Auschwitz – the place that more than any other symbolizes the horror of the Nazi extermination machine. The name of this town in the south of Poland stands for the murder of millions of Jews, Sinti, Roma and countless other individuals who, according to Nazi race ideology, were not part of the “people’s community”. The mention of Auschwitz-Birkenau inevitably conjures a series of recurring images in people’s minds: the entrance building at Birkenau, the train tracks covered in snow, the cynical slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (Work brings freedom). These images have become sadly familiar signs or symbols. Because they are often shown in the media, they are well-known to the general public, supporting the widely held belief that we know “everything” about Auschwitz. Not surprisingly, it is a frequent observation that National Socialism as a classroom subject elicits weariness and boredom from students – despite studies showing that the public’s actual knowledge is sketchy at best.
We were commissioned by the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb) to produce a multilingual web documentary based on photographs by Martin Blume. With his photographs, Blume, who has been working on site for several years, aims to keep the memory of the Shoa, the Porajmos and other genocides committed by the Nazis alive for future generations.
The web documentary encourages viewers to take a closer look and approach the subject in their own, personal way, beyond moralistic appeals to “prevent this from happening again” and expectations in terms of social attitudes. Besides the main film, the web documentary features encounters between survivors and Blume, who suggested to use his photographs to trigger their memories. The web documentary furthermore includes an interview with the photographer on his motivations, his approach of the topic and how working on site is influencing him as an artist and human being.
The web documentary is part of a crossmedia project, which also includes a trilingual photographic book published by Hentrich & Hentrich (for which bpb has acquired a licence), an exhibition and a series of open-air screenings across Germany.