Technological advances and the digital ubiquity of the past are swiftly changing the landscapes of memory in which our societies explore, enact and deliberate the legacies of our past. The opportunities presented by digitalisation stand against questions of historical authenticity and the uniqueness of historical experience, especially when these touch on venues central to understanding Europe’s violent 20thcentury.
Starting point of the discussion was the 360° video »Inside Auschwitz«, which was published in 2017 by the German public broadcaster WDR. This virtual reality video takes viewers on a tour of the memorial and includes the gripping testimonies of three eyewitnesses.
Can an immersive experience of a “Virtual Auschwitz” replace a visit to the memorial of the concentration camp? What impact will digital depictions of a seemingly authentic past have on our collective understanding of history? Christian Kuchler (RWTH Aachen University) and Tomasz Michaldo (Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau) discussed these questions.
This was the inaugural eCommemoration Switchboard session. With these events we bring together experts and practitioners, bridging generational, national and professional divides to reflect on the prospects and perils of digital commemoration.
Christian Kuchler is Professor for Didactics of History at RWTH Aachen University since 2012, where he also chaired the board of the Teacher Training Center from 2015 to 2019. He previously held positions at Ludwig Maximilian University Munich and University Regensburg. His research focuses on the efficacy of history teac-ing, the relevance of visiting memorials in history learning and the use of media in historical-political learning. He has published extensively on these topics. His most recent publications include “Lernort Auschwitz” (Learning Site Auschwitz, 2021).
Tomasz Michaldo is Head of Department Methodology of Guiding of the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he is responsible for the development and coordination of guided tours since 2013 and currently works on the creation of virtual tours. He is a graduate of history, with specialisation in Jewish studies and Postgraduate Museum Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow.
Moderated by Fiona Fritz