For days, under the scorching lights of the movies, Holocaust survivors answer hundreds of questions about themselves and what they remember of the atrocities they endured and witnessed. The result is the highly acclaimed “Dimensions in Testimony,” a collection of powerful interactive biographies from the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation.
For Rachel Baum, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who focuses her research on the impact of new technologies such as holography and virtual reality on our memory of the Holocaust, testimonies are a poignant gift from survivors and an important tool in the fight against anti-Semitism.
Survivors “want to leave us a message,” said Baum, associate director of the Sam & Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies. “It’s a gift the survivors leave us because they want their story to live on after them so badly. For me, it’s very powerful.
Baum noted that many survivors have told their traumatic stories repeatedly over the past decades in schools, museums, and by participating in forums and discussions. Their efforts are aimed at keeping the Holocaust relevant and preserving its memory.
“They desperately want us to understand and not forget. They’re giving their all while they’re still here,” she said. “It’s a work of blood, sweat and tears.”
Hologram-like interactives are just one example of the futuristic digital technologies that historians, researchers, and advocates are creating and sharing to keep Holocaust memories alive, so history won’t repeat itself.
“What really drives these efforts of things like holograms and virtual reality is how to get young people interested in this story and help them understand how relevant it is for today, that we need to protect the rights rights, democracy and we have to be engaged citizens and care about others. Because it’s not just history, it’s also our present,” she said.
In addition to the “Dimensions in Testimony” collection made with special cinematic techniques and natural voice technology, virtual reality films like “A Promise Kept” and “Don’t Forget Me” offer viewers an immersive experience of concentration. 360 degrees. camps and stories of survivors. The new-age material is not a replacement for books and other chronicles of the Holocaust, but a rich and powerful addition to humanity’s collective memory of the genocide, Baum said.
“Now there are more possibilities, because the media keeps changing…so we have to keep telling the story in new ways for each new generation and their media,” she said.
Using new forms of interactive and immersive technology is an effective way to counter the recruitment work of hate groups and the spread of antisemitic discourse on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram.
“You can see how the digital realm can breed hate, but it can also be used to fight hate,” Baum said. “That’s what makes it so interesting is that it’s not one or the other, it’s both.”
Additionally, augmented reality apps that allow users to learn more about the Holocaust while in certain historic locations are currently available.
The technology also comes with major considerations such as how realistic filmmakers, producers, and engineers should create virtual experiences for the user.
“We as a society have to decide how we are going to use this technology,” she said. “Do we want there to be virtual reality films about the concentration camps?
With technology also comes great responsibility and vast questions about its appropriate uses. Some uses can be controversial, as in the case of “Eva Stories” on Instagram in which the story of a Jewish girl’s life in a concentration camp is documented on cellphone video as if it were happening today. today.
“Video games are a place where many of our young people certainly learn about Nazism, if not specifically the Holocaust.” said Baum. “The digital realm is certainly very important and thinks about Holocaust remembrance and how young people and all of us in the future will engage with Holocaust history.”
Another consideration is user preferences. Some people would rather read a story than watch a VR movie or interact with a survivor-like hologram. Either way, the investment and use of new technologies to share memories of the Holocaust shows how much we appreciate this history, according to Baum.
“It’s our way of saying it’s really important,” she said. “We’re not just going to say if we’ve done it once, we’re going to stop now. We keep finding new ways because we know it’s so important.