On the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a group of institutions devoted to Holocaust memory, a technology company and the cultural arm of the United Nations says it is creating a virtual-reality project that will tell the story of the events of Nov. 9-10, 1938 and their aftermath.
The project will debut next year, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims (Claims Conference), USC Shoah Foundation, Meta, World Jewish Congress and U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced on Nov. 9.
In the Kristallnacht pogroms in 1938, “91 Jews were murdered, more than 1,400 synagogues across Germany and Austria were torched, and Jewish-owned shops and businesses were plundered and destroyed,” Yad Vashem describes. “In addition, the Jews were forced to pay ‘compensation’ for the damage that had been caused and approximately 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.”
The project has been in the works since long before Hamas’s brutal attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, JNS was told.
“Kristallnacht was a signal that the world’s Jews were in grave danger—illustrating the perils of hatred,” Greg Schneider, executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told JNS.
“Somehow now, the sounds and symbols are fearfully similar. History has provided a roadmap that we must use to inform our future,” Schneider added. “Inside Kristallnacht, was developed to help illuminate that path, to bring people inside this pivotal moment to show them what happens when hatred is left unchecked.”
The virtual-reality project will feature Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor who was 6 years old during Kristallnacht. She is a former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and is currently commissioner for Holocaust memory at the World Jewish Congress.
“After that night, everything changed,” Knobloch says of Kristallnacht, in a trailer of the forthcoming project. “The Nazis came to terrorize the Jewish community. Our community.”
She and her father left their home. (Her mother had abandoned them two years earlier.)
“We wandered the freezing streets for hours,” she said. “Everywhere we went, we saw destruction. The Nazis ransacked and burnt my school and the synagogue next to it. They took so many people away that night—thousands of men sent to concentration camps.”
“So much broken glass. Broken families. A broken nation,” she added. “But they didn’t break me. I survived to tell you my story. And it’s more important now than ever.”
“Kristallnacht was a critical moment in which antisemitic Nazi propaganda and antisemitism turned from words of hate into physical violence against Jews,” Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference, said in a release. “This Kristallnacht VR project combines cutting-edge technology with much-needed Holocaust education.”
The project, Taylor said, “provides a new lens to Holocaust education by providing an immersive experience that will help users, including future generations, understand the Holocaust from inside the historical moments in a way that has never been possible.”
The completed project will feature “real-life footage and photos of Kristallnacht combined with Knobloch sharing the moments her family experienced before, during and after Kristallnacht in an immersive, interactive and virtual setting,” per a release. That will allow users to “experience Knobloch’s memories,” including asking questions and having them answered, it stated.