Shabbat Shalom! For this week's creator spotlight, we are speaking with Lily Ebert who is celebrating her 98th birthday! 🎂
Lily is a Holocaust survivor who makes TikTok videos with her great-grandson Dov Forman and has recently published her book titled 'Lily's Promise: How I Survived Auschwitz' in which she shares her powerful story of captivity at Auschwitz and her experiences during the Holocaust.
With her great-grandson by her side, she's on her way to conquering TikTok. We'd also like to thank Dov for sharing his great-grandmother with us and preserving her history and memories, and we can't get enough of their special relationship.
With 1.5 million followers and 21.5 million likes, it's clear that our community loves her as much as we do. We sat down with Lily and her great-grandson Dov to learn more about Lily's book, what she enjoys about TikTok and to celebrate her birthday!
Lily, first of all we want to wish you are very happy 98th Birthday from everyone here at TikTok UK! Lily you have had to show real courage and strength in your life, if you could share one piece of advice with your followers, what would it be?
Lily: Always think before you speak and be kind and smile at everyone. When somebody is different, it doesn’t mean they are better or worse. We should be tolerant with each other. Be positive - life is like a mirror. Smile at it and it smiles back at you.
You published your novel this year, Lily's Promise, do you think TikTok helped you to reach a different audience?
Dov: TikTok certainly helped us reach a different audience - the younger generations, many of whom have never heard about Auschwitz or the Holocaust. We get lots of parents saying that their children - many of whom do not enjoy reading - have asked to read Lily’s Promise.
When my great grandma Lily Ebert was in Auschwitz, she promised herself that if she survived against all the odds, she would do all she could to share her story; for herself and for those that did not survive. And she does. She has been telling her testimony and educating the younger generations about her testimony since the mid 1980’s. I feel incredibly proud to be helping her keep this promise.
A few months ago Lily did not know what TikTok was so it really is incredible that our account has reached over 1.5 million followers. As the number of survivors dwindles with time and we move further away from the Holocaust, it is our responsibility to share the testimonies from survivors. I am fortunate that my great grandmother is still able to speak and share her testimony, but in a few years’ time this may not be the case.
Most people in this country have never met a Holocaust survivor. Most people have never seen a tattoo on the arm of their Great Grandmother. Lily's is A-10572 - her entire identity reduced to a mark on her arm. A permanent reminder of the horrors committed by the Nazis, and that everyone needs to be aware of what happened and that we can never allow this to take place again.
My generation is often taught about the dangers of social media, but I believe that its positive potential is often overlooked. What Lily and I have managed to achieve on social media and the positive response to the birthday cards request shows its real power as a force for good. As we enter the next generation of Holocaust education, social media will provide the platform to educate about the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.
It is so humbling to see so many people, from all over the world, supporting a listening to Lily and her important messages! My Great Grandmother has not just survived Auschwitz and the holocaust; she has has built a large and loving family with 3 children, 10 grandchildren and 34 great grandchildren who all love her very much. Lily’s upcoming 98th birthday, which will now be celebrated together with millions online, is another of life’s affirmations – the Nazis, and the prejudice and hatred that they stood for, didn’t win.
What first inspired you and Dov to start creating on TikTok?
Lily: I’ve spent my life since then educating about the Holocaust. I’ve spoken in schools and in the Houses of Parliament. It was Dov’s idea to start using social media to reach a new audience. You can learn from everybody and I’ve learnt a lot from Dov. I came from a different generation, so TikTok is still new for me. I could never have dreamt that we could reach as many people as we do on social media. My generation is the last one to have witnessed the Holocaust. What will happen when the last of us are gone? It should never be forgotten that something so terrible happened so that it can never happen again. For many years I never spoke about my experiences. I didn’t want the young children even to hear this terrible story, I didn’t want to hurt them, but I realised that it was more important that my story should never be forgotten. At first it was very painful to even talk about it, but as more time passed it became a bit easier. The TikTok video where I answer questions about the tattoo I was given in Auschwitz has had over 20 million views. So many of the people who have watched it didn’t know that they gave us tattoos in Auschwitz. We were not human. My name was not Lily Ebert any more, we were seen as just a number.
Dov: During lockdown, not seeing Lily for two months made me realise how precious she is, and how privileged I am to be able to spend this time with her. I also realised that I am now of a similar age as Lily would have been when the Nazis invaded Hungary in 1944. As soon as lockdown rules were eased and I could spend more time with Lily, I was determined to absorb her testimony whilst I still have the chance. I want to help people understand what she was forced to go through – just for being Jewish. Since then, I have been promoting Lily’s testimony through social media. The response has been remarkable – even connecting us to the family of her American liberator who liberated her from the Death March in April 1945.
Lily is so young in spirit. When my friends come round to play football, she’ll stand in the circle and kick the ball back to us. She’s very wise about life too. When I went to her to suggest we make a TikTok account to share her story, she’d never really seen a TikTok video before. She said to me, I’ll make videos with you, but I’m not dancing.
What does your TikTok community mean to you?
Lily and Dov: Our TikTok community means so much to us. The love they give us is incredible and this love and support gives us the motivation to keep posting every day. We love that TikTok is a welcoming community, where there is a space for everyone to thrive.
What is your goal on TikTok?
Lily and Dov: Our goal on Tiktok is to teach people about the Holocaust but also about how we can only have peace with tolerance and understanding. We also want to spread messages of love and positivity and about how even if you have the worst trauma in life, things can always get better.
What else or who else is on your TikTok For You feed?!
Lily and Dov: Lots of positive and fun videos (including all the new trends)! @therealmelindastrauss is also often on our For You Feed - her content is amazing.
What is your favourite TikTok you have made to date and why?
Lily and Dov: Our favourite TikToks are our weekly Shabbat Shalom videos. We also really enjoy answering all of the questions we receive from our amazing TikTok community. We particularly enjoyed filming the ‘head-bopping’ trend a few weeks ago with some of Lily’s 34 great grandchildren.