The Bullenhuser Damm Memorial commemorates 20 Jewish children and at least 28 adults who were murdered by the SS in the basement of an empty school building on April 20, 1945. Before their murder, the children were abused for pseudo-medical experiments in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp. Conveying this story to teenagers and young adults without overwhelming them with immersive game effects is a central challenge in this project by the Foundation of Hamburg Memorials and Learning Centres Commemorating the Victims of Nazi Crimes together with Paintbucket Games.
The game puts the players into the perspective of students of the school Bullenhuser Damm in the late 1970s. They discover traces that lead them into the Nazi past and to the unimaginable crime. Through interaction with other people and the integration of different time levels, the players build their individual remembrance narrative from a subjective, personal perspective.
Which innovative element can digital games add to the discourse on remembrance culture?
If remembrance should be more than a static, ritualized process, then the experiences of the past must be related to the present – and ideally address options for action and dilemmas. The MEMO Youth Study 2023 shows that in dealing with the past, teenagers and young adults are looking for precisely these references to their own experiences in the present. They also have concrete ideas about how educational programs on National Socialism should be designed: Above all, visual and interactive. Digital games can combine many of these aspects in educational work: Like no other medium, they enable interaction, changeability, and a scope of action for the player. But the use of games in the context of remembrance culture is still restrained and cautious. A game is in alleged contradiction to a sensitive and serious confrontation with the crimes of the Nazi era. The focus of this project is therefore to choose an approach that is appropriate and sensitive to the topic without compromising the gaming experience.
With its funding, the Alfred Landecker Foundation focuses on "deep dives" in the field of digital remembrance culture, searching for and testing innovative paths. In this sense, networking and exchange with similar projects are an integral part of the development process of the game to contribute to this very young field in Germany and create an impact beyond the end of the project.