Preserving and (Re)Presenting: On the Circulation of Dutch WWII Testimonies via New Media in Participatory Memory Projects
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More than seventy years after the Second Wold War the eyewitnesses and first generation survivors are dying out and can no longer transmit their stories to future generations. In order to save their testimonies from oblivion various innovative commemoration initiatives are created that often consist of participatory projects using new media. This thesis focuses on three recent Dutch memory projects, Joods Monument and Open Joodse Huizen, Oorlog in mijn Buurt, and Post uit de Vergetelheid in order to show how new media change the way memory is transmitted and disseminated in participatory memory projects, more specifically, different types of participation are charted and analysed. Joods Monument is a digital memorial for all the Dutch victims of the Shoah where personal memories can be added by the visitors. This memorial functions as a database for projects like Open Joodse Huizen, which, every year on the fourth and fifth of May, organises commemorative events at the houses Jewish families lived in before the Shoah. Oorlog in mijn Buurt is an education project during which children interview eyewitness of the Second World War in their neighbourhood and transmit this story via the website and in their capacity as ‘heritage carriers’. Post uit de Vergetelheid is an exhibition based on correspondence from the Nazi concentration camps relating the past to the present via new media and themes such as communication, identity, and privacy. The projects are analysed in the context of the history of WWII memory culture in the Netherlands based on studies of Van Ginkel, Van Reijt, and Raaijmakers, and influential concepts within the domain of memory studies such as collective memory (Halbwachs), communicative and cultural memory (Jan and Aleida Assmann), postmemory (Hirsch), mediated memories (Van Dijck), and digital memory (Haskins). The thesis firstly finds that different modes of memory transmission such as communicative, cultural, and digital memory, should not be seen as successive stages but rather overlap and interact in current memory projects. Secondly, the recent projects thrive both online and offline on the participation of visitors engaged in the projects. Thirdly, the increasing focus on participation via digital media leads on the one hand to a process of remediation, and on the other to a process of democratisation, by which the memories of the eyewitnesses and first generation survivors are taken up by following generations and transmitted and disseminated into the future. Finally, recent memory projects bring the memory of WWII and the Shoah ‘into the present’ by connecting the past to today’s issues and problems.