2021 continued to be a challenging year balancing the demands of administrative and teaching duties during the pandemic with research and public engagement. Nevertheless, the Digital Holocaust Memory Project did reach some major milestones throughout the year. Below is a brief overview of the project’s successes in 2021.
Holocaust Memorial Day
The first 6 weeks of the year were busy with public events for Holocaust Memorial Day. These included a masterclass and public lecture for CCMR, Lille (France) focused on interactivity and Holocaust memory, and commemoration events held during the 2020 lockdowns.
This was followed by a TV appearance for Latest TV, Brighton and Hove’s local television channel, as part of the city’s Holocaust Memorial Day coverage.
On February 4th, project lead Dr Victoria Grace Walden joined Stephanie Billib (Bergen-Belsen) and PhD candidate Tabea Widemann for the panel ‘Holocaust Remembrance in a Digital Future: Towards Deep Truth or Deep Fake?’ hosted by Falstad Memorial (Norway) and POLIN Museum (Poland).
This was followed by a conversation with Oxford University PhD students as part of the university’s Holocaust Memorial Day programme.
We also hosted a virtual panel on the Future of Holocaust Memory as part of the Wiedenfeld Institute of Jewish Studies’s HMD programme too (See online discussions below!).
Acquisition by REFRAME
A lot of the work happening in 2021 was not visible to the public. We were honoured to be acquisitioned by REFRAME – a publisher run by academics who prioritise innovative, open access digital outputs. There was substantial work involved in migrating the site to its new address and we are really grateful to the technical support provided by REFRAME. The site officially launched at its new address in April 2021.
We continued our series of online discussions in 2021, bringing the total programme to 10. The 2021 topics were:
January: The Future of Holocaust Memory (Holocaust Memorial Day 2021) with Dr Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), Michael Haley Goldman (the USHMM), John Glancy (Imperial War Museums), and Dr Iris Groscheck (Neuengamme)
March: Playing the Holocaust – II. Following our academic panel on computer games and the Holocaust in 2020, we met with museums, games designers and their collaborators working on Holocaust narratives in gaming contexts. Our speakers included: Jörg Friedrich (Paintbucket Games), Noemie Lopian and Dan Hett (working on creating a game about Noemie’s father’s experiences), Brian McDonald (Falmouth University) and Dr Angela Shapiro (Gathering the Voices), Yaron Tzur (Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum) and Luc Bernard (Arcade Distillery Games).
March: Virtual Holocaust Memorialisation with Gerrit Netten (the Anne Frank House), Dr Stephen D. Smith (USC Shoah Foundation), Paul F.M.J Verschure (SPECS-lab) and Anette Homlong Storeide (Falstad Memorial), Dr Tom Jackson (University of Leeds), Clarissa Ceglio, Ken Thompson and Stephen Slota (Courtroom 600 Project).
April: The Alt-Right, and Holocaust Denial and Distortion Online with Dr Robert Topinka (Birkbeck University), Dr Ceri Oeppen (University of Sussex), Gideon Taylor (Claims Conference), and Dr Joe Mulhall (HOPE not Hate).
May: The Holocaust and Social Media with Dr Mykola Makhortykh (University of Bern), Professor Anna Menyhért (Budapest University of Jewish Studies), Dr Eva Pfanzelter, Dr Imogen Dalziel, and Stefania Manca.
Blogs and Guest Blogs
We had less blog posts in 2021 as our publishing work focused on preparing large print publications (see below). Nevertheless, the blogs we did share covered a range of issues:
- Online Holocaust Denial and Distortion
- Holocaust Memorial Day Resources
- Ideas for Holocaust Computer Games by Students at the Hebrew University
- Capturing Experiential Authenticity at Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum (Guest Post by Dr Imogen Dalziel)
- Algorithmic Auditing, the Holocaust and Search Engine Bias (Guest Post by Dr Mykola Makhortykh)
- Holocaust Remembrance in a Digital Future: Towards Deep Truth or Deep Fake? Reflections on the Falstad/POLIN virtual panel
- Comparing Online Commemoration Events
- Interactivity in Holocaust Memory
- Anne Frank memes (Guest Post by Juan Manuel González Aguilar and Mykola Makhortykh)
- Digital Tools for Understanding the Holocaust by Barnabas Balint (University of Oxford)
Due to the site migrating to REFRAME in April 2021, we do not have full stats for the year (it would be disingenious to add together the unique visitors from the historical site (Jan-March) to that of the REFRAME site). The statistics below represent the data related to the new REFRAME site with total social media and email numbers to date.
The Digital Holocaust Memory Project was successful in obtaining a British Academy/ Leverhulme Small Grant to fund fieldwork in 2022-23. This funding will support walkthrough interviews with creators, curators and educators at a number of Holocaust museums, archives and memorial sites in Europe, the US and Australia.
Beyond Holocaust Memorial Day events, project lead Dr Victoria Grace Walden also contributed to a range of activities presenting both academic and public lectures and workshops.
- ‘Thinking Critically about Interactivity, Immersion, Play, and Digital Ethics’ for grant recipients of EVZ/IRights-Lab Digital//Memory scheme.
- ‘Mobilising Memory through Mixed Reality’, as part of Birkbeck Arts Week.
- Keynote: ‘Digital Holocaust Memory as Entanglement’, Digital Holocaust Memory from Practices, Places and Narratives, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.
- Workshop on ‘Digital Commemoration’ for Roma memory activists preparing for Dikh He Na Bister.
- Keynote: ‘International Networks in Digital Holocaust Memory’, Erinnern mit Games, Germany.
- Keynote: ‘Provocations for Thinking about Digital Holocaust Education’, Digital Technologies and Experiments in Holocaust Education, organised by Fundacja Zapomniane, Poland.
Where recordings are available, you can watch them here.
The project produced two major publications in 2021, which were published in November.
Digital Holocaust Memory, Education and Research – an edited volume with 11 chapters, divided into 3 sections:
- (New) Dimensions in Testimony
- (Web)sites of Memory
- (Virtual) Memory Communities
‘Understanding Holocaust Memory and Education in the Digital Age: Before and After Covid-19′, a special issue of Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, which includes contributions on Holocaust denial and distortion; survivor testimony; a walking-with arts project; virtual reality; big data and Holocaust archives; and vlogging.
As the work of the Digital Holocaust Memory evolves, it is becoming too big for one individual to manage. Therefore, in late 2021, we established an Editorial Board which is working to develop the platform into an innovative space for knowledge exchange.
The next stage of the project is three-fold:
- We will be co-hosting a series of participatory workshops, which aim to develop guidelines for working with digital technologies for Holocaust memory and education. The workshops will bring together a diverse range of voices from different academic disciplines, Holocaust heritage, education and memory professionals, and those working in media/tech sectors and the wider heritage landscape. The workshop themes are:
- Machine Learning and AI (Feb 2022)
- Digitising Material Evidence (March 2022)
- Testimony (April 2022)
- Social Media (TBC)
- Virtualisation (TBC)
- Computer Games (TBC)
If your work is related to any of these areas, do get in touch and we can send you an invitation to participate!
2. The first stage of the fieldwork, supported by the British Academy/ Leverhulme grant will take place over the summer in Europe. The fieldwork will support both critical and interview walkthroughs of digital Holocaust memory projects, which we then hope to present in an online digital mapping of digital Holocaust memory.
3. Development of the Digital Holocaust Memory Platform. Working with a fantastic, new editorial board, the DHM website will be transforming its publishing modes. Whilst much work is happening behind-the-scenes, we will keep releasing blogs.
Finally, we just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to and supported this project. The Digital Holocaust Memory Project is built on collaboration and it could not have developed without the time and effort contributed by so many.