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Theresienstadt explainedNiels Seidel

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Theresienstadt explained

The Nazi propaganda film „Terezin: A Documentary Film from the Jewish Settlement Area“ (1944) is the onliest cinematic document about a concentration camp. The aim of the project is to open up the film as a commented educational resource. By augmenting the film with geographic, bibliographic and meta-information we want to foster a deeper understanding about the personal stories of the cast members and how they got instrumented by the Nazis.

City: Dresden
Tags: Terezin, Ghetto Theresienstadt, NS Propgana, Jugendarbeit, Memorial, hypervideo, interactive film
Funding period: 01/27/2014, 11:40 AM to 03/02/2014, 11:59 PM    

What is this project all about?

In many ways the Nazi propaganda film „Terezin: A Documentary Film from the Jewish Settlement Area“ is a valuable contemporary document for history didactics for K12 and university teaching. But the film needs to be prepared for instructional use. Without augmentation the film would be senseless because the people and places would be unknown and its propaganda lies would preexist without question. Thats why we want to explain the content of the film:
* locations in the camp can be identified in the scenes;
* a number of famous Jewish persons such as artists, scientists and musicians appear in the scenes;
* propaganda lies and delusions infiltrated by the film crew can be highlighted and explained;

Previous work on the history of the film has been isolated of the cinematic material and its pictorial as well as auditive expressions. By means of media didactic the subject could be effectively enhanced through advanced digital story telling and web-based video technology.
The projected aims to develop an extended teaching and learning resource ready and free to use in schools and university courses.

What is the project goal and who is the project for?

We have been screening the film as VHS at the Terezin Youth Center for years now. The screen was always accomplished by detailed explanations but laked in-depth knowledge of all the cast members and the arrangement of the screenplay. Due the volatile details it has been difficult for us the explain the propagandistic character of the film because the navigation within the playback time was hardly possible on VHS-Device. These limitations caused discontent among the visitors of the memorial state although they were highly interested in watching the one and only existing film of people in nazi concentration camp. We decided to extent the film to an interactive learning space that relates people, places and commented propaganda lies with the particular scenes of the film. Furthermore framing documents such as Claude Lanzmann's interview „A Visitor from the Living“ (1979/1999) will be included.
In 2012 we could manage to get a funding for the technical realization of the interactive film but could not proceed because of incomplete and bad quality video footage. Our investigations showed that at the German Federal Archive in Berlin collected all remaining sequences of the film on reels. A digitization would cost more then $ 1800. Unfortunately our donors did not want to pay for anything else then man power. So we have enough funds to produce a learning resource but can't afford the film as the main object of learning. Beside the Terezin Youth Center we are in contact with several German school teachers, who really want to utilize these highly valuable and rar historic source in their lessons.

Our brief project plan:
- get a copy of the original copy from German Federal Archive Berlin
- post production: digital enhancement, original scence order, highlighting missing scenes inbetween
- identify places on the map of the ghetto
- identify cast members
- identify conspicuous scenes and explain the propaganda behind it
- related places, people and propaganda as time-related annotations
- set up the film together with the annotions in our existing video learning environment
- define instructional tasks as scripted collaboration
- run some tests (software, usability) and invite volunteers from Terezin for a first test run
- install, introduce and run everything at the Terezin Yout Centre

Why would you support this project?

* The film is a treasure and needs to be explained for history teaching at schools and university.

* Inside the film dozends of famous cast members can be seen. Today we know that almost of them did not survive the holocaust. We want to tell theier story by relating their pictures in the film with their biography.

* Without any augmentation the film could be easiely misunderstood, because its propaganda elements are well hidden behind the face of a documentary. The scenes of the film my be real but they do not represent the reality at the ghetto. We need to explain the invisble parts of the film that made out a concentration camp like Theresienstadt.

* Last but not least we are the first who try to make the film accessible in a commented and historical validated way so that it could be used for educational purposes.

How will we use the money if the project is successfully funded? 

The money from startnex will go toward funding the expenses for reproduction of the original film taken from the German Federal Archive Berlin (90%). The money will also go toward expenses for further archive studies and expert reviews as well as visits of the Youth Center in Terezin.

All money that goes beyond our expenses will be donated to the Youth Center at the memorial site in Terezin.

Thank you so much for your donations. They will go a long way to helping us produce this amazing interactive story, which needs to be told.

And one last thing before you go...

Spread the word!

Who are the people behind the project?

Niels works at the Media Centre at Dresden University of Technology. Beside his research interests in deveolpment of interactive instructional videos he has been investigating the history of smal a concentration camp in Görlitz/DE for more then 10 years now. Due his know how in learning design and web development the Terezin film could become a new corner stone for guided tourse in Terezin.

Armin is located in Zittau where he is the head of the local history workshop at Hillersche Villa. He organizes projects about the former members of local jewish community that are dedicated for teenagers from schools and vacation camps. Armin is also involved into the Terezin Youth Center and the activities at the memorial. He is one of the few authorized German speaking guides at Terezin memorial.

Beside that we can build upon academic support from Karel Margry in behalf of the analysis of the film and our collegues at the Media Centre at TU Dresden regarding technical and didactical issues.

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