Photo Shoot at Holocaust Memorial Condemned by Jewish Community

Members of the Jewish community in Ottawa say they are angry after the National Holocaust Monument was used as a backdrop for photos and videos.

A local clothing company V Kentay faced criticism after it posted a video featuring a model wearing a swimsuit from the company’s collection.

“To know that this place has been desecrated, that their memory has been desecrated, and that a place of somber reflection and education was used in a fashion shoot, not for the first time, is incredibly frustrating and disheartening,” Andrea Freedman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, tells CBC.

The concrete monument was unveiled in 2017 and commemorates the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during the Second World War.

The reflective monument, designed by Studio Libeskind architects, is noted for its beautiful aesthetic and is laid out in an abstract version of the Star of David.

The space is public with no rules in place surrounding photography and videography, but Freedman says that more needs to be done to educate people about the Holocaust.

Freedman welcomes people taking pictures and selfies at the monument and posting them online, but says that it should be done respectfully.

CBC contacted V Kentay who offered an apology over its swimsuit promotional video.

“It has come to our attention that V Kentay has offended the Jewish and Ottawa community,” wrote co-founder Phoebe Genus in an email statement.

“From a creative perspective, the artistry of the memorial seemed to be a perfect fit for what my team and I were looking for aesthetically for that particular campaign,” she wrote.

“I erred to consider any political or emotional implications this decision could have caused. I offer my deepest apologies and regret making this decision. I made an honest and immature mistake as a new business owner.”

The videos have now been removed from V Kentay’s website and social media platforms but the company is not the first to use the monument as a backdrop with several photographers spotted at the site.

Judy Young, an Ottowa resident, and Holocaust survivor says she doesn’t want people to be punished but believes there should be information available to the public.

“I think there ought to be more information, not just on the monument itself, but information out about what the significance of this place is,” she says.

Image credits: Header photo courtesy of V Kentay.