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A Digitally Processed Visual History of the Holocaust

The Bremen research lab “Film, Media Art and Popular Culture” at ZeMKI is involved in an international research project. It concerns the digitization, analysis, and mediation of films documenting the liberation of concentration camps.

In the project entitled “Visual History of the Holocaust: Rethinking Curation in the Digital Age,” which is being coordinated by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Geschichte und Gesellschaft (Ludwig Boltzmann institute for history and society) in Vienna in close cooperation with the Austrian Film Museum, deals with the possibilities and limitations of digital technologies in the preservation, cataloging, and mediation of documents on the Holocaust.

Participating Memorial Sites

The project focuses on the rare film documents produced by Allied forces in liberated concentration camps and other sites of National Socialist crimes. Although they only show a certain aspect of the Holocaust, they have filled the void caused by the lack of images and have served as a lasting influence on our conception of the Holocaust. These film documents, scattered among archives in the USA, Great Britain, Russia, and other former Soviet republics, will be brought together in one location for the first time, digitized according to the latest criteria, analyzed, and indexed. They will subsequently be combined with photographs, written documents, oral history interviews with survivors, cameramen, and other witnesses, but also with film works produced later. One goal is to create new contexts for research in fields such as history, film and media studies, cultural studies, and computer science. In addition, novel mediation applications for memorial sites, museums, and educational institutions are being tested. Several memorial sites are direct partners in the consortium: the Dachau Concentration Camp memorial site, the Mauthausen Memorial and the Bergen-Belsen Memorial.

Selection According to Ethical Principles

“The liberation armies recorded mountains of corpses in the camps,” says Professor Winfried Pauleit. According to Pauleit, some of the shocking material has already been used for educational work. It will now be systematically processed as part of the large digitization project. What is important is selecting what can be shown and defining ethical principles. Last year, the Bremen research lab “Film, Media Art and Popular Culture” at the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI) was invited by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna to submit a joint research proposal to the EU. “Our work, especially in film mediation, has been well-known there for 15 years,” says Professor Pauleit. He refers to the book series “Bremen Writings on Film Mediation”, which has been constantly expanded since 2006 and has a good reputation among experts.

The project “Visual History of the Holocaust: Rethinking Curation in the Digital Age” is being funded with five million euros as part of the Horizon 2020 EU program. The project will run for four years, starting in January 2019.

Additional Information:


Professor Winfried Pauleit
Research Lab “Film, Media Art and Popular Culture”
Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI)
University of Bremen
Tel.: +49 421 218-67720

Dr. Rasmus Greiner
Tel.: +49 421 218-67725



Back of a soldier with a weapon
A photo from the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp