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University Tool for Holocaust Memory and Education

The COVID-19 pandemic posed a significant challenge to memorial institutions, archives and museums. It accelerated  developments towards a digital turn in holocaust remembrance (cf. Ebbrecht-Harthmann 2020) that had been ongoing due to social transformation in digital formats of remembrance work. The (digital) transformation of commemorative culture and Holocaust education towards the cultural memory (Assmann 2006) takes place against the backdrop of a spatial re-figuration in the interaction between modernism and postmodernism, which is closely linked to a mediatisation of communicative acting (cf. Löw & Knoblauch 2019: 6f.) – a field that is hardly discussed in educational research. This case explores consequences related to a “Spatial Turn” (Soja 1989, 1996) in Holocaust Studies (cf. Fogu 2016) and how far they affect mediation contexts in sustainable Holocaust education. In the summer semester of 2022, student teachers at the University of Passau created local signs of remembrance in order to prepare them as learning sites after researching marked and unmarked historical sites. While the pilot phase was focused on former Nazi crime scenes, from the winter semester 2023/24 on, the spatial visualisation will emphasise traces of persecuted people with disabilities in Lower Bavaria and Austria in a project that marks the transnational dimension of historical events. This is being done in cooperation with the Hartheim Memorial, among others.

Submitted on 9 March 2023

Case Author

Tamara Rachbauer, Kathrin Plank

University of Passau

Key takeaways

The event focused on jointly developing an online platform with all the signs of remembrance in Passau collected and summarised by the students. Using so-called "digital image maps", historical sites that have not yet been designated as memorials will first be digitally located and marked on the World Wide Web and then made accessible in real space with a simple click. The choice of a suitable platform that would comply with data protection regulations, be user friendly and cost effective proved to be extremely difficult. For each sign, the students were to provide textual information based on expert research (“to be read”), a digital image map with a podcast (“to listen to”) and further links and geodata (“to find”). These were relatively high hurdles to overcome.

Key issues

Key issues were working with individual schools and other institutions to develop media pedagogical and didactic recommendations that account for the needs of different learning groups. In addition, the technical editing was another issue, which was left to future history teachers for further work in cooperation with them.

Case target / aim / intention

The case is more than a research contribution regarding the above-mentioned  digital turn in commemoration, it also represents a means of designing a future-ready curriculum for teacher education when it comes to the digital professionalisation of in-service and pre-service teachers. Furthermore, the case also contributes to historical reappraisal and local, context-specific remembrance work as part of democratic education.

Case Study

Part One

Initial Situation

The connections to one's own life world become increasingly abstract for learners with increasing distance from the historical event, which in relation to National Socialism is currently characterised by the "disappearance of contemporary witnesses". Against this backdrop, historical sites in particular are gaining in importance as a medium for teaching history, acting "as carriers of our memory, which we associate with contemporary witnesses" (Pirker, 2021).

Now, many historical sites are not only overshaped in many respects, but also limited in terms of their accessibility; the mediation work associated with this is correspondingly challenging. Many former Nazi crime scenes are not made visible or inaccessible because, for example, they have not (yet) been marked as memorials. One such place is the former Passau II subcamp, whose pin is still missing from any memorial maps. Some places are privately owned and therefore not accessible to the public, like the building of the former concentration camp Colosseum in Regensburg's Stadtamhof district. Depending on the situation of the teachers and learners, the fact that the relevant sites are simply too far away, not barrier-free accessible or not pedagogically prepared can also be a limitation. In many cases, relevant historical sites in their current state are little more than a lawn or a few structural remains that require a high degree of historical imagination in the teaching context.

Many memorial sites therefore work directly on site with media extensions to make them more vivid, for example with the help of architecture, recorded audio files or signage. In this context, Lev Manovich (2006) speaks of “augmented space”. At the Flossenbürg concentration camp memorial in the northern Upper Palatinate, for example, a large part of the former camp complex is no longer directly visible, partly due to "pragmatic reuse". Here, the glass steles designed in collaboration with the architecture firm kochbüro make the no longer complete traces of time (more) visible for site tours.

Some of the digital applications are also being used directly at the historic site itself to enhance it. At the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, for example, the online application The Liberation offers visitors a multi-perspective view of the camp site as part of a virtual or on-site tour by overlaying different layers of time. Users can either access a YouTube version or work directly on site with an augmented reality application, using their smartphone or tablet to superimpose historical photos on the scenery as they tour the memorial site and listen to the memories of contemporary witnesses.

Digital applications can also be linked to the historical learning site in other ways or create entirely new virtual memory spaces. Without offering an extension of time, the digital representation of the physical place in its current state also allows access for those who cannot be there – as in the case of the 360-degree tour of the Neuengamme Memorial in Hamburg. The app user’s position is similar to that of a visitor to the memorial: they can use the application to look around the memorial, visit specific places, get information there and view details. The focus is on providing information.

By animating further layers of time, entirely new spaces can be created in the virtual world – docked to a concrete historical event and its location. Secret Annex is one such application developed by the Dutch Anne Frank House. It reconstructs Anne Frank’s hiding place in an Amsterdam back-street as it was in 1942. This is not a visit to the memorial in its current state, but an interactive tour of a building that no longer exists..

In the project, we have tried to implement the observations on digitally expanded space at and with historical places in the form of an exemplary course from university teacher training, which is to be anchored in the curriculum in the long term.

Part Two

Strategy and implementation

In view  of the need for new forms of remembrance and the associated mediation work, the medium- to long-term format of the cooperative, multi-professional course "Digital Memory" aims to create a shared, subjectively significant memory space by digitally marking historical sites in the immediate environment. In this way, student teachers will be enabled to develop signs of remembrance in their social environment as historical places of learning. By locating physical places in one's own environment in a systematic context, the continuities between history and the present in the learner's immediate environment should become visible and thus comprehensible.

This shared memory space is fed by various elements: in addition to educational processes in formal institutions or media representations, it includes memorials, museums or documentation centres as well as historical places with and without visible signs of remembrance (Dicke, 2020).

In the pilot project, during the summer semester of 2022, student teachers at the University of Passau researched the signs of remembrance in the city of Passau in order to prepare them as learning sites. They first researched marked and unmarked historical sites and added other elements of the common memory space, such as the memorial at the Innsteg.

At the centre of the event was a jointly developed online platform that brought together all the memorials in Passau collected by the students. Using so-called "digital image maps", historical sites that had not yet been designated as memorials were first digitally located and marked on the World Wide Web and then made accessible in real space with a simple click.

In the case of our project, we first wanted to use Articulate Riise, a modern e-learning authoring software that allows you to create courses for any device very quickly and easily. In particular, the numerous templates make it possible to create engaging online courses with just a few mouse clicks. In other words, without much training time, our students were able to implement an attractive platform very quickly – see

Unfortunately, the price for an annual subscription was far too high and thus unsustainable without funding, especially in the pilot phase.

So we decided to use the platform Ilias, the central learning management system at the University of Passau, and the H5P Image Hotspots as a plug-in for the digital image maps. These are relatively easy to use and the H5P image hotspots are available free of charge when integrated into a learning management system such as Ilias or Moodle.

Textual information ("read") based on scholarly research was compiled for each sign, and a digital image map with a podcast ("listen") containing further links and geodata was made available. This geodata activates the Google Maps navigation system on the mobile device and guides the user to the corresponding locations.

Because the students are familiar with Ilias, we only had to run a two-hour workshop on working with the H5P image hotspots.

In the pilot phase, only my colleague, myself and the students were involved. As a result, there were no surprises and everything went as planned.

Part Three

Outcome and reflection

As we are in the process of completing the pilot phase and preparing for the first implementation and transfer phase, we cannot make any concrete statements about the final results of the project. We can only give an indication of the next steps we plan to take, and this is what we are going to do:

In a further step, media pedagogical and didactic recommendations will be developed in cooperation with individual schools and other institutions, taking into account the needs of different learning groups.

In the pilot phase, the students' results were not yet checked for accuracy by history experts. This will change during the implementation phase. Here the evaluation of the student outcomes will be taken over by prospective history teachers through cooperative involvement.

The pilot phase and the first implementation and transfer phase will focus on the former Nazi crime scenes. From the winter semester 2023/24 onwards,  the life traces of the persecuted will also be increasingly addressed in the spatial presentation, which will take up the transnational dimension of historical events in particular.

We are also in the process of negotiating a collaboration with the “Lern- und Gedenkort Schloss Hartheim” ( to offer our students more in-depth research opportunities. Der Lern- und Gedenkort Schloss Hartheim offers the possibility of independent research in the archives of the Hartheim Documentation Centre and in the library of the Lern- und Gedenkort Schloss Hartheim.

There are further plans, following initial agreements, to assist the Lern- und Gedenkort Schloss Hartheim by having our students make their findings and digital implementations available for the development of their website:

Author's notes

No notes were submitted.


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