Alabama Teen Receives Death Threats For Posting Smiley Selfie At Auschwitz

Selfies strike again.

Breanna Mitchell, 18, of Roanake, Alabama, graduated from high school this year. In June, she celebrated this milestone by traveling to Europe with her grandmother and visiting Poland. Like many teens, Breanna documented her trip on social media. Sounds like a great story so far, right? The ugh moment is that Breanna snapped a smiling selfie at Auschwitz, posing in front of nondescript buildings with the caption “Selfie in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp” and a grinning emoticon.

It’s not difficult to understand why Breanna’s social media accounts were “bombarded,” as put it. I would have expected the same thing if she had posed a selfie like this at a plantation, Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor or other location where human suffering occurred on a grand scale. I get my dander up about the way tourists behave at the World Trade Center, which still feels like a mass grave site to me even 13 years later. There’s something about people posing for photos where atrocities occurred — especially selfies, with their implied narcissism — that suggests a lack of self-awareness and appropriately solemn respect.

And yet. My first thought was actually, Wow, a teenager in America wanted to visit a place of historical significance in Europe. I was impressed, actually, that a teenager from the South wanted to go all the way to Poland for a celebratory post-graduation vacation. You would expect girls her age to want to go to Cabo or the Dominican Republic, not a death camp. It shows she actually cared enough to make the effort to get all the way there and learn something. Which one hopes she did — both about European history and tacky behavior.

So it’s frustrating that Breanna says she’s getting “death threats,” including from a man who promised to “come over and poison me.” Death threats aren’t such a compassionate response from people claiming to be offended by insensitivity towards those who died. I’m not suggesting that Breanna’s insensitive Instagram pic shouldn’t have any pushback — just that in our righteous indignation, we look (no pun intended) at the bigger picture.


Email me at [email protected] Follow me on Twitter.

[Image via Instagram]