Dr. Alina Bothe, Project Manager for #LastSeen of the Arolsen Archives

Dr. Bothe, what is #LastSeen about and what links do you see to other projects of the Education Agenda NS-Injustice?

#LastSeen deals with the images of NS deportations from the German Reich between 1938 and 1945. Our goal is to capture all known images, to find new ones, and to explore the images as deeply as possible. The photos will then be published together with the image and context information on a specially designed digital platform, the Image Atlas. At the same time, we are developing a digital learning game for young people and young adults.

In this way, we are creating new digital approaches – which I also see as a strong link to many other projects in the Education Agenda NS-Injustice. One example is the web project of the NS-Documentation Center of the City of Cologne. Here, too, it is a matter of finding an ethically appropriate way to demonstrate within digital space what we do not see, and of making vanished Jewish life virtually visible again. Another example is the mobile game of the Theater der jungen Welt, which addresses forced labor in National Socialism. Similar to our learning game, history is located in the concrete urban space and expanded into the digital realm. 

What does it mean to display images ethically and why is it important to develop new guidelines, especially when dealing with historical documents – such as photographs of NS deportations?

Documents and especially photographs of NS deportations are an imposition. They portray people who are being treated unjustly, humiliated and degraded. We have to endure this. At the same time, however, we also have to ask ourselves how we can show these photographs without degrading the ones depicted on them once again. How do we do that?

At #LastSeen, we follow the guideline of maximum transparency. That is, we say what we know – but also what we do not know or possibly know. We work with counter-images, we show the persecuted not only in the moment of humiliation, but also in their private environment, in photos that depict them in everyday situations, in family circles, on solemn occasions, at a time when they were not yet excluded from society. 

In addition to a digital image atlas for photographs of NS deportation, an educational tool for young people is being developed: with which format can the project best be conveyed to a young target group?

The world of young people is shaped more than ever by pictures; they are interested in pictures. This is our starting point. We want to encourage them to look closely, pay attention to the details and context, and explore history on their own. In various workshops with school classes during the development of the learning game, we see how intensively young people want to study and understand the images. In the game, they can do their own research and tell the story of the deportations from different places themselves.