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Bergen-Belsen: Reconstruction fills memorial's empty space

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Scientists have developed a tablet app that virtually recreates the surroundings of the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the north of Germany.

To avoid the spread of disease the camp's buildings were burnt to the ground after its liberation in April 1945. What now looks like an ordinary forest some 70 km from Hanover is where 70000 people died during World War II.

"The memorial today is an empty space. There are no barracks or any other remains left from the camp," explains historian Stephanie Billib. "But when you see this reconstruction and when you walk around with the tablet, then it is a useful help, to get a feeling for this place."

As they move through the memorial's vast area families, school classes and other visitors can see the destroyed buildings on the screens of their tablet computers. The images are linked to photographs by liberators, diary excerpts and drawings by inmates, as well as interview excerpts.

"This tablet and the app motivate the pupils much more than a classical lecture. It pulls them in," says Jan Frühmark, a history teacher.

Benedict Plath-Steinbach, a pupil, agrees: "You can find everything. Everywhere you see mass graves. You can find the children's cemetery and the crematorium, where the people were burned. It is horrific and frightening. I learnt a lot today."

The Bergen-Belsen tablet app and other installations and 3D reconstructions of the Future Memory project around Prof Paul Verschure and a team of scientists, engineers and graphic designers are based on developments within the framework of the European project CEEDS (Collective Experience of Empathic Data Systems). CEEDS ran for 4 years from September 2010 and received €6.5 million EU-funding under the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) scheme. FET supports high risk and multidisciplinary research for radically new technologies and thus contributes to EU world leadership in science, and to innovation..

A report on the tablet app is featured on Futuris, the science programme of the pan-European television channel Euronews. It can be watched anytime online.

Euronews video (4:15) - also available in DE, EL, ES, FR, HU, IT, PT and further languages

Euronews short video "Takeaway" (1:12) - English subtitles

Project website Bergen-Belsen tablet app

Blogpost by the "Future memory" project coordinator Prof Paul Verschure

Video: School class using a prototype of the tablet app

Project website CEEDs

CEEDs feature story

CEEDs factsheet

Video: CEEDs Futuris story on Euronews