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Freie Universität Facilitates German School Education about the Holocaust

New Externally Funded Project Brings Interviews with Holocaust Witnesses into the Classroom

№ 256/2008 from Aug 28, 2008

With a new project designed to assist school classes and teachers, Freie Universität Berlin aims to facilitate political and historical education about the Holocaust as well as to increase awareness for the victims of the NS regime. The Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin Foundation is funding the project "Witnesses of the Shoah: The Visual History Archive in School Education" in the amount of almost 1.5 million euros. Materials for classroom instruction are being produced, and a room at Freie Universität is being set up with computer workstations to give school classes access to the digital archive based on the Visual History Archive that contains 52,000 interviews with witnesses and is the largest historical video archive in the world.

The Visual History Archive of the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education of the University of Southern California (USC) has been available at Freie Universität for research and teaching purposes since 2006. Freie Universität is the only institution in Europe that offers complete access to this archive. During the course of work that has been done so far, it has become clear that there is a great demand for a format of the archive suitable for use by schools within the German school system. To make it easier for the pupils to work with the materials, the project team at the Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS) is translating the English interface into German. In addition, the team will be offering a variety of didactic services.

Freie Universität is equipping one of its seminar rooms with computer workstations for class sizes that range up to 30 pupils so that they can make use of the video archive. In the future they will be able to work with the digital archive with each other in groups or within projects ("sharing") and can also add their own personal digital notes to the interviews ("tagging"). In addition to translating the archive's user interface into German, over 900 interviews that were held in German are being transcribed to enable a full-text search. A selection of translated and transcribed interviews in various languages illustrates the international dimensions of many survivors' lives. The members of the CeDiS project team are working with didactics specialists from Freie Universität and the State Institute for Schools and Media Berlin-Brandenburg (LISUM) in developing materials for classroom use and learning software. The Shoah Foundation Institute of USC is also continuing to support the project.

The Visual History Archive offers a variety of didactic approaches for schools: The testimonies allow for both an examination of the life stories of the eyewitnesses as well as a reflection on forms of remembrance. Beginning this fall, particularly school classes from Berlin and its vicinity are invited to work in the new seminar room at Freie Universität, using the entire archive under the guidance of the project team. For schools in the rest of Germany, didactic materials and a DVD series including selected videographies are being compiled.

Additional information:

Contact person:

Prof. Dr. Nicolas Apostolopoulos
Head of the Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS) of Freie Universität Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 838-52050