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We are conducting and participating in the following research projects with different international partners.


Virtualisation and Multimodal Exploration of Heritage on Nazi Persecution

Heritage related to Nazi Persecution (HNP) appears in various forms such as diaries, letters and testimonies that capture memories of eyewitnesses, or registers like death records, deportation statistics and historical photographs that provide important contextual information to these memories. MEMORISE will create a framework to preserve and enhance HNP by virtualising and linking multimodal HNP data resources and by developing and offering novel digital technologies to the general public for accessing, exploring and engaging with HNP.

Read more about the MEMORISE project at the Hebrew University, its objectives, partners, research teams and findings here.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101061016.

In Focus: Serious TikTok

In less than a year, the trending short-video platform TikTok transformed from a mostly entertaining environment for lip-syncing, dancing, and other self-performances into an interest-based platform for sharing information about politics, sexuality, identity, history, and other topics. This development was accompanied by the rise of a format which we describe as “serious TikTok”. In such videos, users communicate socio-political affairs in engaging ways through digital storytelling while harnessing the platform’s features, aesthetics, and dialects, allowing them to creatively unpack complex topics, contextualise and provide information.

TikTok creators educating about the Holocaust on the interest-based online platform.

Read more about research projects related to Serious TikTok, our program Creating Holocaust Awareness among German and Israeli Youth on TikTok and research on TikTok Activitsm.

VHH – Visual History of the Holocaust: Rethinking Curation in the Digital Age

The international research project Visual History of the Holocaust – Rethinking Curation in the Digital Age utilizes digital technologies to analyze and re-interpret filmic representations of the Holocaust.

Photo/editing: T. Ebbrecht-Hartmann

Digital Curation: Visual History of the Holocaust

How do we digitally curate filmic records that bear witness to the darkest chapter in recent European history? This question is in the center of a new research project funded by the European Union and partly residing at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Holocaust has been a central reference point for European history and a ‘negative founding myth’ of European integration. Nowadays, digital technologies and the Internet have profoundly transformed the concepts of history and visual evidence. Thus, the question of its representation becomes more pertinent.

The Hebrew University is part of a consortium consisting of 12 Austrian, German, Israeli and French research institutions, museums, memorial sites, and technology developers that together with German and American partners develops models and applications to respond to this challenge. The project Visual History of the Holocaust: Rethinking Curation in the Digital Age was awarded €5 million in funding through the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 program. It was ranked first in a competitive field of 37 proposals. It commenced in January 2019 and runs for four years. The joint efforts of the international consortium are coordinated by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Digital History (Vienna), in close collaboration with the Austrian Film Museum (Vienna).

Background and Objectives

Visual History of the Holocaust: Rethinking Curation in the Digital Age explores the potentials as well as the limitations of digital technologies in the ongoing effort to preserve, analyze and communicate historical evidence of the Holocaust, and in particular audiovisual records. The project focuses on film footage produced by Allied forces and relating to the discovery of Nazi concentration camps and other atrocity sites. Although these films only capture a certain aspect of the Holocaust, some of their images have become canonical. Due to the scarcity of visual records, a few images have significantly shaped collective visual memory of the Holocaust. These images extensively migrated into popular culture, in most cases appropriated in decontextualized ways.

In the course of the project, the historical films, which currently are dispersed across archival institutions in the US, Great Britain, Russia, and other former Soviet Republics, will be aggregated, digitized, analyzed and annotated. However, the aim of the project Visual History of the Holocaust is to not only to preserve the footage and develop new ways of analyzing and annotating these historical images in the digital age. Furthermore, we are looking for strategies to interrelate the footage with other sources and establish virtual environments that create a resonating space for the participatory and interactive curation of visual Holocaust memory. The resulting digital repository will allow users to dynamically link film images with photographs, text-based documents and oral histories, as well as with images from subsequent cinematic representations of the Holocaust.

Vision and Implementation

The visual representation of the Holocaust has been a contested issue for artists, historians, educators and curators for decades. In an age of apparently endless possibilities to alter and manipulate digital images, questions of authenticity and appropriate use of technology become even more relevant. While Visual History of the Holocaust deals with specific films and historical events, it raises more general questions on what ‘digital curation’ entails.

On that account, the project makes groundbreaking use of existing and emerging technologies, including advanced digitization, automated analysis of images and text, time-based annotation and location-based services. The aim of the project is to establish new contexts of meaning to be explored in history, film and media studies, cultural studies and computer science. Based on this technology-enabled research, new communication strategies will be developed for memorials, museums, and educational institutions. Correspondingly, a number of memorial institutions support the project, three of them being part of the consortium: Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, Mauthausen Memorial, and Bergen-Belsen Memorial.

The Jerusalem project team focuses especially on the migration and circulation of liberation footage in popular culture and develop new and innovative ways of digital curating and analyzing visual memory of the Holocaust as presented in films, online exhibitions and visual arts.

(Con)sequential Images – An archaeology of iconic film footage from the Nazi era

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Film University Babelsberg and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem conduct the collaborative research project (Con)sequential Images – An archaeology of iconic film footage from the Nazi era with a projected length of eight years.

The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at the Hebrew University. Photo: T. Ebbrecht-Hartmann

In Focus: Films from the Nazi Past

The prevalent perception of the Holocaust and the Nazi era extensively relies on a particular set of heterogeneous audiovisual materials. These include the last film sequence depicting Adolf Hitler in the newsreel Deutsche Wochenschau, footage from the Dutch transit camp Westerbork or from the Warsaw Ghetto, Reinhard Wiener’s amateur film from a massacre in Liepaja in German-occupied Latvia, Eva Braun’s home movies from Hitler’s Berghof, and Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935). Yet the provenance, afterlife, and various versions of these films remain largely unknown.

Employing an archeological approach, the research project (Con)sequential Images – An archaeology of iconic film footage from the Nazi era aims to reconstruct and analyze the provenance and appropriation of serval iconic film sequences originating from the National Socialist era. Based on empirical data, the project intends to evaluate the roles and functions of audiovisual sources for remembrance culture.

“By exploring the material itself,” says Prof. Dr. Chris Wahl of the Film University Babelsberg, “and with the help of additional contextualizing documents, we want to learn more about the origin and function of these iconic films.” Besides exploring issues of provenance, the project also aims how these films came to be used in visual culture in general, and in later films in particular. “The process of iconization,” explains Dr. Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann of the Hebrew University, “the constant circulation, appropriation, and recontextualization of these historical films in other films from the 1940s until today, has not yet been studied.” The project results will be documented in an online database and will be published in academic journals and books. In addition, the results will inform video essays, provide the basis for resources for special DVD-editions, and will be used for developing new educational approaches.

Project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) – Project No. 455591769.

The Digital Transformation of Holocaust Memory in Times of COVID-19

Confronting the temporary closure of exhibitions and memorial sites, many Holocaust memorials and museums quickly switched from on-site to online commemorative practices. New digital projects evolved in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that discovered social media as complex commemorative space. While prior to this digital Holocaust memory was mostly manifest in prestigious digital preservation or virtual simulation projects located in controlled environments with exclusive access, the pandemic became a catalyst for formerly uncommon participatory engagement through virtual forms of commemoration. This research project explores digital commemorative projects initiated by Holocaust memorials and museums during the COVID-19 pandemic in light of earlier expressions of digital commemorative culture that became a driving force towards a new social media memory.

Photo: T. Ebbrecht-Hartmann

Holocaust Memory in the Shadow of the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Europe in March 2020, and from there spread throughout the world, among several cultural institutions that closed their doors to visitors were also Holocaust memorials. In contrast to prestigious project that defined digital Holocaust memory before, such as the use of virtual reality and 3-D technology, most institutions relocated on social media platforms establishing #DigitalMemorials or introducing new mediated forms of #RememberingFromHome. Audiovisual media play a central role in the digital commemoration in times of COVID-19 as well as image and moving-image based social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube that turned into engaging commemorative spaces. The part of our research analyses the current shift of Holocaust memory towards social media memory in context of the digital transformation of Holocaust memory in recent years.

This project received funding through a Visiting Fellowship, sponsored by the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and the European Forum at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

#Remembering from Home: An Online Survey

As an effect of the global COVID-19 pandemic, several Holocaust museums and memorials had to close their facilities for visitors in Spring 2020. With the goal of proposing relevant solutions to this challenge, Dr. Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann and research assistant Tom Divon of the Hebrew University’s European Forum and Communication and Journalism Department, examine the many ways individual museums and memorial sites have adapted their programs over the past year.

The research is compiling data and feedback from 32 Holocaust museums and monuments in nine different countries with the goal of better understanding which digital platforms have been used most effectively and were best received.

First results have so far indicated that educators and museum curators have strived to adapt content to be better absorbed via digital means and in so doing provided the motivation for relevant audiences to log on.  Certain museums have opened Instagram and even TikTok accounts, produced online “digital challenges” while others have invested in virtual tours of their facilities. Most of these efforts represent a desire by Holocaust educators to make the history more relevant and accessible to the younger generations who are known to be less emotionally attached to the subject matter. 

This project received funding through a Visiting Fellowship, sponsored by the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and the European Forum at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and through a group research grant for exploring Digital Holocaust Memory by the DAAD Center for German Studies at the Hebrew University.

Hybrid Forms of Holocaust Commemoration in the Wake of Corona

The outbreak of the corona pandemic has serious effects on Holocaust commemoration. Many commemorative institutions (national institutions, memorial museums, memorials) responded to the restrictions with an intensification of digital commemoration activities on a variety of social media platforms, and with constricted on-site commemoration events. Our study focuses on new hybrid forms of commemoration ceremonies in memorials, memorial museums, and state institutions, which were and still are developed in 2020/21.
The pandemic affected commemoration ceremonies that are annually hold from January 27 (liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, International Holocaust Remembrance Day) to April/May, including Yom HaShoah (27 Nissan). Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi concentration camps in spring 2020, many commemorative institutions and memorial sites had to cancel originally planned commemoration ceremonies due to the COVID-19 restrictions, and instead intensified digital activities that changed existing commemorative practices.

Our research project is based on the presumption that the new virtual commemoration practices are by no means just a “substitute solution” and differ from previous media communication of traditional commemoration (as it has already been the case in the past, for example with TV broadcasts of liberation ceremonies in Auschwitz Birkenau or at the Mauthausen Memorial).Instead, the virtual formats and the related new media platforms require a fundamental redesign of memorial acts. Thus, our analysis focuses on new hybrid forms of commemoration at memorials, memorial museums, and state institutions.

A project of the Austrian Academy of Sciences/ IKT Institute for Culture Studies and History of Theater and the Hebrew University Jerusalem/European Forum. More Information

Doing Memory through Audiovisual Storytelling

Collecting, Analyzing and Annotating Digital Videos about the Holocaust

With the digital turn in Holocaust memory, and especially since Holocaust memorials, educational institutions, other memory agents and “ordinary” users started to use social media platforms for uploading and sharing content related to Holocaust memory, short video formats became a significant tool for engaging with the Holocaust online. Digital videos provide rich ways for storytelling, they can be posted and shared on various platforms, and they offer different ways for approaching historical events, sites of commemoration or testimonies.

Photo: T. Ebbrecht-Hartmann

Video-sharing platforms such as YouTube became a repository as well as broadcasting environment for audio-visual content produced by Holocaust-related institutions and active users alike. Today, it is possible to identify a variety of different formats dealing with Holocaust memory on the platform, ranging from educational videos to video diaries originating from organized or individual visits of memorials and Holocaust-related heritage sites. Many Holocaust-related institutions make audiovisual content accessible to the platform, including the Anne Frank Video Diary series that was launched in 2020. The introduction of the image sharing platform Instagram, and especially the feature Instagram stories, allowed for establishing new forms of audio-visual storytelling including slide shows and edited videos augmented with text and icons in commemorative projects such as Eva Stories (2019) or Ichbinsophiescholl (2021). The relatively new platform TikTok finally, encourages users to create short videos from a one second to 3 minutes length. TikTok became an important environment for experimenting with a huge variety of audiovisual editing techniques including what is framed by the platform as POV-videos, short digital videos that incorporate a performance of witnessing.

Main Objectives

Though researchers started analyzing how social media platforms contribute to and also transform the memory of the Holocaust in the digital age, no studies focused particularly on the adaptation of digital storytelling techniques and the format of digital videos for representing and commemorating the Holocaust with audiovisual-digital means on social media platforms. Only few studies dealt with the potential of digital videos for engaging with general history, but the particularly rich and theoretically advanced research specifically focusing on Holocaust-related films produced for television or cinema was not yet reviewed in context of digital storytelling formats.

This also results from the specific status of the digital content in question. Posted on social media platforms many digital videos dealing with the history of the Holocaust unfortunately gain a preliminary and ephemeral status. Selective user engagement, platform algorithms and other factors determine their visibility and accessibility. While several archives preserve films and analogue videos about the Holocaust, survivor testimonies or other related audiovisual sources, there are no attempts to catalogue and preserve audiovisual digital content produced for social media, beyond the fact that those platforms themselves resemble the structure of a “wild” archive.

The research project “Doing Memory through Audiovisual Storytelling: Collecting, Analyzing and Annotating Digital Videos about the Holocaust” directly responds to these gaps in existing research. On the one hand it intends developing a methodological framework for exploring and analyzing digital videos engaging with the history of the Holocaust. On the other hand, the project prepares the ground for establishing a repository with digital Holocaust videos for further research.

The main aim of this project is the creation of a digital repository with short digital videos about the history and memory of the Holocaust. This repository should make accessible and researchable new forms of digital audiovisual storytelling of historical experiences that were uploaded to social media platforms. We identify and collect metadata, online links and digital copies of edited digital videos that were produced by institutions or other memory agents (including private creators) with a length up to 30 minutes. This includes educational films, audiovisual essays, edited films about visits of concentration camp memorials, edited films about survivors, animated and fictional or based-on-facts short films uploaded to platforms such as YouTube or Facebook, Instagram stories and animated slide shows as well as TiKTok videos (including POVs), and remote or live conversations about related topics on Instagram TV, YouTube or other platforms. We will not include unedited video testimonies, unedited selfie videos and recordings of live or virtual online tours in Holocaust museums or memorials, because those formats usually do not apply digital storytelling techniques. While collecting information for a comprehensive database that provides the basis for a future repository with digital Holocaust videos, we evaluate digital videos with the aim to define characteristic elements of the format of digital Holocaust videos. In this context, we specifically review audiovisual content that was produced during the COVID-19 pandemic by institutions and individual users.

Project funded by the Smart Family Institute of Communications at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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