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Memostory 3.0: Digital environments for Holocaust Research and Education

Since 2011, Prof. Dr. Paul Verschure (Director of SPECS, University Pompeu Fabra Barcelona) and Prof. Dr. Habbo Knoch (University of Cologne, formerly director of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial) in cooperation with other partners (e.g. Bergen-Belsen Memorial, Wiener Library, London) are developing digital environments to spatialize former sites of Nazi persecution in connection with interactive applications that allow to engage individually with a broad variety of geo-localized sources and to use space as a gateway to historical sources.

Beside temporary exhibitions and mobile applications, the project serves as a platform to explore new approaches to historical research, learning and memory with regard to Nazi crimes and the Holocaust. Central for the projects that have been realized so far is a full virtual 3D-reconstruction of the now disappeared Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. This existing technology can be applied to virtually any other site of persecution. The digital master model is linked to a database of GIS referenced historical content material on Bergen-Belsen (e.g. pictures, documents, maps, or testimonies) facilitating the construction of spatialized interactive narratives.

On-site, at Bergen-Belsen Memorial this reconstruction is now part of a permanent interactive room application that allows to connect the dynamic topographical overview with sources by a large tourchscreen interface, developed at first for a temporary installation at the Wiener Library, London.

At Bergen-Belsen, the interactive room application can be used in conjunction with a mobile (tablet) version that acts as an enriched landscape guide. Already in daily use with school classes, it helps to communicate between the past and the present by maps, geo-located 3D models of the camp during different historical states, virtual and augmented reality views, context documents, and many historical documents using the tablet as a window on the past.

Off-site, the temporary installation at the Wiener Library (a semi-circular panorama with a touchscreen computer for navigation) has demonstrated the hugh potential of an immersive interactive environment that combines spatial information and historical documents to an audience that has no access to the space itself.

Further projects will explore the effects of active exploration in space based on the spatialization of sites and archival material. That includes

  • to extend the reconstruction approach to other sites of persecution during the Nazi period and to work on an interconnected virtual landscape of terror that includes routes of individuals or transports and marches between the camps;
  • to develop environments that can be used for research purposes by including substantial amounts of site-related content as well as innovative technologies to automatize this process and linkages between sources;
  • to enhance spatial environments for learning processes on-site and off-site that support interactive narrative structures as a foundation of meaning and understanding the past.


Project Website: www.belsen-project.specs-lab.com


Contact Information:

  • Prof. Dr. Paul Verschure (paul.verschure[at]upf.edu; www.specs.upf.edu);
  • Prof. Dr. Habbo Knoch (habbo.knoch[at]uni-koeln.de)


This project is linked to the Future Memory Foundation.