The project “Forced Labor 1939-1945” is a cooperation between the foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future”, Freie Universität Berlin and the German Historical Museum. Additional partners have also supported Freie Universität Berlin in the development of the online archive and educational materials.
The linking of the online archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945” with the information portal “Forced Labor in the National Socialist State” has opened up new research possibilities on Nazi forced labor. This information portal, also funded by the foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (EVZ), includes in its core modules accounts from relevant European archives from 13 countries as well as basic information about 3800 detention centers comparable to concentration camps. The meta-search developed within the cooperation allows those interested not only to target their search for specific places and provide the archive materials available within the information portal, but also to search simultaneously for oral history interviews in the online archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945” at each location where forced laborers were used or imprisoned.
In collaboration with the German Federal Agency for Civic Education, Freie Universität Berlin published the educational material “Video Testimonies for School Education”. A double DVD with five biographical short film, two background movies, work proposals and supplementary materials as well as a teacher’s book have been available from the Federal Center since January 2011.
DAVID Systems, a software company in the field of broadcasting, supports the Center for Digital Systems at Freie Universität Berlin in digitization and media processing, as well as media management and archiving.
The archive “Forced labor 1939-1945” is a collection of witness accounts that were collected from 2005 to 2006 within the scope of the project “Documentation of Life Story Interviews with Former Slave and Forced Laborers”. Historically savvy and personally committed interview teams from 32 institutions in 26 countries conducted the interviews and developed the related materials. Among the 32 interview projects are research institutions as well as experienced project teams from foundations and civil society initiatives.
The Institute for History and Biography at the FernUniversität in Hagen (PD Dr. Alexander von Plato, Dr. Almut Leh, Dr. Christoph Thonfeld) was responsible for the coordination of the project in financial cooperation with the foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future”. Further information can be found in the publication “Hitler’s Slaves”.
Further collaborations with FernUniversität in Hagen are planned for the future.
Freie Universität Berlin and the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen have been working together on the development of the online archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945” since the spring of 2009.
The International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen is one of the world’s largest Nazi archives. It documents the fate of millions of civilian victims of the Nazi regime. 6.7 million documents on the topic of forced labor alone are stored in the ITS archive. These include employment records, medical records, insurance records, as well as information from the authorities, insurance companies and employers. In the cooperation, the ITS was first and foremost able to provide biographical data on the times and locations of employment for the interviewed witnesses.
The biographical short films for the educational material “Video Testimonies for School Education” in the project “Forced Labor 1939-1945. Memory and History” were developed by Loretta Walz and PD Dr. Alexander von Plato based on the oral history interviews in the online archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945”.
Loretta Walz is a director, writer and film producer who specializes in documentary films on the topics of history and biography. In 1979 she began the interview collection “Living Resistance – Biographies of Women”. In 2006 Loretta Walz won the Grimme Prize for her film “The Women of Ravensbrück”.
Alexander von Plato is a historian and co-editor of BIOS. The former director of the Institute of History and Biography of FernUniversität in Hagen, he has published numerous films, books and essays on the history of mentalities and oral history, including: Alexander von Plato, Almut Leh and Christoph Thonfeld, (Eds.) “Hitler's Slaves: Life Stories of Forced Laborers in Nazi-Occupied Europe”.
Further cooperation, including with Loretta Walz’s interview archive “The Women of Ravensbrück”, is planned for the future.
For the project “Forced Labor 1939-1945”, Professor Michelle Barricelli, professor for history teaching at Leibniz-Universität Hannover (previously Freie Universität Berlin), acted as an advisor in the development of the didactic concept for “Video Testimonies for School Education”.
Since 2011, the archive Refugee Voices has also been accessible at Freie Universität Berlin. Refugee Voices is the oral history archive of the Association of Jewish Refugees. It contains 150 biographical video interviews with Jewish survivors of Nazism living in the UK. As with the project “Forced Labor 1939-1945” and the Visual History Archive project, it has been coordinated and supervised by the Center for Digital Systems, Freie Universität Berlin.
Freie Universität Berlin and the foundation Topography of Terror have developed a number of school project days entitled “Voices of the Victims at the Site of the Perpetrators”. The focus of the five interactive media seminars are biographical video interviews from the Visual History Archive and the online archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945. Memories and History”.
The Documentation Center of the Topography of Terror Foundation is next to the Martin Gropius building and not far from Potsdamer Platz. From 1933 to 1945 this location was the main headquarters of the Nazi regime. A permanent exhibition about the facilities of the National Socialist persecution and terror apparatus has been informing visitors at the “Place of the Perpetrators” since 1987. The educational programs are especially concerned with the motives and deeds of the perpetrators and examining the impact they had on people’s lives. The victim’s view of the perpetrator is an important aspect of the foundation’s educational work, therefore witness interviews are a valuable addition to the program.
The aim of the new educational program is to act as a source of critical historical learning where young people from the 10th grade capture the diversity of the perspectives of perpetrators, victims and bystanders and put them in relation to one another.
The project “Forced Labor 1939-1945” of the Center for Digital Systems at Freie Universität Berlin closely cooperates with the Visual History Archive project. The USC Shoah Foundation Institute's Visual History Archive contains nearly 52,000 video interviews in 32 languages of survivors and witnesses of the holocaust from 56 different countries. At Freie Universität Berlin the interviews can be researched and viewed; in addition, there are several research and educational projects. Special educational materials for schools (“Witnesses of the Shoah”) are currently being developed.