survivors will be able to tell their story forever thanks to digital

survivors will be able to tell their story forever thanks to digital

A strange exercise for high school students from Oloron on a school trip to Germany, which behind…

A strange exercise for high school students from Oloron on a school trip to Germany, which, in addition to technical skills, questions the passing on of memories and the key role of youth, while the last direct witnesses of the Holocaust are gradually dying.


Daunted by the exercise, Maria and Laura listen in silence to Kurt S. Maier’s testimony.

Marie Lilas Vidal

Virtual or real?

“I’ll tell him or you? Maria is not very comfortable in front of the sitting old man, half-virtual half-real, who nods his head in approval. Kurt S. Maier is not at the National Library in Frankfurt, nor is he live from Washington: his image answers questions using voice recognition and from an interview given in 2021. Good. Marija, somewhat moved, starts: “How long were you interned in Gurs? Kurt S. Maier, a native of Kippenhein, replied in German that he was interned with his entire family in the Gurs camp from October 1940 to the spring of 1941 at the age of 10. Like him, the Nazis deported more than 6,500 Jews from Baden, Palatinate and Saarland there in October 1940.

In twenty or thirty years, other students after us will still be able to communicate with Kurt S. Maier. He will be able to tell his story for a long time.”

As the past fades, it is necessary to use testimonies through sound and visual images, explains Sylvia Asmsus, director of the German Exile Archive 1933-1945 at the German National Library. She was the one who interviewed Kurt S. Maier for five days in a studio in Washington, July 2021.

He was asked almost 900 questions, from his childhood to his exile to New York in August 1941: “We are responding to a need that has been formulated on both sides: witnesses who are afraid that they will no longer be able to talk about what they lived and a public that is afraid to hear no more of these testimonies. Now is the time to do it, because the witnesses of the Holocaust are disappearing. »

Vanessa Geraldo presents the different stages of the five-day interview with Kurt S. Maier.


Vanessa Geraldo presents the different stages of the five-day interview with Kurt S. Maier.

Marie Lilas Vidal

against forgetting

Juliette answers quickly. She doesn’t need the notes she carefully kept to say that Kurt S. Maier’s life is now saved from a threat: oblivion. His testimony, Juliette says, will survive him. “We’re asking him questions and answering him using pre-recorded videos: it’s a really interesting concept because in twenty or thirty years, other students after us will still be able to interact with Kurt S. Maier, who is probably no longer with us. The contact will always be there and he will be able to tell his story for a very long time. »

On the train to Frankfurt, Alexis and Paul prepare questions to ask Kurt S. Maier without really knowing what to expect.


On the train to Frankfurt, Alexis and Paul prepare questions to ask Kurt S. Maier without really knowing what to expect.

Marie Lilas Vidal

What she doesn’t know is that she may have helped make the interview better. Kurt S. Maier’s answers are not always correct, sometimes they are not successful. The program, which is implemented in cooperation with the UCS Shoah Foundation, is in the testing phase before being implemented. It will be publicly presented in the exhibition space of the German Exile Archive in the form of a 3D “holographic projection”. Young people are especially encouraged to participate, explains project coordinator Vanessa Gelardo: “We believe that the next generation must learn about what happened during the Holocaust and must continue to learn. about this past, for the future”.

(1) This school trip was held in cooperation with the project “Students against forgetting, for democracy” organized this year by Margit Sachse, professor of history and geography at the University of Darmstadt.

Synagogues in virtual reality

Supervielle high school students also experienced other innovative techniques. Marc Grellet, lecturer at the Department of Digital Design at the University of Darmstadt and co-founder of Architectura Virtualis, presented his work on rendering synagogues in virtual reality.
The idea was born in 1994, when a synagogue in Lübeck, in northern Germany, was desecrated. How can we forget that in 1938 around 270 synagogues were destroyed on German territory during Kristallnacht?
Today, Marc Grellet embarked on a mission: to practically revive these places of worship in order to “show their richness and beauty”. About thirty of them have been created so far.

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