News Virtual reality brings Holocaust history to future generations
For those who survived the Holocaust, the memory can never be erased, but their generation is dying. Educators and historians are finding new ways to preserve their experiences and connect with young people.
with the movie Victory of the Holy Spiritviewed through a virtual reality headset, viewers find themselves in the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz.
More than 1.1 million people, about 90 percent of them Jewish, were killed in Auschwitz, one of a network of camps run by Nazi Germany in occupied Polish territory during World War II.
The site is open to visitors as a memorial and museum. Using virtual reality, viewers can see the same things without traveling.
“You see people’s shoes, you see … all their stuff,” David Beaton, a 16-year-old Jewish seminary student, said after seeing the film in Jerusalem. “When you look at it, it’s like a nightmare you don’t want to be in.”
A report by the World Zionist Organization released ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day described a rise in global anti-Semitism after the COVID-19 pandemic created a “new reality” as activity shifted to social networks.
In fact, almost a quarter of Dutch people born after 1980 believe that the Holocaust is a myth or that the number of its victims has been greatly exaggerated, a Survey released this week Demonstration by an organization dedicated to fighting for material compensation for survivors.
The three filmmakers behind the project hope technologies like VR will have a positive impact. They offer this experience to groups who can book screenings, and individual users can watch the film at a mall in Jerusalem.
“The fact is … young people love this technology, it helps us get their attention, and then when they put these headphones on, that’s it,” says co-founder Miriam Cohen.
Viewers can take a guided tour of Jewish life in pre-Holocaust Poland, visit Nazi extermination camps, and then tour Israel while hearing survivors’ stories.
For 95-year-old Menachem Haberman, who was transported by cattle train to Auschwitz in 1944, the immersive experience was irresistible. He cried as he took off his VR goggles.
His mother and six siblings died in the gas chambers of the concentration camp. He survived and was sent to another concentration camp liberated in 1945. Later he emigrated to Israel.
He recalled an area where medical experiments were performed on prisoners and a wall in front of which people were shot.
“I feel like I’m back in the same period from the beginning,” he said. “I saw all these things and it reminded me of something that I can’t forget to this day.”
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