UTS Journalism, Social and Political Science, Creative Intelligence and Innovation student with a keen interest in sport and social justice
Groundbreaking techniques in digital mapping are bringing a new dimension to significant historical events such as the Holocaust.
Architects and historians are using digital mapping to process and collect data from plans and testimonies to produce virtual images of historically significant sites during World War II.
Holocaust survivor, Eddie Jaku, 98, said these digital techniques offer a glimpse into the harrowing reality of life in the Nazi concentration camps.
“They bashed me to pieces, they stabbed me… and on one occasion, a Nazi got out his bayonet, cut the sleeve off my striped uniform and started to engrave a swastika in my arm,” Mr Jaku said.
“As a survivor and witness of the most tragic time in the history of mankind, these new technologies will help to bring my experience to life and educate young people on the immense trauma we went through in these camps 70 plus years ago.”
The Holocaust was an unprecedented spatial experience that resulted in the movement of 9 million European Jews as well as their confinement and murder in sites specifically built for the genocide.
Digital Map of sixteen major concentration camp systems. Each main camp represents the straight-line distance to each of its associated subcamps (Map: Paul Jaskot and Anne Kelly Knowles, 2017).
Dr Paul Jaskot, Professor of Art, Art History and Visual Studies at Duke University in North Carolina said digital mapping allowed modern historians to capture images of the Holocaust in new, robust and innovative ways.
“They [digital maps] mark the traces of history and give them form, preserving both the resonance of the overall plan of the Nazi regime, but also marking the daily experience of the built environment for the Jewish inmates,” Mr Jaskot said.
“The digital environment helps to put things together in new ways so that a person with a vast field of scalable evidence can crack the nut of integrated history.”
Dr Bill Pascoe, Digital Humanities specialist with the Centre For 21st Century Humanities at the University of Newcastle has used the digital mapping technique under the leadership of his colleague, Professor Lyndall Ryan to develop a digital map of Australian massacres.
He said one of the most important aspects of digital maps, especially when dealing with atrocities like the Holocaust, is that they work against objectifying people by establishing a more subjective relationship with its users.
“Statistics [from source materials or summaries] can be easily skipped over by a reader, but being able to see it on a map makes it more personal, especially with current technology,” Dr Pascoe said.
The use of digital mapping in visually representing the political history of Nazi art and architecture is helping people to understand the larger development, implementation, and context of the event.
“History and the present shows that atrocities have always happened, that they tend to happen under certain circumstances in certain ways, and that they probably will continue to happen, but it also shows that one of the best ways to stop them is raising public awareness,” Mr Jaku said.
“Digital maps are one effective way to do that.”