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Being a Witness to History?
A Memory Lab

Memory Lab: January to July 2024
Exhibition: September 19, 2024 to May 4, 2025
Since January 2024, a group of people living in Frankfurt has been exploring the topic of "witness of history": What do we mean by this today? What makes a person a witness of history? What do you have to have experienced to be a witness of history? What actually distinguishes memories from witnesses? Whose and which stories are missing? And how much time must have passed for a person to be not just a witness, but a witness of history? The participants in the Memory Lab will be exploring these questions until the summer.

The starting point for the questions and reflections are contributions from the Library of Generations, an artistic long-term reminiscence project by Sigrid Sigurdsson, which is hosted in the Historical Museum for almost 25 years now and will run until 2105. For the Memory Lab, all participants have chosen a contribution of the Library of the Generations that they will analyse and use as a starting point to develop an own contribution to the exhibition. They chose contributions about family histories, experiences of dictatorship, different stories of education, political struggles, voluntary or forced migration, stories how people dealt with crises, but also stories of places in the city and their transformation, such as the university as a place of learning, politicisation or as a point of orientation.

The exhibition will be on display from 19 September 2024.

End of Testimony?

In addition to the Memory Lab we will also present the special exhibition "The End of Testimony?", developed by the Jewish Museum Hohenems and the Flossenbürg Memorial. We are showing this exhibition because our idea of witnessing has been significantly shaped by conversations and interviews with Holocaust survivors. 

75 years after the end of the war, there are hardly any survivors of the Nazi regime who are able to speak about their own experiences or tell the stories of people who were murdered in the Holocaust. Many of their memories are preserved in literary testimonies and numerous videos of interviews in public and private archives. Public institutions today are faced with the question of how they want to deal with this legacy in the future. For the Frankfurt exhibition, we want to focus on the diversity of the recorded material with which we have to deal: There are professionally recorded interviews and amateur recordings, storytelling cafés and conversations with pupils, public events and privately recorded conversations, ... In the exhibition, we provide an insight into the big variety of interviews and the many different occasions for the talks, as well as the different purposes for which they were and are used, ranging from pure recording to professionally prepared didactic material.

This raises two questions: There is the concrete question of how the content of the recordings can be saved: many data carriers such as VHS or audio cassettes will soon no longer be readable. The question of preserving the narratives is particularly virulent in Frankfurt, where many civil society actors have maintained contact with survivors and recorded interviews. Many of these interviews have not yet been digitized. With the illegibility of the recordings, there is a threat that also the voices and the stories may disappear. Therefore, the HMF will set up an open digitization workshop where interviews about the Nazi era can be digitized free of charge. Interested persons or initiatives can contact angela.jannelli@stadt-frankfurt.de.


Sponsored by means of the Federal Foundation for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in East Germany
Freunde & Förderer des Historischen Museums Frankfurt