digitalpast is an informal collective of German-speaking historians wishing to transmit history and historical thought by digital means. While a general interest in the past is noticeable, the traditional media – books, TV programs or exhibitions – do not seem to be able to meet it fully. digitalpast tries to be a connection between public history and modern forms of communication, a place to try out new formats, to discuss and to criticize.
In the collective, we are glad to welcome those who wish to pursue these aims and want to practice history online. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org!
Right now, the members of digitalpast are the following five current and former students of history:
Christian Gieseke, who is studying 20th Century History and Politics at Jena University.
Moritz Hoffmann, who is writing his PhD thesis on the history of the German Central Council of the Jews at Heidelberg University.
Charlotte Jahnz, who is studying history at Bonn University.
Petra Tabarelli, who studied history at Mainz University.
Michael Schmalenstroer, who studied Early Modern and Modern History, European Ethnology and Comparative History of the Modern Age at Freiburg University.
Background of the project @digitalpast
The experience of @9Nov38, as presented by Charlotte Jahnz and Moritz Hoffmann at the re:publica 2014, is not to be our last project together. But as they mentioned during that presentation, re-entweetment projects cost a lot of time. We only work with reliable sources and of course double-check them: For instance, we review reports considering a possible underlying intention which might alter their presentation of the facts. This critical approach to the sources is at the core of a historian’s work. In order to make the origins of the information in our tweets transparent to our readers, we published the Tweets of @9Nov38 with a reference to the corresponding source(s). Everyone was able to see where our information came from.
After the presentation at re:publica in May 2014, the Ullstein publishing house contacted Charlotte and Moritz. The idea was to turn the twitterfeed into a book. Within the following two months, we discussed and planned this possible cooperation. We quickly settled on the topic of everyday life in Germany in 1945. The project started on January 27th, 2015 – 70 years after the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camps. On this exact date, the account @9Nov38 was reactivated under the account name @digitalpast. This new twitterhandle is meant to be applicable for future occasions and to clearly show the connection to this collective. On this very date, January 27th, 2015, the book “Als der Krieg Nach Hause kam” (When War Came Home) was released (in print and as an e-book). We all contributed to it.
The book offers background information on our tweets but was written in a way that does not make it necessary for the reader to follow the account @digitalpast to understand it. It is based on diary entries and other primary and secondary sources that retrace life during the last months of the war in Germany through “Event Islands”. You can find out what life looked like for children in Germany in 1945, what food people had to eat, but also how Auschwitz was liberated and Dresden bombed. In the book, the different topics are illustrated by corresponding tweets.
“Event Islands” – what is that?
Contrary to @9Nov38 which was limited to one day and its immediate follow-up, @digitalpast will cover several months, up to the end of World War II. @9Nov38 revealed an increased interest of our followers in singular events. @digitalpast will meet this curiosity by rendering the “background noise” of experiences made specific people. There will be days when almost nothing will be posted, and other days when the account will be very active. Such “Event Islands” are, for example, the liberation of Auschwitz or the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.
Many thanks to Anne Baillot who translated this text from German!