Memoria [EN] No 50 (11/2021) - Page 16

ON THE TRAIL

OF JEWISH CHILDREN

IN BERLIN WITH A SMARTPHONE

“Marbles of Remembrance” includes five multimedia city tours that enable people to learn about the life stories of children and young people who went into hiding in Berlin, were taken away from Germany, or were murdered in the Holocaust in the Nazi era.

Life underground

Zvi Aviram (1927 – 2020) was 16 years old in 1943, when the Nazis deported his parents to the Auschwitz concentration camp. He hid in various places, including his aunt Marie Grünberg's garden shed, and joined the Chug Chaluzi resistance group along with some of his friends. Teacher Yizchak Schwerzens had founded the Zionist group to prepare Jewish young people for life in hiding. “Marbles of Remembrance” features audio messages from Zvi in which he talks about this time. The Gestapo arrested him several times – but he survived and emigrated to what was then Palestine in 1948. He started a new life in Israel, and later shared his experiences as a contemporary witness.

Hanni Weissenberg (1924 – 2019) went underground too and had to hide from the Nazis all on her own in Berlin for several years. Historians refer to Berliners who went into hiding during the war as U-Boote, which is German for “submarines.” She was one of them. Her parents had died in Berlin in 1940 and 1943, and her grandmother was deported in 1942. She used to die her hair blonde to make herself less noticeable, and she often spent time in movie theaters, where she found shelter in the darkness. Later, she managed to obtain a postal identity card, which made her life in illegality easier. After liberation, Hanni went to live with her uncle's family in Paris, where she met her husband and started a family of her own. Users can listen to evocative audio messages telling them about Hanni's experiences as they follow the tour through Berlin-Wilmersdorf.

In addition to the two biographical tours featuring Zvi and Hanni, “Marbles of Remembrance” also offers three informational tours that focus on various aspects of Jewish life in Berlin during the Nazi era.

Uncover the city’s hidden history

The Arolsen Archives collaborated on Marbles of Remembrance with fabular.ai, a research spin-off of the University of Bremen, to develop a chatbot that is available free of charge in German and English on the messaging service Telegram. The idea for Marbles of Remembrance was born at a culture hackathon in 2017.

“Digitization and innovative formats enable us to find all sorts of new ways of telling the stories of Nazi persecutees on the basis of the documents in our archive. “Marbles of Remembrance” offers multimedia tours – this approach is new for us. The stories are told not only through text messages, but also with documents, photos, infographics, and voice messages,” explains Christian Höschler from the Arolsen Archives.

With Marbles of Remembrance, students and interested adults can set off on their own search for clues using their smartphones. Each stop on the tour will help them understand more about the fates of Zvi, Hanni, and other children. The stories of the persecuted children and young people are based on information from the card file of the Reich Association of Jews in Germany and from the “pupil cards” it contains, which are kept in the Arolsen Archives. Using these documents, “Marbles of Remembrance” brings to light information about 8,500 Berlin children and more than 340 locations and makes it publicly accessible.

“We've grown up with the Internet and with smartphones – and that's how we get most of our information. Direct communication on social media platforms is part of everyday life and learning. That makes the chatbot particularly suitable as a new medium for interactive storytelling. This way, you experience history on a more direct, more emotional level,” explains Nina Hentschel, Co-Founder & CMO at Fabular.ai.

Hanni Weissenberg and Zvi Aviram hid in garden sheds, movie theaters, and in strangers’ apartments in Nazi Berlin. As Jewish youths, both had to go into hiding in order to survive. Zvi and Hanni are protagonists in a new interactive educational project titled “Marbles of Remembrance” from the Arolsen Archives.

Isabelle Mittermeier, Arolsen Archives