Preserving Survivors' Memories - Digital Testimony Collections about Nazi Persecution
An International Conference of the Foundation EVZ and Freie Universtät Berlin in cooperation with the USC Shoah Foundation
20 – 22 November 2012, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
Against the background of the generation shift, preserving the memories of survivors of National Socialist persecution and anchoring them in the cultural memory of the 21st century is a central challenge of our present times and a subject of international discussion. In this transition phase and in the course of the headlong technical developments in the field of computer and communication technologies, high expectations are linked to the digital collections of audio and video interviews with survivors. The conference offers an opportunity to draw the debates on digital techniques of preserving eyewitness interviews, access, and new forms of passing the material on together in an international context.
Remembrance of the National Socialist persecution in the digital age
The past decades have seen the development of numerous extensive collections of interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust, forced labour and other National Socialist mass crimes. The audio and video interviews with persecutees of the National Socialist regime show the experienced-history perspective of those who underwent and suffered the National Socialist persecution and destruction policy. Like no other medium, they document the impressive act of oral history in the spirit of a “testimony perception”. The progressive accessibility of digital resources is unlocking a hitherto unknown potential for presentation, use and reception of these interview collections. At the same time, the introduction and use of non-linear media, leads to fundamental reorientations in handling the audio-visual sources and archives that represent major challenges to research, education and the media on an international level.
Post-1945 crimes against humanity
In the meantime the audio-visual documentation of persecution experiences is increasingly being taken up by projects documenting post-1945 crimes and genocides. For example Oral History projects on the genocides in Rwanda and Cambodia are being produced. Interviews with victims of Stalinist terror are being conducted in the former Eastern Bloc states. Trans-national exchange of experience and transfer of knowledge taking the respective specific historical backgrounds into account appears to be both expedient and necessary.
Subject of the international conference
The objective of the conference is to share experiences among an international and interdisciplinary group of experts concerning the status of current developments in digital testimony collections on National Socialist persecution and corresponding audio-visual history repositories by examining the three thematic sections and to discuss prospects for the future. A fundamental question for consideration will be the extent to which the novum of digital social participation and the accompanying pluralisation in history debate will change the perception of the history of National Socialist persecution and the picture of the persecutees of National Socialism. Furthermore, selected projects on post-1945 human rights crimes will be taken into account and discussed on a comparative basis.
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