History Radar 1938 / Zeituhr 1938
The question Zeituhr 1938 seeks to address is simple. How can we expect to have a democratic present, if we cannot have a democratic means of access to the past? Especially if that past was autocratic, if not dictatorial in its nature and its representation? The events surrounding the so called “Anschluss” or annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in March 1938, provide an ideal testing ground for that question. The digital multimedia documentation project Zeituhr 1938, (History Radar 1938) provided present-day Austrian’s with a chance to reassess this crucial part of their history. https://www.zeituhr1938.at In 2018 – minute by minute – exactly 80 years after the “Anschluss”, the 24 hour digital Zeituhr 1938 allowed thousands of online users to experience the sequence of events that led to Hitler’s seizure of power in real time. It was a 24 hour sequence that saw power taken from the Federal Chancellory in Vienna and placed in Hitler’s Reichskanzelei in Berlin for the following 7 years. In the normal language of historical storytelling, such dramatic revolutions are reduced to one key event: the storming of the Bastille, the storming of the Czar’s Winter Palace or in the case of the “Anschluss”, Hitler’s journey through Austria from the place of his birth (Braunau on the German Border) to the capital of Vienna. According to the pictures orchestrated by Goebbels “Wochenschau” newsreels this was an event of unending speed and adulation, marred by not the faintest whiff of resistance or doubt. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vXnKw9Lc0s The main aim of my Zeituhr 1938 was to find a way of counteracting Goebbels propaganda monologue, with a more politically balanced politically view of the events that made up the “Anschluss”. For young impressionable digital natives who do not read books, it is important to create a democratic digital medium to replace the “Wochenschau” view of 1938 that has dominated the world and especially the internet. In brief, the purpose of the Zeituhr 1938 is to replace a propaganda monolog with interactive polyphony. In order to achieve this, I led a group of historians and media designers over 9 months to research hand build an internet platform that went online to tell 250 events that made up the “Anschluss” between 18.00 on the 11th of March 1938 and 18.00 on the 12th of March 1938. These events appear as dots on the face of a clock that looks like a radar screen. As they appear, the users can click on the dots to find out what has just happened and where. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#WI1820 The pop up window can reveal and eye witness account from 80 years ago, a film clip taken at the time, or an account of a survivor told many years later. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#WI1950 Historical Radio reports and photographs complete the possible source material. In each case the source of the material shown is fully visible and checkable. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#WI2018s The history points are organized in four circles. Events that are every-day, International, take place in the provinces and finally the capital city of Vienna. A final circle on the outside gives space for academic commentaries, putting the other points in context or giving advice on the generic dangers in taking media such as propaganda photos at their face value. This is similar to the divide between the news pages and the editorials in quality newspapers. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#KO1947 This practice is necessary since the very nature of the Anschluss means that there is an imbalance between the Nazi victors and the mainly Jewish victims. Goebbels ordered 18 film crews to join the troops invading Austria. Those in fear of their lives had no time to take photos or make audio recordings of their actions in those 24 hours. All we have as direct evidence are diary entries and letters, as well as the memoirs of the survivors. Medical records that give an idea of the number of suicides that took place that night. More neutral documents are the reports of foreign correspondent’s or a police documentary film. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#WI1955 The Zeituhr 1938 also records the everyday events like religious services, shop opening and closing times, train timetables, sunset and sunrise, as well as cinema, cabaret, theatre and football schedules so as to give the user 80 years on an idea of the normal rhythms of some very exceptional days. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#WI2315 https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#AL1500 These provided the social stage on which the individual stories were played out and give link to today. For example, that the Anschluss celebrations happened on a Friday night when it was normal for masses to be on the streets, go to a show without having to get up early for work the next morning. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#AL2030 The other aspect of the Zeituhr 1938 to give users a feeling of the texture and rhythm of this revolution is the size of the history points. The larger the dot, the more individual stories are attached to that moment. This explains why the point at 19.50 is so huge in comparison to all the others. This was Austria’s 9/11 or John F. Kennedy moment, the tipping point of the “Anschluss” when in a live radio broadcast Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg announced that he would “Bow to force” and ordered the army not to block Hitler’s troops. That moment was etched into the memory of countless survivors and unleashed a wave of joy and vicious reprisals by the formally illegal Austrian Nazis. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#WI1950 This approach allows users to examine the documentary evidence at their own pace and experience the conflicting sides of events, in which none of the actors had an over view and chaos, luck and misinformation played a major role. For example, this chronological approach allows users to understand that Schuschnigg resigned due to fake news of German troops movements, well before Hitler got the ok from Mussolini and made the final decision not to halt the invasion. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#IN2225 The Zeituhr 1938 is ordered in circles to allow space for the parallel interests and narratives that played out, over the one night and one day covered by the Zeituhr 1938. The choice to stop the action at 18.00 on the 12th of March, was much discussed in the team, since it halted our coverage before Hitler made his first speech on Austrian soil. It was decided give the climax of our story to the victims i.e. the arrest of the leading Social Democrat Robert Danneberg, from the train which had been turned back at the Czech border. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#WI1800b This was more appropriate for the next seven years of tyranny than a speech whose contents differed little from what Zeituhr 1938 users had heard Goebbels read over the radio 6 hours before. The counter balance to this was the filmed memory of Friederika Richter, a child marched to see Hitler passing by. Surrounded by delirious fans she was expecting to see a king and as disappointed “to see a man in a raincoat with his right hand stretched out”. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#BU1800b In this way, we can use the 24 hour structure to break Goebbel’s propaganda narrative that always ends with a Hitler speech, as if the Anschluss, where inevitable. The Zeituhr 1938 also includes the memoires of Nazis and those who reveled in the “Anschluss” so as to give the users the chance to experience all shades of this complex historical even and to give it credibility, since democracy is also about the voices that one does not personally agree with. It is a crucial advantage of the Zeituhr 1938 that it can accommodate the voices of the main characters and those from the usually anonymous masses with the same validity. National events demand a larger range of sources than local or the fate of individuals. A great advantage of working in the digital is that as scholarship progresses and new sources are found, new time points can be added or taken away to keep the story up to date as a research source. This archival aspect of the Zeituhr 1938 was one crucial aspect of its inception. Having worked on many documentary films on the period, I was constantly interviewing people who had a memory of Schuschnigg’s speech on the 11th. Further looking at archives around the country, this same historical node kept reappearing. I therefore thought what needs to be done is, not so much collect new evidence (though we did that too), but gather together the work that has already been undertaken, and that lies scattered in the countless memory archives created since 1987. This need to focus material has meant breaking down the silos in which many disciplines, not only work, but think. The Zeituhr 1938 is therefore multidisciplinary, bringing together politics, social and economic history as well as religion, sport and media studies. Add most importantly of all, the stories of individuals, whose experiences cut across all of these categories. On the day of the anniversary, the Zeituhr 1938 built its digital community in three main forms. The first was the launch of a web-platform via a website with many feeder sites. This achieved 60,000 page impressions over the first two hours and ended the 24 hours with figures of 80,000 page impressions and 25,000 unique users. The second was a large public projection onto the central location in the story of the Anschluss the Federal Chancellery known as the Bundeskanzler Amt (BKA). Since this is still the seat of power, and snap elections during the course of the project, have produced a right-wing government, this aspect of the project became very sensitive. Especially since the Chancellor’s coalition partners are the FPÖ, far right populists, who are seen by many as the heirs to all, but the most extreme parts of the Nazi’s agenda. Therefore, the successful projection of the images from 1938 took on an added layer of relevance, whose power was drawn from the academic seriousness and veracity of the visual documents projected onto the past and present government’s headquarters. The BKA projection only ran from 18.00 to 03.00 on the 11th, since it was at 03.00 that the last drop of power drained away from the BKA to Berlin. The subject of radio and TV reports, the projected Zeituhr 1938 was streamed into the web via facebook and tweeted by onlookers. The livestream used the Facebook and twitter sites of the religious affairs paper Die Furche”, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Haus der Geschichte Österreich, Metropole magazine and the VJ team 4 your eye audience to get a spread of different audiences. One special feature of the projection was the world premieres of a new technology. The local start-up company Sensotix created smartstickers that where stuck onto a limited edition of 520 post cards containing an image of the Zeituhr on the BKA. These sticker-enabled cards were used as an incentive to come to participate in the projection at the BKA. The chip on the card enabled those that attended to directly download a short film and documents from key points on the Zeituhr 1938. This was a way of making a digital event and physical one, and reminding of users, that although the web makes the Zeituhr 1938 and its events ubiquitous, the takeover of the Nazis was not just time specific, but place specific. This chrono-topographic element reached its high point at 19:50 when I used the Zeituhr to play Schussnigg’s speech and then the slow movement of Haydn’s Kaiserquartett just as the radio broadcast from this very same spot 80 years ago. https://www.zeituhr1938.at/#WI1950 The third strand was the access to digital communities via the networks of the digital media ranging from the Info-screen TV in the Vienna Metro and bus system, to pop music (Ö3/ FM4) and talk radio stations (Ö1). ORF online took over the Zeituhr idea and quoted it during the whole 24 hours, bringing the most traffic to the main site. We deliberately shared our historical information and the live ticker idea with journalists to increase the coverage of the Zeituhr and its content. This double strategy furthered our reach and also gave us extensive free publicity. Zeituhr is a new concept and a new word creation. This novelty also added to the success of the publicity campaign. The project’s sustainability is guaranteed by a cooperation the Austria’s first ever National historical museum the Haus der Geschichte Österreich (HgdÖ), the first of whose digital history works the Zeituhr 1938 is. The HdgÖ will host the site in perpetuity, updating it when necessary and upgrading it as new technologies develop. The Zeituhr 1938 is specifically aimed at young users who do not read history books, but will need to research these events for their school studies. Feedback and discussion about historical events has been set as a duty for this new museum, and on the digital level this will be possible through the Museum’s online discussion fora. In this and many levels the Zeituhr 1938 sees itself as visionary, looking to the future of history education and the interaction with a controversial cultural heritage. This innovation is not just on the level the cutting-edge technology and design used in the Zeituhr 1938, but also in its curatorial philosophy and multi-disciplinary natures. Every community needs a memory to maintain and negotiate its identity. The Zeituhr is a digital memory technology, created for and with digital communities to remember the traumatic events of 1938. Yet it is also a model for the transmission and examination of complex historical events of any period, since it can deal with dissonance and doubt, sources that are conflicting and differences of opinion in both a private and public way. It is therefore for so many reasons, that I am already active creating Zeituhr 2019 for the many period and events that need a polyphonic democratic approach and not the dictatorial monologue that has helped create so many new conflicts around the world. The digital multimedia documentation project Zeituhr 1938, (History Radar 1938) provided present-day Austrians with a chance to critically reassess the key 24 hours of events that led to the Nazi Annexation of Austria (also known as the “Anschluss”) on the 11th and 12th of March 1938. Zeituhr 1938 binds together a digital community between the generations: from the eye witnesses to 1938, to their children and their children’s children. The ancestors of the victims and the ancestors of the perpetrators. Grandchildren who do not read books, but are digital natives and so in need of a digital form of access in the past. All of this was done by combining physical heritage (the Federal Chancellory on the Ballhaus Platz in Vienna) with the immaterial heritage of those events: films, photos and sound recordings. Using pioneering technology and specially designed web tools - Zeituhr 1938 -bridged the gap between the past and the present for thousands of citizens who were able to experience historical events thought contemporary forms of media, like the net, radio, TV, mobile phones, as well as analog forms like postcards, lectures and a sheer sense of place. The project’s sustainability is guaranteed by a cooperation the Austria’s first ever national historical museum the Haus der Geschichte Österreich (HgdÖ), the first of whose digital history works the Zeituhr 1938 is. The HdgÖ will host the site in perpetuity, updating it when necessary and upgrading it as new technologies develop. The Zeituhr 1938 is specifically aimed at young users who do not read history books, but will need to research these events for their school studies. Feedback and discussion about historical events has been set as a duty for this new museum, and on the digital level this will be possible through the Museum’s online discussion fora. Detail any future follow-up of the initiative and plans for future dissemination. In this and many levels the Zeituhr 1938 sees itself as visionary, looking to the future of history education and the interaction with a controversial cultural heritage. This innovation is not just on the level the cutting-edge technology and design used in the Zeituhr 1938, but also in its curatorial philosophy and multi-disciplinary natures. Every community needs a memory to maintain and negotiate its identity. The Zeituhr is a digital memory technology, created for and with digital communities to remember the traumatic events of 1938. Yet it is also a model for the transmission and examination of complex historical events of any period, since it can deal with dissonance and doubt, sources that are conflicting and differences of opinion in both a private and public way. It is therefore for so many reasons, that I am encouraged that a Zeituhr 1938 specifically for schools, has been commissioned by the Austrian Education ministry, since the projection on the 11th of March. The success of the first projection has led to requests from the other provincial capitals of Austria, where the annexation also took place. This means the Zeituhr will be performed on the 11th and 12th of March each year for 10 years, in a different city, until it returns to Vienna. In each location new points will be added to the clock, as local researchers discover more and more about the events of those 24 hours. This ability to grow is a feature that will secure the Zeituhr’s future, since it will never be out of date, and can always become more relevant. The work has already been shown at the Conflicted Landscapes exhibition at the University of Cambridge in the UK, and the possibility of turning it into a university performance is being considered.