics • Europe • History • Holocaust • Internet • Media • Opinion • Sacred Spaces • Spirituality • Traditions • Trends

soundoff (705 Responses)
  1. No Wake Zone

    OMG, a teenager just took a selfie at Pearl Harbor!!

    July 22, 2014 at 8:25 pm |
    • No Wake Zone

      Now reports are in that teens are taking selfies at ground zero! The humanity!

      July 22, 2014 at 8:28 pm |
    • tallulah131

      You sound like you have some growing up to do yourself. Good luck with that.

      July 22, 2014 at 8:29 pm |
      • No Wake Zone

        It sounds like you need a reality check.

        July 22, 2014 at 8:30 pm |
        • tallulah131

          Yep. You definitely have some growing up to do.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:32 pm |
        • No Wake Zone

          What makes you say that? Am I not entitles to my opinion?

          July 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm |
        • tallulah131

          You are welcome to your own opinion. What you can't do is tell other people that they shouldn't be offended by this image. And frankly, the fact that you don't seem to understand why it's offensive makes you seem to be extremely young to me.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:36 pm |
        • No Wake Zone

          You are more than welcome to be offended if you wish. And I do see how it is offensive to some. What I am saying to you is, you don't know. You don't know what is going on in her mind. It is not up to you to decide for everyone else that she is wrong.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:40 pm |
        • tallulah131

          She chose to put this picture on social media. In doing so, she can no longer control the context in which this image is seen. Of course people are going to judge. That's what people do. MILLIONS of people died at Auschwitz. MILLIONS. Of course people are going to be offended. She can post whatever she wants, but neither you nor she can control the reaction to it. That's the reality. And that's another lesson she, and apparently you, need to learn.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:47 pm |
        • No Wake Zone

          The sky is not falling.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:59 pm |
        • thesamyaza


          it was about a million and a half not millions which already assumes more the 2 million.

          July 23, 2014 at 1:43 am |
        • skytag

          Of course people are going to be offended. It doesn't matter what you post on the web there are people who are going to be offended and criticize you for it. I can't think of a better way to become neurotic than letting the criticism of total strangers bother you.

          Several people here have been critical of your comments. What makes you so sure you don't have anything to learn here?

          July 23, 2014 at 2:18 am |
  2. lunchbreaker

    This girl is either naive as to what people think or doesn't care. Let's face it, there are things we all do or say in the privacy of our own homes (or on an anonymous internet blog) that we would never do in public or at work or in front of our parents. We can all argue over what we all believe "should" be socially acceptable, but a lot of us still refrain from certain speach or actions to get ahead at work, to be more popular, too get some 'tang, because we know how other people think. And sometimes we don't do things because even though they don't offend us, we know it will offend some one else. That is empathy. If you want to praise lack of empathy, go right ahead, that is your right, but you vant force someone else not to be offended by something.

    July 22, 2014 at 8:22 pm |
    • tallulah131

      Thank you. I get that she's a kid who was indiscreet and insensitive. What I don't understand is why so many adults seem to think that she shouldn't learn from this. When did accountability become a bad word?

      July 22, 2014 at 8:27 pm |
      • skytag

        What will it take to get you to learn that something isn't universal truth just because you believe it? Frankly you sound nuts. You seem to think an 18-year-old should have the maturity and outlook of a 50-year-old and that any deviation from what you consider appropriate should be met with the condemnation of a thousand total strangers.

        I've known kids who are very mature for their age at 17 or 18, but in my experience kids like that are the product of bad home environments that forced them to grow up faster than they should have needed to grow up.

        July 23, 2014 at 2:14 am |
  3. No Wake Zone

    She is just young and made a mistake. Big deal. She will learn from this.

    July 22, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
    • tallulah131

      She won't learn a thing if people keep making excuses for her and telling her she's the victim.

      July 22, 2014 at 8:20 pm |
      • No Wake Zone

        You don't know what she will or won't learn. I imagine she is very embarrassed.

        July 22, 2014 at 8:22 pm |
        • tallulah131

          Why should she think she's done something offensive when there are people like you who are declaring her the victim because she was called on her behavior?

          July 22, 2014 at 8:31 pm |
        • No Wake Zone

          I just see a young teen making a poor choice, but not necessarily for the wrong reasons.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
        • tallulah131

          I have never once called her a bad person. I think she's a kid who made a mistake. What offends me here is the adults who perceive her as a victim because her mistake had consequences. Our mistakes teach us to be better people, but some adults here are trying to subvert the lesson. What is so wrong about letting her learn from this how to be a more considerate person?

          July 22, 2014 at 8:41 pm |
        • No Wake Zone

          Nothing is wrong with her learning from her mistakes, but what she is really learning is that adults go bonkers when they are offended by something.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:44 pm |
        • tallulah131

          There's a reason adults went bonkers. MILLIONS of people were murdered there. MILLIONS. Perhaps you don't think that's a big deal, but many, many people do. If the only thing that she takes from this is that adults are going bonkers, if she isn't informed why, she'll never learn a thing.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:52 pm |
        • No Wake Zone

          You are the controlling type.

          July 22, 2014 at 9:01 pm |
        • reigningrabbit

          Too many adults go bonkers over spilled milk these days. She meant no harm. The moment was about her and her dad that's pretty much it. I'm sure there's a lot of places in America where thousands of people died but we still take pictures there.

          July 22, 2014 at 9:15 pm |
        • skytag

          tallulah131: Even if one considers this a mistake it's certainly not one so severe that it warrants you and thousands of other total strangers online criticizing her for it. The idea that such a consequence is needed to help young people learn from their mistakes is patently absurd. Hasn't anyone explained to you that people have learned from their mistakes and matured as they grew older for as long as people have existed, and they managed to do it without thousands of people jumping on them for every little mistake.

          I honestly think you need more help learning how to be a decent person than she does.

          July 23, 2014 at 2:07 am |
  4. keepplugging

    I took Breanna's selfie to be a message, sent back through time, or into hell: "In your face, Adolf!"

    Some evil has vanished, and we dance on its grave.

    July 22, 2014 at 7:51 pm |
    • tallulah131

      Good for you. I saw a girl who has no respect for history.

      July 22, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
      • No Wake Zone

        I see a girl who has no understanding of history.

        July 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm |
  5. reigningrabbit

    Of all the things going on in the world....and people are ranting about this...pitiful.

    July 22, 2014 at 7:04 pm |
    • tallulah131

      Yeah. It's terrible that teens should learn that their actions have consequences. They might grow up to be responsible adults, and we can't have that.

      July 22, 2014 at 7:42 pm |
      • No Wake Zone

        Do you know this girl?

        July 22, 2014 at 8:13 pm |
      • reigningrabbit

        Teens are doing way worse things then taking selfies these days...."Where most of us saw disrespect in Mitchell’s smile, she claimed it was a moment of bonding with her deceased father. Their shared experience of studying about Auschwitz found fruition in her visit. Her selfie and smile was a positive form of grieving – and an affront to others." Yea I'm sure she meant to disrespect a lot of people with this picture....

        July 22, 2014 at 8:14 pm |
        • tallulah131

          If it's a private moment, she should have kept it private. She is not the only one with deep feelings about this place, and most of those feelings do not rate a grin. What is so awful about discretion? Not everything belongs on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:24 pm |
        • No Wake Zone

          It was her moment to do with as she saw fit.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:26 pm |
        • tallulah131

          And now she's reaping her reward for posting it on social media. She opened the door, so complaining about what came in is hypocritical.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm |
        • skytag

          tallulah131: "She opened the door, so complaining about what came in is hypocritical."

          Where has she complained? As far as I know she's just amused by all the attention she's getting. She seems to be too emotionally healthy to care what a bunch of miserable Internet trolls say about her. That much be driving you crazy.

          July 23, 2014 at 1:57 am |
        • skytag

          tallulah131: "If it's a private moment, she should have kept it private."

          You really are full of yourself, aren't you? Who are you to decide what another person should or shouldn't tweet? The only people who got that picture were people who chose to follow her on Twitter. The picture only went beyond that because one of those people made the picture public. Seriously, I can't believe the number of comments you've posted here to bash this girl who didn't do anything to anyone. Get some counseling. You clearly have issues.

          July 23, 2014 at 2:01 am |
      • skytag

        You clearly have issues if you work so hard to condemn someone you don't even know. I pity you. You must be a pretty miserable person, living in a world full of people who aren't just like you.

        July 23, 2014 at 1:22 am |
    • skytag

      I agree, a bunch of miserable losers trying to make themselves feel better about themselves by criticizing an 18-year-old girl for smiling in a picture.

      July 23, 2014 at 1:55 am |
  6. sealchan

    From a mystical perspective, from a perspective beyond time, there is no right or wrong. All judgement is futile in the course of time as natural processes and the accidents of history play themselves out. Whether you see this image as bad or good depends largely on where you have drawn the circle of information composing the story you tell about this image. Good at first glance, a happy selfie...bad when you learn that is Auschwitz she is posing in front of...good when you realize she is fully aware of the context and is celebrating an important relationship by having taken the time to visit...bad when it is realized how much anger and hostility the image still evokes in spite of that fact...beyond time there is no good or evil.

    July 22, 2014 at 6:48 pm |
    • sealchan

      Once you realize this timeless perspective you can step back from your own responses and notice them, evaluate them and achieve a perspective beyond a simple, less conscious response. Having achieved this perspective you can then choose what action to take based on that information. Your actions become more informed, less hasty, more appreciative of the annoying and wonderful complexity of the world, more spiritual.

      July 22, 2014 at 6:55 pm |
      • Alias

        Nothing like taking mysticism all the way to BS.
        There is right and wrong. Some things are correctly described as evil.

        July 22, 2014 at 7:16 pm |
        • realbuckyball

          Define "evil".

          July 22, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
        • Alias

          So you don't know what 'evil' means?
          Not even the American education system is that bad.

          July 22, 2014 at 7:59 pm |
        • thesamyaza

          the point hes tryng to make is

          good and evil are based on morality and well morality is based on personal opinion that's rutted in individuality to the Nazis hitler was a good guy, to Christians Charlemagne is a good guy. to me their booth mass murders. guess what Moses was a baby killer.

          July 23, 2014 at 1:48 am |
    • tallulah131

      At what point did her private celebration become more important than the lives lost there. At what point did we as a culture decide that posting our every act on social media become more important than simple decency and consideration?

      July 22, 2014 at 7:44 pm |
  7. leif2720

    The USA will be destroyed in 1 hour as foretold in the bible just Google is the USA Babylon .

    July 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm |
    • thesamyaza

      re post in an hour

      July 22, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
    • LaBella

      In one hour? I'd better get myself to my bunker, then.

      July 22, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
      • thesamyaza

        id at least wait for the trumpeter.

        hay don't get me wrong just think about how much this world would be a better place if every single christian vanished, warms the fuck at of my Cockles .

        July 22, 2014 at 6:50 pm |
        • LaBella

          ....and it's been an hour. Now I have to repack the damned Spam.

          July 22, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
        • thesamyaza

          Spam? what were you planing on living all of 2 days in that shelter, by dieing of Botulism

          July 22, 2014 at 7:58 pm |
        • LaBella

          Lol. That cracked me up.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:19 pm |
    • In Santa We Trust

      So you're booked on the next plane?

      July 22, 2014 at 6:46 pm |
    • In Santa We Trust

      You may as well transfer your assets to a reputable charity.

      July 22, 2014 at 6:49 pm |
      • LaBella

        "Send your funds to Santa Trust...."

        July 22, 2014 at 7:36 pm |
    • janetmermaid

      I see it is 6:30 where you are. You must be an hour ahead of me as it is only 6:21 here. Or perhaps we are in a time warp, with one parallel world having been destroyed and the other (the one I'm in) still running slightly behind. Or perhaps you're just full of sh**.

      July 22, 2014 at 7:22 pm |
      • thesamyaza

        and tentacled,.... this just in queen of Nova was raped and killed by tentacles, yes a fictional queen from a fictional game dying a fictional death is more important then this story.

        July 22, 2014 at 8:51 pm |
      • thesamyaza

        sorry that was supposed to be replied from my earlier post

        July 22, 2014 at 8:53 pm |
    • Alias

      could we be 2 minutes away from having more proof that the bible is wrong?

      July 22, 2014 at 7:28 pm |
    • tallulah131

      And leif joins the legion of failed christian prophets.

      July 22, 2014 at 7:45 pm |
      • thesamyaza

        poor lief its not about proving the future its about altering text in order to fit into an event that has already happened, you know change the old testament so it better reflect the new,... i'm going to go back to planing Long Live the Queen.

        July 22, 2014 at 8:02 pm |
  8. John Grabowski

    Narcissism at its finest. There's nothing to have to "learn" in private. Any ten year old should know not to post the sort of things that this brat and Justin Bieber posted. There's no excuse. Let's stop excusing the shallowness and narcissism of this generation, shall we?

    July 22, 2014 at 6:05 pm |
    • mk

      Let's stop pretending like you weren't shallow and narcissistic when you were a teen, shall we?

      July 22, 2014 at 6:19 pm |
      • tallulah131

        I was shallow, but never that narcissistic. I was raised to be conscious of my actions. Did I do stupid things? Sure. But when I realized that people were hurt, I sure as hell didn't defend my offensive actions. This girl did something wrong, and some adults here are trying their damndest to make sure she doesn't learn anything from it. No wonder we have such an immature culture.

        July 22, 2014 at 7:41 pm |
        • Alias

          You are turning a picture into something it simply is not.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:07 pm |
        • tallulah131

          She made a mistake and all you people are making excuses for her instead of helping her use this to grow up. Adults don't make excuses when they hurt others, even inadvertently. They try to make amends.

          July 22, 2014 at 8:17 pm |
  9. thesamyaza

    wait wont we all complaining about lack of stories just two day ago,.. their trying to fill the whole is all

    July 22, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
  10. bondmaid

    There is nothing wrong with the picture and nothing wrong with the girl taking the picture. People are just looking for an innocent to scapegoat and hang. That's all it is. The only thing pathetic isn't the girl who took the selfie but the masses of stupid people who have a problem with it.

    July 22, 2014 at 5:54 pm |
    • Muddyshoes

      The irony of your comment is astounding.

      July 22, 2014 at 6:21 pm |
  11. skytag

    So many of the comments here reveal one of the darker sides of human nature. Those are the comments posted by people who trash Breanna for failing to respect the people who died there, not understanding the significance of the place, and on.

    These people looked at one picture of a girl and fabricated an entire narrative around it out of thin air, without knowing anything about her. What drives people to make stuff up out of thin air and embrace their fabrications as fact? How can people be so arrogantly certain what they imagine about someone is so accurate they are justified in publicly condemning the person? Surely it must be indicative of some kind of personality disorder to believe one can just know so much without any concrete reason to believe it.

    Breanna isn't smiling because she doesn't understand the significance of Auschwitz. Just the opposite: She's smiling because she's thrilled to finally get to visit a place she's studied for years. She became interested in Auschwitz in 9th grade when her school set up a webcam conference with a survivor from Auschwitz. She and her father researched it over the years. Airheads don't want to go to Poland for their high school graduation trip.

    July 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
    • sealchan

      What you may be missing is that it is common, even typically human, for us to invent stories with lightning rapidity that help us to understand and interpret what we experience. True, this often leads to unfortunate, even tragic, misunderstandings, but our capacity for story, like any power, carries with it a responsibility. I still remember that government employee, a diversity trainer, who was dismissed from her position by her boss after an out-of-context video clip was released online making her, a woman of color, look like a racist. After the full story came out, it was realized just what a great mistake and rush to judgement had occurred.

      The moral of the story, we tell stories, stories are crucial to us for spiritual purposes and other forms of truth. How we choose to tell the story, how much research we do, the context for why the story we tell the story we tell is all an important part of discovering and expressing who we are. No story should ever rest in perpetuity as a static thing (my main criticism of much of my fellow Christians belief systems) but should be a living thing, like God.

      July 22, 2014 at 6:32 pm |
      • sealchan

        I have found a tendency toward anxiety can largely be controlled by becoming more self-conscious of the stories I would tell myself. Taking a step back and not letting fear direct the production or anger set the scene, goes a long way toward freeing the mind and heart to an open discovery of what the truth really is. And that truth is often one much less fearful and anxious and much more rewarded with the good that exists even more abundantly than the evil we pay more attention to.

        July 22, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
        • Alias

          So you are afraid of evil 8 minutes before you post that it doesn't exist.
          I want some of whatever you are smoking.

          July 22, 2014 at 7:30 pm |
    • tallulah131

      This girl chose to take and publish a picture of herself smiling at a site where millions were murdered because of hate and bigotry. That's all the narrative provided and that's all I need. I'm not condemning her; she's very young. But she needs someone to sit her down and explain that if she is not considerate of the feelings of others, they have no obligation to be sensitive to hers.

      July 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm |
      • Alias

        There is no obligation or everyone who visits historic sites to be depressed.
        She smiled because of the camera, not the past.

        July 22, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
        • tallulah131

          And no one is under any obligation to excuse her behavior. She felt the need to take her own picture, smiling, at a place where millions of people were murdered. Then she felt the need to publish it on social media. What is wrong with letting her learn a lesson about discretion and consideration for others?

          July 22, 2014 at 8:14 pm |
        • skytag

          tallulah131, who put you in charge of deciding when someone else's behavior needs to be excused? Don't you have anything better to do with your time than condemn an 18-year-old girl for smiling in a picture? How does what you're doing help anyone and how did what she did hurt anyone?

          July 23, 2014 at 1:53 am |
  12. mk

    "imbecile", "knucklehead", "idiot", "moron"

    Four words, just on this one page of comments, used to describe this one child that no one even knows. You'd have thought she shot up a school. Is there any wonder why teenagers get angry when all they hear is how STUPID they are?

    As if none of those who made the comments ever did anything unreasonable when they were teens...

    July 22, 2014 at 5:29 pm |
    • tallulah131

      So let her learn the lesson. There is nothing to be gained from protecting a young person from learning how to be a decent adult.

      July 22, 2014 at 8:15 pm |
      • mk

        Yeah, let's call her stupid and belittle her. That'll work.

        July 23, 2014 at 7:44 am |
  13. lunchbreaker

    I posted this earlier:


    Selfies are just so calssless. She should have asked a fellow visitor to take her pic.

    July 22, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Reply

    For those who didn't get it, the joke is that for those who where offended by the selfie, would also be offended if they were asked to take her picture. Imagine a sad elderly person mourning the loss of loved ones, then some little girl says, "will you take my picture?" Then smiles real big.

    Regardless, it is obvious that many people have found this offensive, wrong or not. The biggest mistake this girl made was being naive to how the public would percieve the picture. Or maybe she gives no phucks.

    July 22, 2014 at 5:29 pm |
    • skytag

      Why should she care what people who know nothing about her think about a picture of her? It's hard to imagine a better way to become neurotic then obsessing over what total strangers on the web decide to believe about you. People who sit in judgment of those about whom they know nothing are the ones with the real problem.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:34 pm |
      • tallulah131

        You have made it very apparent that you have no sensitivity or tact. This girl was called out because her actions were offensive to the many people who believe that those killed at Auschwitz deserve better than a feckless teen grinning over the site of their murder. Apparently you and she both lack the maturity to understand that.

        July 22, 2014 at 7:33 pm |
  14. eldoradoenterprises

    Its strange they have this as a tourist trap I know........but everyone's gotta make a buck on the Holocaust somehow.

    July 22, 2014 at 5:28 pm |
  15. melissajean0

    ...I just wish people would stop saying, "selfie".

    July 22, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
    • tallulah131

      I wish people would understand that we don't to see pictures of them or know what they are thinking every second of the day. When I'm doing stuff, the last thing I'm thinking about is taking a picture of myself.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:01 pm |
  16. theirmamma

    She went with her dads mother (her grandmother)...How it came to be was when she was in the 9th grade her school set up a web-cam conference with a survivor from Auschwitz...she came home and talked and talked about it and she and her late father researched it over the years...when my oldest daugher graduated she chose to go to Rome, so when Breanna was in the 10th grade she decided her destination would be Poland...she, her father and grandmother were all suppose to make the trip, however the summer before her senior year her father passed away, and then to top it all off a month later my dad passed.

    So in preperation of her graduation her grandmother booked a tour and it just so happened on the last day of the tour (which was also the anniversary of her father’s death) she ended up at the ONE place in the WORLD she WANTED to go. What is pathetic is that people are judging her not knowing why she was happy to be there on that particular day. It was a bittersweet moment for her knowing she couldn’t share the experience with her father but she also knew it was fate that brought her there on that date. Not many more groups of children will be able to talk to a survivor of the camp but she was fortunate enough to be able to, and after speaking with the survivor she vowed that one day that she would go there. AND SHE DID, and was happy to have finally made it there. I am proud of her choice to go there and I am as equally proud of the picture, because I knew how much she wanted to be there.

    And as for her “famous” comment that everyone is talking about, what do you expect her twitter feed was blown up 30 days AFTER the original post.

    So I know in my heart that she meant no disrespect.

    July 22, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
    • skytag

      Thanks. It's a shame there are so many miserable people out there who seem to thrive on judging and condemning others from a position of complete ignorance. I just pity them. They suffer from one or more personality disorders. It must be a miserable way to live.

      July 22, 2014 at 4:59 pm |
    • LaBella

      I know that people will search for reasons to be offended, and will peruse social media just to find some totally innocent thing to be outraged about. This seems to be one of those things.
      I don't feel she ever meant any disrespect, and this is coming from a woman who had family perish during the Holocaust.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:17 pm |
    • tallulah131

      I understand that she is very young, but I hope that someone discusses with her that this was not the place for a smiling "selfie". Whether she meant offense or not, taking a picture of herself grinning in a place where so many were murdered is in very poor taste.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
      • skytag

        That is your opinion. I disagree. She was smiling because she was thrilled to be there. I see nothing wrong with that. I think it's poor taste to tell other people how to raise their kids.

        July 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
        • tallulah131

          Your opinion is duly noted, and your taste is accordingly doubted.

          July 22, 2014 at 7:24 pm |
        • tallulah131

          And why would you be thrilled to be at Auschwitz? I assure you the original tenants had no such emotion. Auschwitz is a place for respect, not parties.

          July 22, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
        • paratrooper34

          Thrilled to be there??? I went to Auschwitz about 13 years ago. I was so horrified by what I saw there, I wanted to vomit. How someone can smile and laugh in a place which represents so much death and suffering is beyond me.

          July 22, 2014 at 7:41 pm |
        • skytag

          She's thrilled to be there because she has studied what happened there for years after one of her 9th grade teachers set up a webcam conference with an Auschwitz survivor. Stop acting like she's thrilled about what happened there. Misrepresenting her to attack her is repugnant. You people should be ashamed of yourselves.

          She could have gone anywhere in the world for her graduation trip and she picked Poland because of her feelings about the Holocaust. She could have tweeted herself smiling in Paris or London or on a beach in Hawaii, but she passed up the fun stuff most kids would jump at the chance to do to honor millions of people who suffered and died in Poland at the hands of the Nazis by going there to add to her understanding of those events. How many 18-year-old girls would do that?

          But no, we can't give her any credit for the hours she's spent studying the holocaust or passing up popular tourist spots to learn more about one of the darkest periods in human history. No, we should ignore that and condemn her because she was excited to have achieved one of the biggest goals in her life so far. God, what a bunch of haters.

          July 23, 2014 at 1:41 am |
      • pattysboi

        VERY true. Auschwitz is NOT a place to be grinning into a camera lens.

        July 22, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
  17. vancouverron

    This idiot would probably snap a selfie at the MH17 crash site. Moron + cellphone = selfie

    July 22, 2014 at 4:38 pm |
    • skytag

      You clearly have issues. Therapy could probably help with them.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
  18. logic56

    Was it stupid, inappropriate, and really pathetic? 100%
    But do people really care what some random tween they will never know, meet, or hear of again does?
    I am a jew, and I couldn't care less what this imbecile does.

    July 22, 2014 at 4:34 pm |
    • skytag

      It wasn't any of those things, which you'd know if you knew the whole story instead of thinking you know it because you saw one picture.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:12 pm |
  19. markaroach

    Wow Skytag – you have been posting about this subject for hours now – any chance you are her? Just curious...

    July 22, 2014 at 4:31 pm |
    • bondmaid

      It's obvious Skytag knows her but who cares? Skytag is a voice of reason here. Skytag is needed and protecting this girl.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
    • Alias

      I agree with skytag.
      tweens smile for pictures. That is all I see here.

      July 22, 2014 at 7:20 pm |
      • tallulah131

        She smiled for the camera she pointed at herself at a place where millions were murdered. Then she posted it on social media. Why is it so difficult for you to understand that a lot of people are going to find this offensive? Let her learn the lesson. Stop making excuses.

        July 22, 2014 at 8:19 pm |
        • skytag

          There always miserable losers who take offense no matter what you do. Visiting Auschwitz is something she'd dreamed of doing for years. She tweeted that picture because she was excited to be their. You have no idea what she felt as she toured the site. Stop being so anxious to judge and condemn.

          July 23, 2014 at 1:49 am |
  20. wallybird1234

    There are several common issues of young kids these days that do stupid things like this.

    First, the <30 yo crowd generally has little if any knowledge or education about the import of the person or place at issue. Justin Bieber almost certainly had no clue whatsoever who anne frank was, and merely stopped there because some PR person thought it would be a 'good' PR stunt. He likely had never heard of her, based on his comment he wrote. Remember, this is the brainiac that pi–es in mop buckets thinking that its "KEWL" to do so. He never should have been allowed within 100yards of anne franks house.

    The knucklehead girl in this story similarly almost certainly had no concept or clue what the camp was or its historical importance. Likely, her 'tour bus' stopped there and for all she knew it was a fun folksy tourist stop so ' KEWL I SHOULD FACEBOOK this for mommy and daddy to see!!' Dollars to donuts she would fail even the most rudimentary quiz about WW2, Germany, Hitler, etc. Just look at her, that is not the face of someone with a phi beta kappa key hidden in a pocket of her Dolce& Gabbna handbag.

    Second, we all know there is a huge problem with the vast majority of parents having little if any 'discipline' of their kids – buying them cell phones starting now around what ...around age 6/7 in my area (east coast) – which kids use with the same if not worse horrendous behavior as their parents. If I had a dollar for every time I have to snap my fingers in the face of some young punk or teeny puff chic who is purportedly "working" at a store but totally consumed by their phone and utterly unable to perform their job, I'd but Bill Gates twice over.

    Adults by and large have horrific cell phone "etiquette' and their ill-behaved spoiled children are even worse. So this knucklehead girl simply has no sense of decorum, class, etc. and basically needs to have some BASIC common sense slapped into her (as do her parents).

    Mix poor education and awareness with a healthy dose of abysmal parenting and etiquette, and this is the sort of selfie that is inevitable.

    July 22, 2014 at 4:30 pm |
    • jessel82

      I agree with everything you said 100%.

      July 22, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Too bad your jump to judgements are totally wrong. Look at any of the other sources and you'll find almost everything you presume about her is wrong. Get a life, and stop ranting, you old goat.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
    • skytag

      You obviously suffer from a healthy dose of poor parenting. What else would explain your willingness to pass such harsh judgments on someone about whom you know nothing? What kind of knucklehead believes he can know so much about someone from a single picture?

      Contrary to what you arrogantly assumed about Breanna, her mother (who actually does know her) says "when she was in the 9th grade her school set up a web-cam conference with a survivor from Auschwitz...she came home and talked and talked about it and she and her late father researched it over the years...when my oldest daugher graduated she chose to go to Rome, so when Breanna was in the 10th grade she decided her destination would be Poland."

      She's smiling so much in the picture because she got to visit the one place in the world she most wanted to go. You should be ashamed of yourself.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:09 pm |
    • dalewalk

      Hey Wallybird,

      Thanks for the diatribe novel on how to behave DAD. You sound like a sour old coot that has nothing better to do than sit on the net and pass on your judgement of people, especially youth who you don't know or care to gain some insight on. Dry up and take a nap.

      July 22, 2014 at 6:12 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.