Holocaust Commemoration: Between Digital and Physical Spaces – An Online Discussion

On Thursday, September 24th 2020, speakers from Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Bergen-Belsen and Neuengamme Memorials contributed to an online discussion about the relationship between digital and physical spaces for Holocaust commemoration. You can see the speakers’ presentations and responses to the audience’s questions below.

Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum

Our first speaker was Paweł Sawicki, from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Paweł … works as a press officer of the Auschwitz Memorial. He coordinates the social media activity and is the Editor-in-chief of the Auschwitz Memorial online monthly magazine Memoria. A guide. He has over 15 years of experience in journalism, mainly in radio as well as video editing & writing and photography. Author of the album Auschwitz-Birkenau. The place where you are standing…

Some of the resources shared include the commemoration website for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the virtual tour – panorama of Auschwitz, the museums’ e-learning site, and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on Google Arts and Culture.

The museum was also involved, in partnership with several other institutions, with the Google Arts and Culture The Holocaust Exhibition. There are several other examples of Holocaust memory sites and museums on the platform.

One of the audience members shared a Dutch news story about Auschwitz on Twitter.

Follow the Auschwitz Museum on Twitter.

Bergen-Belsen

Stephanie Billib has handled press and public relations for the Lower Saxony Memorials Foundation since 2009. She has managed the Memorial’s “Digital Strategy” project since 2014, and she represents the Memorial in the research project known as “Visual History of the Holocaust” in the context of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. In connection with digital strategies, she is working with the SPECS research group in Barcelona to develop database-driven applications for visitor guidance, including a tablet application and a spatial application. Her research areas are Hungarian prisoners in Bergen-Belsen and connecting digital media and communication.

The commemoration site for the 75th anniversary of Bergen-Belsen can be found here.

Follow Bergen-Belsen on Twitter.

Neuengamme

Dr. Iris Groschek studied art and history in Hamburg and Prague. She worked many years as an archivist. In 2009, she became head of the education department of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial. Since 2016, she has been responsible for public relations and online communication of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, since 2020 for the Foundation of Hamburg Memorials and Learning Centres Commemorating the Victims of Nazi Crimes.

The Neuengamme 75th anniversary commemoration site can be found here. There is also a 360-degree tour of the site. Check out the Dachau virtual tour related specifically to the 75th anniversary as another example of digital commemoration this year.

Follow Neuengamme on Twitter.

Questions

Several academics have written publically about the TikTok Controversy. More on this debate is available from Carmelle Stephens, Tobias Ebbrect-Hartmann and Tom Divon, Sarah Jones, and myself.

See the blog about the Holocaust and computer games that was mentioned.

Tessa Bowman, from the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, shared a dutch project that attempts to connect people across different sites.

We didn’t have time to answer all of the questions, which were later shared on Twitter via the digital Holocaust memory account. The remaining questions are listed below – what are your thoughts?

  • Could on-line platforms present a unique opportunity, especially for the young generation,  to connect between different groups that might not meet if they came to the physical space?
  • I think it is important to also ask whether these digital forms connect less with the younger generation who may now be experiencing online fatigue. Also what learning can be taken from the digital offer to improve the in-person offer for the future?
  • Thank you for discussing the current state of affair! It might be worthy to go back and reflect on the discussions if online platforms/ social media for commemoration sites are appropriate or not. Especially as we are in a time, at which we redefine our use of the virtual opportunities. I think, all of us can remember a number of anecdotes;). But still, is there something we can take from these old discussions when we are developing new tools and methods of education?
  • Do you find that the  move to digital erodes your authority? Do you become another “talkbackist”? I’m thnking of the response  to visitors snaping irreverant selfies on the Birkenau tracks, as well as the reactions to Tik Tok “vicarious victims”.
  • Can an onliine community give the same sense  of commitment achieved through simultaneous presence on site?
  • Any thought about how algorithms filter “community” engagements?
  • How are digital platforms working with the survivor community to record testimonies and memories while there are still survivors?
  • Are institutions planning for space/ more space for public responses to online presence?

Our next webinar event focusing on digital Holocaust archives will be held on Thursday October 1st, register here.

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