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Montana Tucker Uses TikTok Audience to Teach Gen Z about the Holocaust

Montana Tucker is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. So when she decided to document her first tour of Holocaust sites in Poland this year, the videos stood out amongst her normal catalog of singing and dancing. 
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December 20, 2022
Montana Tucker (right) with her mother Michelle at Auschwitz in Poland. Credit: Tyler Oaks.

Montana Tucker’s fans know her for her singing, acting, songwriting and dancing. She has been in the entertainment business since the age of eight, and now at age 29, has a following of 2.8 million followers on Instagram and over 8.7 million on TikTok.

Tucker is also the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. So when she decided to document her first tour of Holocaust sites in Poland this year, the videos stood out amongst her normal catalog of singing and dancing. 

“My content usually is super happy, uplifting, and fun — my goal is to make people smile and be happy,” Tucker told the Journal. “So to go to the complete opposite end of seeing me cry and seeing my most vulnerable states that no one has ever seen of me — I’ve never even filmed anything like that before. I wanted people to really stop in those two minutes out of their day to watch this and be completely immersed.”

She connected with SoulShip Studios producers Israel Schachter and Rachel Kastner (who is also the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors), and assembled a small production team.

And then in June of this year, along with her mother Michelle, Tucker began the journey to Poland to meet up with Zak Jeffay, a tour guide and Holocaust educator from JRoots, an organization that leads trips to explore the Jewish histories of Poland, Israel, Lithuania, Morocco and Prague. Jeffay took the two first-time visitors on a personalized and informative journey. 

Tucker and her production crew recorded over 100 hours that would be eventually edited down to 22 intense, sobering minutes — released exclusively on TikTok.

Titled “How To: Never Forget” the series is broken up into 10 parts, each between two and three minutes in length. Her audience is dominated by Gen Z (people born between the late 1990s and early 2010s), so Tucker knew she had to create bite size, succinct content to connect viewers with such heavy topics. 

And that is precisely what Tucker did. 

They visited Krakow, the mass graves in the Glogow Forest, Markowa, Belzec death camp and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Every episode is filled with tears, history, maps and context. The music, the dreary cloudiness of each outdoor scene and raw emotion all combine to form a quick and powerful entryway for many of Tucker’s fans to connect with her personal journey to the sites of the horrors of the Holocaust. 

“I still cry every single time after every episode because it affects me so much,” Tucker said. “My grandma’s 94, most of the survivors are in their late eighties, nineties. And in a few years, unfortunately, there’s going to be no survivors left. And you’ll never get to hear them speak live. And so who’s going tell their stories when they’re gone?”

Part one was released October 24th, and subsequent episodes were released in spurts leading up to the 84th anniversary of Kristallnacht on November 9th. 

The release couldn’t have come at a more important time. In the three weeks leading up to the release of part one, Kanye West’s antisemitic rants would make worldwide headlines. Paired with his popstar status, Kanye ignited a barrage of hatred and stereotypes directed at Jewish people across all social media platforms. But as that story unfolded (and continues to do so), Tucker’s millions of followers saw her firsthand experience of the consequences of hatred directed at the Jewish people during World War II. 

“The purpose that we did this particular project was to really, with all the denial of the Holocaust, with the young generation not even being forced to be taught in schools,” Tucker said. “My following is all ethnicities, religions, races. I have people from countries all over the world following me, so if I could open people’s eyes that A) Have never even heard about the Holocaust, B) Have never learned about the Holocaust, or C) Have people around them that deny the Holocaust, so then they deny it.”

In the past, some of Tucker’s followers taunted and unfollowed her just because she posted a light-hearted picture with her grandparents and a caption about them being Holocaust survivors. And after releasing her series on TikTok, Holocaust deniers and detractors polluted the comments threads with antisemitic vitriol. But the jeers have been drowned out by the 7 million total views (as of this writing) of Tucker’s series after it later posted to Instagram as well.

“A lot of these people wrote to me saying that they were so ashamed to be Jewish, but now they feel so proud and it makes them want to scream from the top of the mountains that they’re Jewish and they’re proud from this series.”
– Montana Tucker

[/speaker-mute]“A lot of these people wrote to me saying that they were so ashamed to be Jewish, but now they feel so proud and it makes them want to scream from the top of the mountains that they’re Jewish and they’re proud from this series,” Tucker said. 

She received praise and reposts from people with massive social media followings, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, entertainment executive Scooter Braun, author Jessica Seinfeld, actress Emmanuelle Chriqui and author Jay Shetty. 

Growing up in South Florida, Tucker was always close with her mother Michelle’s parents. Her late Zayde, Michael Schmidmayer, who would have turned 100 this year, would often speak at South Florida schools to make sure the next generation understood what happened in the Holocaust. Though he and his brother survived the concentration camps, their own parents and grandparents were murdered during the Holocaust. His future wife Lilly was sent to Auschwitz at age 13 with her mother and older sister. Her mother was murdered almost immediately upon arrival. 

Michael and Lilly met in 1953 in New York at a dance for Holocaust survivors. Tucker’s grandmother Lilly is now 94. Despite battling Alzheimer’s for over 14 years, Lilly recently appeared with her daughter and granddaughter at Temple of the Arts’ High Holidays services this fall at the Saban Theatre. 

Tucker doesn’t recall experiencing antisemitism while growing up in the predominantly Jewish community of Boca Raton, but she did endure bullying. She was constantly missing school due to her work in the entertainment industry since age eight. 

“Kids were really, really mean to me thinking that I thought I was better than them,” Tucker recalled. She was on national commercials, “Barney & Friends” and a television show with Ariana Grande called “E-Venture Kids.”  

“I would walk in the hallways and people would be like [in a snide voice], ‘oh my God, it’s Montana Tucker.’ No one would sit with me at lunch. I would literally go sit down, all the kids would get up and not sit with me at lunch. Up until high school even. I then told my mom about this, and then she would come every day in her car and I would sit and eat lunch in her car. Because I was eating lunch in the bathroom.” She endured body shaming too — the kids called her “Man-tana.” 

These days, Tucker endures the cringe-inducing comments, “You look like that and you’re Jewish? There’s no way you’re Jewish. There’s no way you can look like that and be Jewish.” When some people hear that her name is Montana Tucker, they tell her “you can’t be Jewish with that kind of name.” Never mind the fact that both her parents are Jewish too. 

It’s these experiences that have led Tucker to use her platform to be a positive role model for her young audience. Tucker describes her content as “all inclusive” and has previously gained notoriety for her anti-bullying and positive body image videos and songs.  

“I always thought my responsibility was to make people happy and dance, that’s what my talent is,” Tucker says in the opening of the tenth and final episode of the series while sitting by the train tracks to Auschwitz. “But now it’s way bigger than that.”


Montana Tucker’s ten-part series can be found on her TikTok page: https://www.tiktok.com/@montanatucker

PART 1: “Leaving LA”

@montanatucker

I am beyond sad and sick to my stomach with all of the ANTI-SEMETISM going on in our world. HOW is HATE towards ANY religion, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc allowed/tolerated?!? My grandparents are Holocaust SURVIVORS- 77 years later and this is STILL happening ?! •Follow along as I travel across the world to WITNESS the ATROCITIES of the Holocaust and dive even deeper into my family’s Holocaust survival story. Sharing their story with you is the most meaningful thing I could ever do with my platform. Episode 2 coming November 1. Join me in making sure we #neverforget #neveragain #holocaust #education #nohate #jewish #antisemitism #endantisemitism

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

PART 2: “Zak”

@montanatucker

Day 1 of the HARDEST but most IMPORTANT trip of my life… •Episode 2 is here, and I’m honored to introduce you all to Zak, my guide who helped educate me more about the Holocaust and my own family’s story. Zak is an expert in Holocaust education, and truly changed my life with his knowledge and guidance. If you ever want to learn more about Zak and J Roots, please check out jroots.org . Episode 3 of How To: Never Forget comes out TOMORROW! #holocaust #education #neverforget #neveragain #jewish #nohate

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

PART 3: “Hate”

@montanatucker

ANTISEMITISM is at an all time HIGH again, in 2022. In this episode, we explore the RISE of hate before the Holocaust, starting with Antisemitic laws in Germany in 1933. Unfortunately, this episode’s topic is as relevant now as it’s ever been. SPEAK UP 🗣 #antisemitism #endantisemitism #nohate #jewish #holocaust #education #poland

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

PART 4: “The Forest”

@montanatucker

Day 1 of the HARDEST but most IMPORTANT trip of my life… •Episode 2 is here, and I’m honored to introduce you all to Zak, my guide who helped educate me more about the Holocaust and my own family’s story. Zak is an expert in Holocaust education, and truly changed my life with his knowledge and guidance. If you ever want to learn more about Zak and J Roots, please check out jroots.org . Episode 3 of How To: Never Forget comes out TOMORROW! #holocaust #education #neverforget #neveragain #jewish #nohate

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

PART 5: “Those Who Tried”

@montanatucker

The non-Jews that risked their own lives to save the lives of Jewish people were true HEROES🙏🏻 •We need to ALL come together- more than EVER- to help combat anti semitism,racism, and all forms of HATE. Just because it doesn’t have to directly do with you, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something . SHARE THIS to keep these stories alive. 🙏🏻❤️ #holocaust #education #neverforget #neveragain #antisemitism #endantisemitism #nohate #poland #jewish

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

PART 6: “Belzec”

@montanatucker

11 million individual MURDERS. 6 million European Jews, 5 million non-Jews, including people of color, Gypsies, LGBT, and people with limitations…how can one ever comprehend that? •Belzec is one of the deathcamps from the Holocaust that we explore in this episode… 500,000 murders in one place. What I saw there, I’ll NEVER FORGET. hholocaustbbelzecddeathcampnneverforgetnneveragainjjewishaantisemitismendhate

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

PART 7: “Deleted”

@montanatucker

Can you imagine your entire life being “DELETED” just because you were born into a specific religion? •500,000 people were brought to Belzec and then DELETED by the Nazis…. watch as I find out some of those victims were my family members. Family I’ll never know, all because of hatred. Please SHARE THIS to HONOR all of those lives that didn’t get to live, and to encourage us all to STAND UP to HATRED and BE KIND to all. 🙏🏻❤️ nneverforgetnneveragainhholocausteeducationnnohatejjewishaantisemitismendantisemitism

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

PART 8: “Worst Nightmare”

@montanatucker

I’m the Nazis WORST NIGHTMARE: a PROUD, JEWISH woman with a voice and platforms of over 12 MILLION people where I can share the horrors of their atrocities. There aren’t even 12 million Jews in the United States…Think about that. The whole trip has led up to this moment – visiting Auschwitz… where most of my family was. Please SHARE THIS to keep these stories alive.🙏🏻 #neverforget #neveragain #holocaust #auschwitz #education #nohate #jewishtiktok #endantisemitism

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

PART 9: “The Train”

@montanatucker

Can you imagine being separated from your parents while watching them get taken away to their death? That’s what happened to my Grandma Lilly in Auschwitz… This was the HARDEST moment of my life- holding my mothers hand in the exact spot Grandma Lilly saw the Nazis send her mother to her death. •Nothing could have prepared me for that moment… and absolutely nothing could have prepared all of the innocent people who arrived at Auschwitz and had their lives destroyed. Of course, it was mostly Jews who were killed by the Nazis, but I learned that people of color, lgbt, and Gypsies were targeted as well. •Please SHARE THIS to keep these stories alive. #holocaust #education #auschwitz #jewishtiktok #nohate #viral

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

PART 10: “The End”

@montanatucker

Today is a very IMPORTANT day- it marks the end of my Holocaust series but it also marks 84 years since Kristallnacht- an infamous night where the Nazis violently demolished and destroyed Jewish homes, hospitals, synagogues, schools and businesses and sent thousands to be incarcerated. It was a pivotal moment in Holocaust history. •This series has been the hardest but most important thing I’ve ever done. The history of the Holocaust needs to be remembered so it doesn’t repeat. I NEED you all to now join me STAND UP for what’s RIGHT, have COURAGE, call out ANY form of HATRED….and NEVER FORGET. #kristallnacht #holocaust #neverforget #neveragain #auschwitz #nohate #standup #fyp

♬ original sound – Montana Tucker

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