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"You’re different?" – Historical learning on discrimination and persecution employing web 2.0 methods

By Constanze Jaiser

"You’re different?" – an online exhibition about young people during the Nazi period – is a website project of the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It attempts to link historical learning about National Socialism with current questions of human rights education interactively, using web 2.0 methods.

It portrays 33 youths and children from across Europe who were marginalized and persecuted during the Nazi period because they were "different."

"You’re different!" is a damning indictment of National Socialism. It was a verdict passed arbitrarily against millions of people, with fatal consequences. Those persecuted as “different” were suddenly faced with prejudice, betrayal, prohibitions and hateful behavior, war and concentration camps. They were forced to deal with this marginalization: "You’re different," "You don’t belong!"

The children and youths introduced on this website were at the mercy of this changed situation. It wasn’t long before they were barred from school, or were bullied by classmates. Their own neighbors or friends suddenly marginalized them, or even reported them to the authorities. Some were not permitted to speak in their mother tongue or to date outside their minority.

And all this because they came from a different religious group than the majority, or had a handicap, or because their family was simply not considered "German."

"Are you different?"

But what were they really like? What kinds of people were Sima, Gert, Sophie, Ursula and Vitka? What was important to them? How did they live? They, too, had dreams, fears, desires and convictions. What happened to them when the Nazis took power, or later, when the war broke out? And above all: Were they able to fight back? Did survive the terror and violence?

This online exhibition "You’re different?" provides answers to these questions and allows visitors to pose questions of their own. Five spotlights illuminate the lives of these youths.

Marginalization and discrimination today

"Being different" or "considered different" are themes that accompany all the life stories included on the website. But does the question "are you different?" play a role today, too, in the lives of youths? Who else feels different? Are you different from your friend? Different from the way you wish you were? Different from how other people want you to be?

In the section "showing what I think" ("participating"), there is space not only for comments on the life stories of the youths presented, but also for commenting on one’s own experiences and on the topic of "being different." Creating a personal profile is simple (also possible on Facebook); it provides access to the "presentation" function and offers the possibility of collecting images and documents that are then available for the presentation. Users can work on their presentations and share them, or print them as PDFs.

Diversity on display

Most important, users can leave personal statements on the site, such as examples of how people can stick up for others; examples that may fit the biography of one of the people portrayed, but also those that project results from international youth encounters. They can take the form of collages of images, audio and video clips, digital storytelling, graffiti, etc. All comments and contributions appear as an accompanying gallery on the biography pages, but especially on the home page: The "galaxy of stars," composed of colorful pixels, appears to drift into our world from outer space.

Finally, a second, contemporary level emerges, or, to use the same metaphor: a second galaxy with "satellites" arranged around the five symbolic images and catch phrases related to the historical biographies, reflecting the thoughts, opinions and feelings of today’s youth.

Conclusion

Some of the biographies already exist in an English-language version. As yet, they are unpublished. It would be important for this website to be made accessible in other languages as well, as it is a very useful tool for the topics mentions above, has an appealing design and is well-suited for tandem-style historical-political education.

Contact:

Dr. Barbara Köster
Tel. +49(0)30 – 26 39 43 – 36
Fax +49(0)30 – 26 39 43 – 21
E-Mail: besucherservice[at]stiftung-denkmal.de

 

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