Digital Holocaust Memory: A Year In Review

2020 saw the birth of the Digital Holocaust Memory site. In this final post of the year, we reflect back on the project’s evolution across the nine month’s of its existence.

Content

The site started with a reflection on the very process of setting up a digital identity online related to Holocaust memory, especially on the limitations of social media platforms and naming Holocaust projects.

The creation of the site coincided with the launch of online programs commemorating the 75th anniveraries of the liberations of the last Nazi concentration camps and the end of World War II. Events could not happen in-person this year due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and several posts reflected on the relationship between site, community, technology and memory, including 75 Years On: Commemorating the Liberation of Bergen-Belsen, Implications of Physical Distancing for Commemoration, and VE Day: Websites/Physical Sites. As well as a reflection on how we might archive these online events, a post which led to the development of a funding bid with colleagues in the UK and Israel.

Bergen-Belsen Memorial ceremony

Some posts covered more theoretical reflections, which represented online presentations given by this site’s curator Dr. Victoria Grace Walden, University of Sussex fpr the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre and The Hebrew University on Debunking Digital Myths, Holocaust Memory as Entanglement respectively, and with Tessa Bouwman, Bergen-Belsen Memorial, on Dark Heritage at Europeana 2020. I reflected on wider questions raised at this conference here.

2020 was not short of its controversies related to Holocaust memory and popular culture, so it felt pertinent to comment on the Amazon series Hunters and the TikTok #HolocaustChallenge on the blog. There was also space to write about projects created by Holocaust museums, particularly virtual tours which became a common feature during lockdown.

The virtual tour of the Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne

One of the topics in which interest has exploded over the past few months is the subject of the Holocaust and computer games. We are really grateful to our guest contributors Kate Marrison and Tabea Widemann, who wrote blogs on this topic, and to Lauren Cantillon, who contributed a post on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Next Chapter series on YouTube. This inspiring project frames Holocaust survivors in the present-tense, exploring their hobbies today rather than fixating on their past.

We continue to welcome guest blog posts from academics at all stages in their career and those working for Holocaust memory, education and research organisations. Get in touch via the Contact Page with a proposal.

We also pulled together a crowd-sourced reading list full of useful sources for those studying and researching digital Holocaust memory. We endeavour to update this list at the end of each semester and iteratively inbetween as new suggestions are sent through. Do let us know the details of sources we can add – especially your own work.

Although this site was originally intended to be a space for recording the development of a specific research project, it quickly evolved in something more – something very much a product of our pandemic times. We have been blown away by the collegiality and friendship that has grown across our online discussion series, and are incredibly thankful to the contributors who presented at these as well as the participants who engaged in lively chats that were so animated they were sometimes hard to follow! The recordings for the 2020 series can all be found on this site via the links below:

May: Holocaust Memory during the Covid-19 Pandemic

with contributions from Stephen D. Smith (USC Shoah Foundation), Heather Blumenthal (Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre), Anna Hirsh (Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne) and Marc Cave (National Holocaust Centre and Museum)

July: Digital Holocaust Memory – an academic roundtable

with contributions from Imogen Dalziel (Royal Holloway, University of London), Carmelle Stephens (Independent Scholar), Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann (Hebrew University), Tomasz Lysak (University of Warsaw), Caroline Sturdy Colls (Staffordshire University) and Victoria Grace Walden (University of Sussex)

September: Holocaust Commemoration: Between Physical and Digital Spaces

with contributions from Stephanie Billib (Bergen-Belsen Memorial), Iris Groschek (Neuengamme Memorial), Pawel Sawicki (Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum)

October: Digital Holocaust Archives

with contributions from Karl Berkhoff (EHRI), Gilly Carr (University of Cambridge), Christian Groh (Arolsen Archives), Leah Sidebotham (Wiener Library), and Misko Stanisic (Terraforming.org)

November: Playing the Holocaust – Part I – an academic discussion

with contributions from Wulf Kansteiner (Aarhus University), Kate Marrison (University of Leeds), Tabea Widmann (University of Konstanz), Pieter Van den Heede (Erasmus University, Rotterdam) and Victoria Grace Walden (University of Sussex)

We have tried to make these sessions interactive and allow as many people to contribute via the chat or over their microphone as possible. However, if you have any feedback on how we can improve things, do get in touch.

Contributors

Digital Holocaust Memory is, at the backend, the work of one person: Dr Victoria Grace Walden, however, it would not be what it has become without the kind and enthusiastic contributions of many. I am a strong believer that research and thought are and always should be collective endeavours. So Digital Holocaust Memory is very much a ‘we’.

And so, I think it is fair to say we are really humbled that so many people have contributed to the blog and online discussion series. Each event saw between 65 and 137 attendees. Contributions have come from academics and Holocaust memory and education professionals in the UK, Germany, Israel, Denmark, the Netherlands, Serbia, Poland, South Africa, the US and Australia, and colleagues from Japan, India, Argentina and a number of other countries have participated in conversations.

Stats

Since April 2020, we have had 11,531 visits to the site from 6,578 unique users .

We have 63 followers via WordPress or email, 428 people follow the project on Facebook, and 766 on Twitter.

We have had 553 different individuals sign up for our online events and we know that many people register in order to receive the recording link so they can watch it at a time more accomodating to their time zone rather than participating live.

The site has reached users in 87 nations as illustrated on the map here:

Global engagement with the Digital Holocaust Memory site 2020

Although this all depends on whether they were using VPNs or not.

The top 10 countries where people are most engaging with the site are:

  1. UK
  2. USA
  3. Germany
  4. Israel
  5. The Netherlands
  6. Italy
  7. China
  8. Canada
  9. Turkey
  10. Austria

Whilst much of our engagement is with users in Europe, unsurprisingly given this was the epicentre of the Holocaust, we are really delighted to see users joining us from Australia, South Africa, India, Brazil, South Korea, Japan, Chile, Malaysia, Taiwan, Argentina, Hong Kong, Phillippines, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia, Colombia, Guatemala, Barbados, Uruguay, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Kazakhstan, Macau, Migeria, The Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Cuba, UAE, Nepal, Oman, Myanmar, Egypt, Mauritius, Peru, and Lebanon.

Outputs

The website and online discussions have been outputs in their own rights, but alongside this public-facing content there has been lots of work going on behind the scenes. In 2020 this has included:

  • The submission of 4 funding grants
  • The submission of an edited collection The Memorial Museum in the Digital Age with 21 collaborators, covering memorial projects in every inhabited continent.
  • The submission of an edited collection Digital Holocaust Memory, Education and Research with 25 collaborators from academia and Holocaust organisations.
  • The completion of a journal special edition Holocaust Memory and Education in the Digital Age.
  • The completion of two related journal articles: one on documentary witnessing and another (almost complete article) about Holocaust commemoration events during the pandemic.
  • The creation of an academic advisory board for a computer game, and participation in an academic advisory board for a museum’s digital Holocaust education work.
  • Virtual talks in Johannesburg and Israel.
  • The creation of the Discord Server: The Holocaust and Computer Games, which anyone interested in is now welcome to join. Just complete the registration form here.

2021 and beyond…

Below we reveal some of the plans on the horizon:

Online Discussions

We are finalising the dates for our spring 2021 online discussion programme, but we can already announce the next event:

February 5th – The Future of Holocaust Memory – Holocaust Memorial Day Event for the University of Sussex

with Fiona Darling (Imperial War Museums), Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann (Hebrew University), Michael Haley Goldman (the USHMM) and Iris Groschek (Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial)

You can register for this event here.

We will announce the details of the following events soon:

  • Playing the Holocaust II
  • The Alt-right, and Holocaust Denial and Distortion Online
  • Virtual Holocaust Memorialisation
  • The Holocaust and Social Media

If you have any suggestions for future events (for Autumn 2021) do get in touch! We always welcome volunteers to chair such events too.

Public Events

We can announce Victoria Grace Walden will be speaking at these events next year:

  • ISTC in Lille, France on 19th January
  • and as part of the University of Oxford’s Holocaust Memory Day programme on February 15th.
  • As co-chair of the Museums and Memory Working Group of the Memory Studies Association, she will also be involved in several panels and workshops at the Association’s annual conference 2021.

If you are hosting or speaking at an event related to Digital Holocaust Memory, why not let us know, so we can share it with our community.

The Digital Holocaust Memory Network

We are hoping to launch a more formalised network of people working on projects related to digital Holocaust memory next year. More information will follow.

Online Commemorations Archive

Working with colleagues in the TAG and Sussex Humanities Labs at the University of Sussex, and the Hebrew University, we will be creating an archive of the online commemoration events that happened this year. Our aim is to bring together institutionally produced content with social media engagement. Initially, the project will run in a pilot form working with a small selection of partner institutions. Nevertheless, we will be looking for people to be involved in focus groups – academics interested in researching this topic and people working in Holocaust organisations, who may want to integrate digital elements into future commemoration events. Again, do get in touch if you would be interested.

Communication and Community

One of the projects, which we hope to be able to launch in early 2021 is a redesign of the site. It has become more than a ‘blog’ and so needs some rearranging. We will introduce sections that make it easier to access all of the online discussion recordings, the reading list and other resources, news of events hosted by our community, a project blog for the archive project, and the standard Digital Holocaust Memory blog.

We will also streamline the communication with our community (some work has been done on this already). We aim to create a monthly email newsletter with news of the next month’s online event and other highlights from the site. We hope that this highlights the most topical content to all that may be interested.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in this project so far. Now, it is time to say goodbye for 2020. We look forward to more conversations in 2021!

Currently, the Digital Holocaust Memory site is a labour of love. It is self-funded by the curator and managed in her spare time (around teaching and admin duties). Any in-kind support with managing content or small financial donations would always be welcomed. Do get in touch if you would like to get involved.

Financial Information: Digital Holocaust Memory costs $136 (USD) per year in its current basic format with .blog and .com domain names and WordPress Premium subscription. To update to a Business Account which would enable the site to make use of plugins and host substantial audio-video content would add $204 annually. In total this = c. £250 (GBP) in annual costs.

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