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. mrtufts

    The only real or needed defense is that she's a silly, self-absorbed little girl. Check out the name – "Princess Beanna" says a lot. Hopefully, she'll grow up and grow out of this phase. Regardless, selfies and big smiles at a place like that are in very poor taste.

    July 23, 2014 at 10:26 am |
  2. polishknight

    When I first started traveling, I took tons of photos. Now, even with digital photography, I take perhaps 20 at most for a whole trip to a new place. I prefer to buy postcards as momentos rather than take my own blurry shot of landmarks.

    July 23, 2014 at 10:13 am |
  3. Rob

    Does your "self" need to be in every picture you take?

    July 23, 2014 at 9:12 am |
    • fortheloveofellipsis

      I mean, just because YOU can't be seen on a screen or in a mirror...

      July 23, 2014 at 9:18 am |
    • Prof. Calculus

      "Does your "self" need to be in every picture you take?" –Yes, self plays an important part in the tragedy of others. Self does not care about the sensitivities of others , self is concerned with the self gratification of it all. Some selves are callous and ruthless and cold and hard hearted, they fail to connect the significance of what is in front of them and are consumed by the significance of self.

      July 23, 2014 at 9:23 am |
      • fortheloveofellipsis

        But enough about you, skippy...

        July 23, 2014 at 9:26 am |
  4. lunchbreaker

    Is anyone here willing to say that they would tell there own child this is acceptable behavior?

    July 23, 2014 at 9:02 am |
    • fortheloveofellipsis

      Are you okay with pillorying her for the rest of her life over one slipshod editing choice? Or would you rather just execute her on the spot?...

      July 23, 2014 at 9:08 am |
      • lunchbreaker

        No & No. But nice dodging my question. I've asked it twice and no one has had the pair necessary to answer.

        Would I tell my kid it was OK? No.

        Would I tell my kid to blast this girl on twitter? No.

        To be clear, I went on twitter and saw what people wrote to her. Those people said worse things than anything this girl did.

        But that doesn't mean we can't prevent others from making the same mistake.

        July 23, 2014 at 9:26 am |
        • fortheloveofellipsis

          Then since you saw what garbage she endured, why do you feel the need to ADD to it? Your reaction is rather like throwing someone in jail for jaywalking–the opprobrium is far beyond what the offense deserves. I'm sure that thousands of "You're The Worst Person in the World" responses has taught her to make sure she censors her emotions at all times to fit with what other people expect of her...

          July 23, 2014 at 9:29 am |
        • lunchbreaker

          ADD what exactly? Did I say she was a bad person?

          Bottom line:

          If you are this girl's parents, love her and tell her to ignore the hate.

          If you have kids of your own, there is nothing wrong with pointing at this girl's situation and saying, "Don't do that."

          July 23, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
      • mrtufts

        Telling someone they did something that was wrong – or even simply in poor taste or inappropriate – is hardly pillorying them for the rest of their lives. Perhaps we should all, no matter what someone does, just smile and laugh and tell them it was great and okay. Going to the extreme on either end is both stupid and not helpful.

        July 23, 2014 at 10:30 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      A fair answer is simply that I don't know how I would handle it. My daughter knows the significance of this place and I would hope that she kept that in mind if she were to visit.

      July 23, 2014 at 9:45 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Would I tell me child it is accaptable...no.

      Would I chastise her for doing something that obviously intended no harm...no.

      July 23, 2014 at 10:49 am |
  5. fortheloveofellipsis

    You know what's truly astounding here (besides the fact that this string has stayed somewhat on topic and didn't instantly devolve into the Standing Argument about atheism v. theism)? The amazingly high number of posters here who can accurately tell me every single thing about how horrible Breanna Mitchell is, how horrible her upbringing was, how horrible is her lack of self-awareness, etc. etc. etc., all from one little tweeted selfie. Since this string is clearly filled with the largest number of perfect clairvoyants in the history of the interwebs, would someone here do me a favor and tell me who is going to win the next Super Bowl and Stanley Cup? You psychics seem to be the people to ask...

    July 23, 2014 at 8:44 am |
    • thubert

      Chicago will win the next Stanley Cup. Sadly, my psychic powers don't extend into football.

      I feel bad for this girl. She did nothing wrong. People need to get their undies out of their crack and relax a little. Not like she took a selfie wearing an SS uniform and a gas mask.

      July 23, 2014 at 9:30 am |
      • LaBella

        As a Hawks fan, I hope your prediction comes true.

        July 23, 2014 at 9:32 am |
      • TruthPrevails1

        I'm sorry to disappoint but as a diehard LEAFS fan, I would have to say the next CUP needs to be won by them.

        July 23, 2014 at 9:46 am |
        • LaBella


          July 23, 2014 at 10:02 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Leafs fan?
          They haven't won the cup in over 50 years!
          I'm a Torontonian and I've no idea how that franchise manages to be as popular as it is...

          July 23, 2014 at 10:08 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Not yet 50 years...47 to be exact and they survive because some of us are diehards and no matter how much they suck, we can't let go quite yet. Either way they can never be as bad as the SENS.

          July 23, 2014 at 10:11 am |
        • LaBella

          This also explains my fondness for the Cubs.

          July 23, 2014 at 10:16 am |
  6. awanderingscot

    it's not a question of whether she did something wrong, of course she did. How could anyone tour this place, see and hear the stories of this atrocity and not be sobered. the question is one of forgiveness and everyone here on this blog is in need of forgiveness.

    July 23, 2014 at 8:15 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Forgiveness from who exactly? Stop judging other people when you are a blatant liar. This girl is guaranteed to have a higher IQ than you, so you might not wish to judge her.

      July 23, 2014 at 8:31 am |
      • awanderingscot

        this is an opinion blog but it does not give you the right to be a hateful name-caller.

        July 23, 2014 at 9:00 am |
        • Science Works


          July 23, 2014 at 9:02 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Are you offended little one? Does the truth hurt that tiny uneducated brain of yours? It is an opinion blog and calling you a liar is not name calling, it is telling the truth! If you don't like your opinion questioned or being called a liar, than I suggest you start telling the truth...can't change the fact that you are a liar and that you are intellectually dishonest.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:03 am |
        • awanderingscot

          Truth Prevails – you are truly one to be pitied.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:07 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          This coming from the guy who routinely hurls personal insults at "unregenerates" from his fiery, self-righteous pulpit?

          July 23, 2014 at 9:09 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          Oh my, that coming from the one who denies Evolution...you're a true insult to humanity. You are the one who needs the pity...your parents and the education system failed you.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:10 am |
        • igaftr

          "this is an opinion blog but it does not give you the right to be a hateful name-caller."

          I cannot believe you have the audacity to actually say something like that to someone after the constant hateful, lying name calling you have done.

          You are the biggest hypocrit that I have ever seen.
          Go crawl back into the pit of ignorance you slithered out of.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:11 am |
        • awanderingscot

          you are not immune to name-calling are you?

          July 23, 2014 at 9:15 am |
        • awanderingscot

          are you immune to name-calling as well?

          July 23, 2014 at 9:16 am |
        • ausphor

          Pathetic troll, scot, the best that can be said, not hateful, it is just what you are.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:17 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          awanderingdolt: I called you a liar...the truth. When you stop making up stories that deny evolution and finally admit you are wrong, you won't be called a liar but until that time, you are a liar! Sorry if your 2 celled brain can't handle that! You're a hypocrite considering how you trash talk so many others but whine like a 5 year old when called a LIAR!

          July 23, 2014 at 9:24 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          The very way in which you address me every time (dZEROc) is designed to be pejorative.
          Derision seems to be your modus operandi.

          "you know nothing about real life"
          "bronze-age men were smarter than you. you must have received a public school education. try picking up the bible and reading it so you won't be so ignorant."
          "see how your tiny brain tends to get lost.."
          "return to your vomit and don't try to sound intelligent, you're not."
          "your opinion matters not, you don't believe in God."
          "you worship junk science and therefore your opinion doesn't matter."
          "no one cares about your opinion and it didn't get recorded."
          "mindless drivel from an unregenerate."
          "start reasoning as a man does and put away your childish thoughts."
          " PhD's in evolutionary 'biology" are found in cereal boxes"
          "Comment not logged. Unregenerates are ignorant about the things of God."

          July 23, 2014 at 9:47 am |
        • igaftr


          NIce attempt at deflection...we are talking about YOUR behavior, since you were idiotic enought o call someone else otut on something YOU do more than anyone else.

          You should be ashamed of yourslef, but are too ignorant to understand that.

          Grow up scot, stop stealing other peoples work.

          Don't you have a floor to mop?

          July 23, 2014 at 9:49 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          A floor to mop? Don't you mean a stall to clean out? I doubt scot has ever left the farm.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:52 am |
        • awanderingscot

          what kind of person saves other peoples blog responses? (many of which are questionably mine). you are much like that other dishonest blogger IGAFTR who goes on the internet to research posters he disagrees with. disgusting!

          July 23, 2014 at 10:13 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          All I did was google "cnn awanderingscot unregenerate" and all of these little nuggets popped up within a few clicks.

          July 23, 2014 at 10:21 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          awanderingdolt: You are the last person who should be calling others out. If you can't figure out the purpose of Doc posting comments you have made, you have an issue. You're a proven liar and hypocrite...that is all he pointing out. 56 going on 5!

          July 23, 2014 at 10:24 am |
        • igaftr


          In what way have I been dishonest?
          Did I steal someone elses work, and post it without giving credit?...no, that would be you.
          Did I misrepresent peoples statement, post them out of context, to falsify what was actually said?...no, that would be you
          Did I name call incessantly, bearing false witness ( as you did just now about me)?...no, that would be you.

          Why is being curious about those you interact with "disgusting"?
          All I did is one search by your posted name and your primary email address came up, your age, your personals profile ( good luck with that),your last 5 addrsses...it is not my fault YOU chose to put yourself out there.
          Don't get mad at me when YOU are the one who put that info out there. If you wanted to remain anonymous, it is up to YOU to do that.

          Even though you KNOW that your personal info tracks right to you via that name, YOU continue to come here under that name, showing you do not actually care, so don't try throwing that up in someones face.

          By the way, stop posting your nonsensical argument that life is too complex to occur naturally. That is absurd...otherwise, you claim your god was needed...then your god would be more complex, requiring a creator, and then that god creator, would need a creator, because he is more complex...etcetera ad infinitum....it is a pointless argument, yet you cling to it like a drowning man to a life preserver...simply pointless argument.

          July 23, 2014 at 10:55 am |
        • awanderingscot

          no you are not telling the whole story there sport, you then went on to try and intimidate me by posting my full name in this blog. you're disgusting.

          July 23, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
        • igaftr

          No scot...YOU put it there when you posted under the name that traced back to you. YOU opened the door, I simply looked through and described what I saw...YOUR nmae, each time you post, is the same as walking down the street with a megaphone...nothing disgusting about the truth...

          YOU keep coming back with the same monicker, so you clearly do not want to be anonymous.

          You have only yourself to blame.

          July 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm |
      • ibagoalie

        I'm puzzled as to why you are calling the person that posted a liar. What has he lied about?

        July 23, 2014 at 9:18 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          You're new here? He is a liar and an uneducated dolt. You should read the other comments before stepping in on something you obviously are clueless about, you'll comprehend better that way!

          July 23, 2014 at 9:20 am |
        • fortheloveofellipsis

          You obviously are new to this blog...

          July 23, 2014 at 9:20 am |
        • awanderingscot

          They are hateful because i posted information that refutes evolution and instead of defending evolution they are attacking me.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:21 am |
        • ausphor

          It maybe helpful to direct your question to someone in particular.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:23 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          awanderingdolt: Once again, you're lying! We have defended evolution, you keep denying it. Crawl back under your rock!

          July 23, 2014 at 9:25 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          awanderingdolt: One small thing, you've NEVER posted anything that refutes Evolution (it's not possible, at least not coming from you)....so once again you have been proven to be a liar!

          July 23, 2014 at 9:32 am |
        • ibagoalie

          @Truth...wow, I ask an innocent question and you jump down my throat and call me names. All you had to say is the person had incorrect comments posted in other spots, which I did not see. Sorry, I didn't read every one of the 400+ posts

          July 23, 2014 at 9:36 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          I called you clueless for commenting about something you had no comprehension of. If I wanted to call you a name instead of pointing out a flawed part of your comment I would have labeled you a DOLT. Otherwise, 'clueless' is not name calling.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:48 am |
        • LaBella

          Now imagine this girl, (and her mother, who posted here) reading page after page of vitriolic posts against her for posting a picture that she thought was pretty innocent herself.

          Such is the 'net.

          July 23, 2014 at 10:33 am |
    • thesamyaza

      she did nothing wrong

      July 23, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
  7. MrFreeze

    You gotta laugh to keep from crying.

    July 23, 2014 at 8:14 am |
    • ibagoalie

      @Truth...Ah that's the beauty of the Internet, you can be rude and no one can smack you. There were other replies that made it clear that there were previous threads referenced, without resorting to being an A$$.

      July 23, 2014 at 10:00 am |
    • ibagoalie

      @LaBella I think a lot of people have gone off the deep end, but on the other hand if she can't understand that some people would be offended then as her Mother I would treat this is an "Educational' moment. As I mentioned in a previous post, all she had to do was send out an apology tweet and the issue probably would have died, but the follow up tweets from her shows me, at least, that she just added to her misery. Bottom line is the Internet is unforgiving, so don't post things if you can't take criticism because not everyone will agree.

      July 23, 2014 at 10:55 am |
      • LaBella

        Nobody likes to be told they are wrong. And that is borne out by not only her response to the vitriol, but the responses here as well.

        July 23, 2014 at 11:03 am |
        • ibagoalie

          I agree with you, but if I think if her mother would have explained to her why people were upset, then perhaps it wouldn't have snowballed the way it did. And quite honestly I was shocked not only the tweets aimed at her, but also her nasty responses as well. As for this forum, everyone seems to be very intolerant of other view point, calling people names, etc. My very first post was that I didn't think taking a Selfie at such a site was appropriate and I was immediately flamed.

          July 23, 2014 at 11:20 am |
        • LaBella

          Her mother actually posted here as "theirmamma".
          It might be worth your while to see what she has to say.

          Her actions may seem thoughtless, (and I am not a fan of selfies, no matter what the location) but I don't believe there was any malice behind it. And I say this as a woman who had family members perish during the Holocaust.

          July 23, 2014 at 11:25 am |
  8. jackarooluckylu

    As atrocious as the holocaust was, I wonder if she was truly aware of what went on there. She looks young so I give her a little bit of a pass and wonder if her parents were there with her. This wouldn't of been a problem if she wasn't smiling, I'm sure she understands that her demeanor wasn't appropriate for that place. I hope she understands it now.

    July 23, 2014 at 7:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      With all the hatred spewed towards her, I'm sure she understands. It's sad that people have made her feel so horrible over a picture...people should be ashamed of themselves.

      July 23, 2014 at 8:33 am |
      • fortheloveofellipsis

        Indeed, TP; if I was to venture a guess about the Lesson Learned here, it's most likely "make sure you fake the right emotion, or you will be slammed as the worst person in all of human history"...

        July 23, 2014 at 8:46 am |
        • ibagoalie

          Actually the lesson should be, if you can't handle the backlash that is 'The Internet', then don't post for the world to see.

          July 23, 2014 at 10:11 am |
    • MidwestKen

      We know that her father was not there because he is dead. That was one of the reasons behind the tweet. (Talk about inappropriate)

      July 23, 2014 at 10:23 am |
  9. rogerthat2014

    In regards to the people on here with pitchforks, what would you say is the ratio of religious to non-religious?

    July 23, 2014 at 6:53 am |
    • fortheloveofellipsis

      Roger, right now I'd say it's splitting pretty much down the middle...

      July 23, 2014 at 8:47 am |
  10. nokoolaidcowboy

    This young lady is too ignorant to understand what she has done. There are boundaries that need heeding.

    Vanity, thy name is Selfie!

    July 23, 2014 at 6:37 am |
  11. thesamyaza

    you insensitive bastards
    she went their in morning of here father, your poking fun at a woman who just lost her dad, insulting a woman in grief. their varry fact that she can go to a place like aushwutz after her father died a still be able to take a picture shows strengths, the kind of strength i for one admire in a woman. stay strong Breanna .

    July 23, 2014 at 2:19 am |
    • frosty13148

      how would she feel if someone did a smiling selfie on her fathers grave?

      July 23, 2014 at 2:32 am |
      • thesamyaza

        i don't know let ask how she felt being the one doing the smiling after her fathers death and all.

        July 23, 2014 at 2:50 am |
        • ddeevviinn

          I really don't have an opinion on this either way, I'd just like to see you string together a coherent sentence.

          July 23, 2014 at 4:20 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          devin: And we'd like to see you string together coherent evidence for your god claims but given that that will NEVER happen, you might wish to skip the hypocrisy for a pleasant change. I guess the Golden Rule doesn't apply to you-right???

          July 23, 2014 at 8:09 am |
      • ibagoalie

        I was willing to chalk it up to youthful ignorance until I saw her followup tweets. She specifically told one person who did mention 'dancing on her father's grave' that she would kill her. Her tweets are also very profanity laced. All she had to do is say I'm sorry I offended some people with my Selfie, this is why I did it and that would have been it. But instead she continued to fuel the fire with her followup tweets. Yet not one supporter mentions those.

        July 23, 2014 at 9:22 am |
    • observer


      If a selfie turns up of someone thrilled on their first trip to New York city in 2001 and they are all smiles while there is the 9/11 rubble in the background, you might decide not to support such foolish thoughtlessness and lack of compassion next time.

      July 23, 2014 at 3:11 am |
      • thesamyaza

        well sammy don't do selfie but sammy do do smiles, and i have a pick of me smiling at the 9/11 site, why you ask, because America had it coming, that and when the first tower got hit my boyfriend was smart enough drop what he was doing and get out of the building, i was really happy to see him not hurt. so much so that it made me smile.

        July 23, 2014 at 3:22 am |
        • observer


          "America had it coming"

          And why was that?

          July 23, 2014 at 3:27 am |
        • thesamyaza

          supporting the occupation in Palestine, occupy lands in Arabia, building up Al-Qaeda, ignoring the threats of Al-Qaeda, refusing to take custody of a Al-Qaeda top command when the were being held in Sudan and Somalia on separate occasions, keeping a tyrannical despot from facing justice at the hand of the Iranian people he wronged giving Saudi Arabia weapons and money to kill thousands of innocent people in Iraq, giving Iraq weapons and money to kill thousands of innocent people in Iraq. the list goes on. you rep what you so and the united state have sown terror, destabilization and murder in the middle east.

          July 23, 2014 at 3:58 am |
        • observer


          "united state have sown terror, destabilization and murder in the middle east."

          Yep. Like the Middle East wouldn't have had MANY CENTURIES of terror, destabilization and murder without our help.

          Read about biblical times even. Get real.


          July 23, 2014 at 4:14 am |
        • thesamyaza

          the bible is not a accurate account of history. in fact the bible is a work of historical-fiction, i for one prefer the Earth's Children franchise and no i will not pass it own as a work from my neolithic ancestors. still if America was not such an interventionist empire the we would have not gotten attacked.

          July 23, 2014 at 4:38 am |
        • ibagoalie

          If you have a problem with American foreign policy blame the Politicians (ie vote them out of office). To rejoice in the killing of innocent people, American or not is just disgusting. I knew people in the Tower.

          July 23, 2014 at 9:39 am |
        • thesamyaza

          I rejoiced not because of the dead but the living, i was ecstatic my boyfriend survived. knew people in the towers as well they got out in time, why should i cry for strangers, why put assess stress on me. i don't believe death calls for such sadness. sure i talk about what Israels doing in Gaza but that's the suffering of the living. death is not an end their soul, body and mind return to were the came from and become new life, to me death is but another part of life.

          July 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm |
  12. Public Reproval

    i am jewish and i had ancestors who died in the camp.s but c'mon...maybe this girl saved up all her dog-walking, babysitting, or lawn mowing $$$ to take this trip and she's just proud of herself that she made it!!!!

    July 23, 2014 at 12:18 am |
    • christopherkwun

      I don't think the technology of taking selfies is problematic here. It's the lack of maturity to exercise good judgment which is. You can't make someone act mature. It's for them to discover for themselves.

      July 23, 2014 at 12:30 am |
      • fortheloveofellipsis

        And of course the best way for her to discover that is to be shrieked at by the entire internet as the Most Horrible Person in the World(tm). One editing slip-up, and now she gets to pay for it the rest of her life. Yeah, that sounds about right to the bluenoses here...

        July 23, 2014 at 9:05 am |
  13. bluerobin60

    The fault lies within the girl's family, who have obviously not educated their daughter on the history of what happened at the place she was visiting. This is where little children were made to be separated from their families, their hair cut off so it could be recycled, made to go hungry each day, live in the bitter cold and suffer under filthy conditions, and then hustled one day to a room where they thought showers awaited them, only to be gassed to death, and realizing as they died what a cruel world it is. Take a look at the pictures on the Internet of these people to see that this really did happen! Then you'll see that this is a place where smiles do not belong. This was very wrong.

    July 22, 2014 at 11:33 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Wrong. She and her grandfather studied it. Read the Huffington Post's article about the same thing.

      July 22, 2014 at 11:56 pm |
      • bluerobin60

        Why are you defending these people?

        July 23, 2014 at 12:00 am |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          Why are you attempting to make an "international scandal" and accusing a family of moral failure over a picture that intended no harm what so ever?

          July 23, 2014 at 12:14 am |
        • hereonearth22

          You sound like a teenager yourself with your comments. I'm sure your not of course, but seriously she is a teenager and frankly she didn't do anything wrong! If she took a can of spray paint and painted her name on the walls then maybe you could say something so ridiculous, but she took a picture of herself and she was excited to be there.

          July 23, 2014 at 2:20 am |
        • fortheloveofellipsis

          She made one poor editorial choice. She therefore deserves to be shrieked at as a Horrible Person(tm) for all eternity...

          July 23, 2014 at 8:55 am |
    • frosty13148

      it is the way of our world now. no respect for life or death is the way of the world. at some point our children are taught about this heinous time in human history. the say those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it , or something like that, can obviously see it is coming true. a selfie in front of this murder site just shows how much respect she was taught. my cousin visited the site in the 80's while stationed in germany, she paid homage to people who died horrendously.she said you can feel the sadness and the death still. she left crying for the souls lost. not smiling or laughing.

      July 23, 2014 at 2:30 am |
  14. Kevin Seney

    She is a teenager. Give her a break. She cannot grasp fully the significance of this site. Selfies among teenage girls (I have 6 of them) are more about "hey, look at me, I am on vacation" rather than some sort of intentional disrespect. Geeezzzz.

    July 22, 2014 at 11:18 pm |
    • thesamyaza

      not all teen age girls are narcissistic blissful ditzes, i mean when i was a teenage i held a job, wore a suit to school a listened to system of the down,... noted i was still a narcissist, but handles oblivious, so no she will not be excused because shes a teenage girl, she will be excused because she has done nothing wrong. how many native American grave sites does the average American walk on and smile, Americans celebrate many holidays that glorify past genocides, Butcher Patrick Day, Thanksgiving, ect gee how many Israeli smiled when the watch the bombs drop on Gaza


      so no this girl did nothing wrong while smiling on her vacation.

      July 22, 2014 at 11:37 pm |
      • bluerobin60

        You honestly have no idea what you're talking about.

        July 22, 2014 at 11:46 pm |
        • thesamyaza

          then please enlighten me.

          July 23, 2014 at 12:15 am |
  15. Semper Cogitatus

    Responding reasonably to a place like this would requite serious thought and mature consideration. It requires being able to look outside yourself, to see the world beyond your own narrow horizons. Clearly something few people her age are capable of, and something she is unlikely to ever be capable of.

    July 22, 2014 at 9:31 pm |
    • shift32123

      We'll what we should do is maybe take the good from the bad and maybe find a way to close the issue in the best way possible.

      July 22, 2014 at 9:39 pm |
    • rogerthat2014

      "something she is unlikely to ever be capable of."

      Do you have a basis for this, or are you failing to put forth serious thought and mature consideration?

      July 22, 2014 at 11:14 pm |
      • fortheloveofellipsis

        Well, you see, he is a clairvoyant who can see the future, and can tell us exactly what her entire future is, all based on one tweet. I wonder whether he can tell me the name of the next Triple Crown winner while he's at it...

        July 23, 2014 at 8:59 am |
  16. shift32123

    It is inconvenient that we live in a society that is so intolerant towards one another, but like Vic said, it is a question of Free will.

    July 22, 2014 at 9:17 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Unfortunately for you, "free will" has been debunked. Unless human brains are FULLY conscious of ALL the elements that go into a decision before or at the time of the decision, it's not "freely" determined. In fact neuro-science has proven that is not the case, and that decisions are actually made before humans are conscious of them. Free will is a fiction. Humans are constrained by MANY factors, and are subject to many learned patterns and pressures.

      July 22, 2014 at 11:26 pm |
      • kevinite

        Actually neuroscience has not made that case of no free will to be irrefutable. That is still very much in debate.

        July 23, 2014 at 2:43 am |
        • kevinite

          Besides where did you get the idea that the whole scientific community is in complete agreement regarding the notion of free will?

          July 23, 2014 at 3:00 am |
        • realbuckyball

          Wrong. We know from Archaeology and Sociology that morality ONLY and ALWAYS reflects the cultures in which it develops. There is no evidence of ANYTHING moral being "granted" by the gods. In fact we DO know from PET Scans, and MRI's that decisions are made before we are conscious of them. Thus Free Will IS debunked, by definition. Free Will, as a concept, is not the subject of science as such. By *definition* one would have to be fully conscious of ALL the elements in a decision, to be "free". We are not. See Davis Eagleman U of Texas, and many others. Google MRI – freewill. It HAS been debunked.

          July 23, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
        • kevinite

          Actually, I did Google it, which is why I made that comment in the first place. Eagleman and others do not make up the whole scientific community who researched the subject and not everyone within that scientific community who researched it came to the same conclusions. That's why it is still up for debate.

          July 24, 2014 at 7:57 am |
      • awanderingscot

        Bucky, you're a walking living breathing contradiction. out of one side of your mouth you say there is no such thing as free will and out of the other side of your mouth you proclaim there is no God. You are a perfect example of what it means to be an atheist, no personal accountability, we're all just animals.

        July 23, 2014 at 11:10 pm |
        • Doris

          No contradiction, Scotty. Free will is a necessary component for many theists, along with being joined at the hip with the devil. Outside of such theistic belief, it's simply not a characteristic. Morality is not dependent on free will under all modes of determinism.

          July 23, 2014 at 11:28 pm |
        • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

          "no personal accountability"

          Jesus died for your sins...LOL

          July 24, 2014 at 12:11 am |
        • TruthPrevails1

          " we're all just animals"

          We are!
          It Is Christians who have no personal accountability. They think as long as they repent, they will remain in the imaginary friends good graces, so they pass the buck and don't take responsibility. If it isn't good, you think the devil had a hand in it. Atheists look for the reasons and answers. Your only answers are God or Satan...such a narrow-minded, inept way to live.

          July 24, 2014 at 8:27 am |
  17. lunchbreaker

    Here is the only question that matters now:

    Would you or would you not encourage your own child do the same thing?

    July 22, 2014 at 9:05 pm |
  18. shift32123

    I believe the day that Auschwitz rests as a more happier place, and that we close the book on this horrible holocaust but learn the lessons of that book, is the stepping stone, to the day that the planet becomes a more happier place, and we gotta see it to believe it.

    July 22, 2014 at 8:50 pm |
    • bluerobin60

      We must never close the book on this horrible event in world history! As indicated by many of the lame comments posted here the average American does not fully understand what happened at these concentration camps. Just because you're in front of your color TV set, munching on something from the microwave, your cell phone by your side and your nice set of wheels out in front, you think life is easy and that six million plus lives are not worth remembering! But they are! You don't smile mere feet away from where thousands were crying out for help!

      July 22, 2014 at 11:58 pm |
      • shift32123

        Let me re-write my words to give you a better understanding, It is good to remember the holocaust so we can remember these awful events, we must never forget that, but, I believe there are more grave issues at stake, like war, we must look on the insight of things, like what it means to be happy in a place like this, a time like that, in times like these, because every time we turn on the TV, war is on the television, and other unfortunate events, you have to look at the symbolism of the picture. I've said this a couple of times in posts in CNN but I think that there is trolls everywhere, In World War 2, if instead of doing war, they focused all of their resources of the planet on the war effort, on basic human needs instead of destroying each other like what this world is coming too if people don't act, this planet could of been much more sustainable, now I'm sorry if I offended anyone when I said those words because I know this is a delicate subject, but, to every problem, there is a solution, and communication, is the way, not destruction and calling each other names, and communication, is at our fingertips.

        July 23, 2014 at 1:39 am |
        • shift32123

          Pay homage to the one"s deceased at world war 2, do them a favor and actually try to stop and prevent a future war from erupting if you can.

          July 23, 2014 at 2:01 am |
  19. No Wake Zone

    I say people should mind their own business. It is a harmless selfie that has meaning to her. And likely taught her a lesson. That is part of growing up. Give her a break.

    July 22, 2014 at 8:37 pm |
    • Public Reproval

      yup. probably just stoked she made it all the way there!!!!

      July 23, 2014 at 12:26 am |
    • nothanksimdriving123

      Visiting a place known globally for the truly, absolutely horrible crimes committed there, this girl's reaction was all smiles and she decided to share it with the world. That shows profound ignorance and immaturity. I hope she learns better as she gets older.

      July 23, 2014 at 12:55 am |
      • fortheloveofellipsis

        Because, of course, one smiling photo is perfect proof that she went through that place smiling the entire time. It muct be nice to be as perfect as you...

        July 23, 2014 at 9:01 am |
  20. Vic

    True faith/belief, morality, etc., are from the inside out, not the other way around, and that necessitates "Free Will."

    While we instinctively realize it, we are not the source of morality, rather, it is given to and made inherent in us, it is independent of our subjectivity, it is from above, I believe. In a spur of the moment, one can make a spectacle of him/herself, that's a reality check of the truth of the matter.

    Let people be people, let them choose for themselves, and in due time they would know better. We should not deprive each other of the chance to learn from our mistakes by overreacting. We can educate and advise —plant the seeds— but we cannot force faith/belief, morality, etc., on people, they have to come from the individual at "Free Will." That's the difference between "Faith/Belief" and "Religion," I believe.

    p.s. First posted (unedited) on July 22, 2014 at 10:12 am |

    July 22, 2014 at 8:37 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      Free will has been debunked. The gods are not the source of morality. Evolution and learned social mores are. It is not "from above". In fact the gods in the Bible are horrible beings. Where did the god's morality come from ? It is rather a little suspi'cious that the morals in the Bible just *happened* to be the same as the ancient cultures that produced that book.

      July 22, 2014 at 11:32 pm |
      • kevinite

        Actually, free will has not been debunked and there is no irrefutable proof that morality did not from anywhere else other than through evolution and learned social mores. Although one may freely question as to where God's morality came from, that doesn't prove that any moral guidelines were in no way whatsoever ever brought to humanity through a deity. Any conclusions made one way or the other regarding the development of morality is a matter of belief and not fact.

        July 23, 2014 at 2:58 am |
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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.