Auschwitz Today is a short format web documentary based on the impressionistic visual work of photographer Martin Blume we produced for the German „Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung“.
Auschwitz – the place that more than any other symbolises the horror of the Nazi extermination machine. The name of this town in the south of Poland stands for the murder of millions of Jews, Sinti, Roma and countless other individuals who, according to Nazi race ideology, were not part of the “Volksgemeinschaft”. The mention of Auschwitz-Birkenau inevitably conjures a series of recurring images in people’s minds: the entrance building at Birkenau, the train tracks covered in snow, the cynical slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (Work brings freedom). These images have become sadly familiar signs or symbols. Because they are often shown in the media, they are well-known to the general public, supporting the widely held belief that we know “everything” about Auschwitz. Not surprisingly, it is a frequent observation that National Socialism as a classroom subject elicits weariness and boredom from students – despite studies showing that the public’s actual knowledge is sketchy at best.
The web documentary encourages viewers to take a closer look and approach the subject in their own, personal way, beyond moralistic appeals to “prevent this from happening again” and expectations in terms of social attitudes. We had to tackle a few challenges with this web documentary, that is a lot different from and more artsy than most of our other work. There was no obvious storyline, no narration or character to follow. In Auschwitz only the place remains. So the basic premise of the storyline we came up with was that it has two ‘layers’: the visual subjective present day photography supported by selected video sequences in the same style, and the factual rendering of mundane reports of the past. When appropriate the storyline ‘snaps’ from the subjective layer to the very factual and for a brief moment we realize the parts of the horrors that lies beneath the mundane and the practical.
Besides the main film we produced four encounters between survivors and Blume, who suggested to use his photographs to trigger their memories and an interview with the photographer on his motivations, his approach of the topic and how working on site is influencing him as an artist and human being.