Public History of the Holocaust

Public History of the Holocaust

Institute(s): Goethe-Universität Frankfurt

Duration: Summer semester 2015 to currently
Project staff

Dr. Steffen Bründel, Goethe University Frankfurt (Research Center for Historical Humanities)
Prof. Dr. Christoph Cornelißen, Goethe-University Frankfurt (Chair of Modern History – Contemporary History of Europe Since 1918)
Prof. Dr. Alexander Mehler, Goethe University Frankfurt (Computer Sciences)
Giuseppe Abrami, Goethe University Frankfurt (Computer Sciences)
Dr. Nicole Kramer, Goethe-University Frankfurt (Chair of Modern History – Contemporary History of Europe Since 1918)


Technologically speaking, the project called Public History aims to combine media of web-based documentation and mobile communication on the basis of a historical description model. It is more precisely a matter of enabling a mobile web-based Public History of the Holocaust, as it was described by Sara Bloomfield, Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC, as a central desideratum at the conference of the same name held at the Jewish Museum Berlin on July 9, 2013. In the context of this challenge, the project aims to integrate several text technologies as a basis for a scientifically founded Public History of the Holocaust. This includes (i) a mobile app as an interface for read and write access to a (ii) MediaWiki as the underlying document management system for (iii) ubiquitous computing:

With regard to geotagging, the app to be developed will enable web-based documentation of the places and paths of life of Holocaust victims. It is about an ubiquitous communication platform with the help of which historians can write a public history of the Holocaust by documenting and networking other places of life and activity (places of residence, work, deportation, etc.) beyond stumbling blocks.
In the sense of geocaching, app users should be able to mutually receive the results of their documentation work, namely on the spot of the documented places and ways of life. The information enrichment of the stumbling blocks takes place with the help of text, images, audio, video and links to these information objects. It includes digitally accessible 3D reconstructions of historical buildings as well as interactive maps with textual and iconographic geotags.
After completion of the app, the web-based use of all documentation results arising in the context of the study group will be made possible, in accordance with the principles of open access and open source.

The starting point of the project is Gunter Demnig’s art project Stolpersteine. Although this project is not undisputed, it has established itself to the extent that stumbling blocks have now been laid in many German and European cities in order to provide information about the fates of the respective citizens ( The Stolperwege App virtualizes these memorials and, so to speak, removes them from the stumbling blocks laid in the ground. This virtualization reflects essential points of criticism of the Stolpersteine project: on the one hand, far more comprehensive information is to be provided and linked in order to embed the significance of the Stolpersteine in a historical context. In addition, the project aims to raise awareness of the problem of linguistic attributions, for example as a result of the use of perpetrator-language terms. With the help of the Stolperwege app, users should be able to visit the biographically relevant places or objects of a city and obtain scientifically sound information about them. All victim groups of the National Socialist tyranny will be included and the murdered will be considered as well as the survivors and their descendants, the emigrants or those driven into exile as well as the returnees. Beyond the information content of the stumbling blocks, the aim is to create opportunities to document the lives of people and to link the individual documentations linked to location and time. We call the broken (emigration or remigration) or broken (annihilation) paths of life represented in this network “stumbling blocks”.

The project has been running since the summer semester of 2015 and is based on technical preparatory work by the Text Technology Working Group, such as the provision of resource management and an annotation platform (OWLnotator).


Stumbling blocksAPI (
The REST-based StolperwegeAPI forms the central interface between the StolperwegeApp and all web services (some of which are listed below).
StolperwegeDB (
The StolperwegeDB is an instantiation of the OWLnotator (h