Illinois Holocaust Museum Launches VR Exhibit

Now, a new pair of virtual reality shorts telling the stories of two survivors will allow visitors to hear those stories while experiencing immersive visuals that help explain their experiences. A film, titled A promise kept, tells the story of the late Frieda “Fritzie” Fritzshall, who was imprisoned and enslaved in Auschwitz as a teenager, and later served as the museum’s president until her death last year at the age of 91. year. Other imprisoned women would give Fritzshall, the youngest of a group of 600, crumbs of food. The title comes from Fritzshall’s promise that if she survived, she would tell their stories. Her grandson Scott Fritzshall says she was able to finish filming the project before she died.

Fritzie Fritzshall at the Auschwitz-Birkenau arrival ramp [Photo: courtesy Illinois Holocaust Museum]

“I think she was very happy that she was able to finish this,” he says. “It really represented for her, in a way, the last she had to give and really the culmination of her life’s work.”

The other movie Do not forget me, commemorates the experience of survivor George Brent in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Ebensee. It takes its title from the words that Brent’s father spoke to him at Auschwitz, before their separation. Brent was then sent to perform brutal forced labor in the other two camps.

“I always thought it was important not to forget, to remember,” says Brent, who is now 92 and retired from his dental practice. “Furthermore, if you meet people who deny it [you] should be able to answer it and bring up facts that will show that it really happened – that 6 million Jews were killed.

The slave labor tunnels of Austria’s Ebensee concentration camp are shown in the film Do not forget me. [Image: courtesy Illinois Holocaust Museum]

The two films, which are designed to be viewed through HTC Vive Pro VR headsets during screenings scheduled from January 27 at the Skokie Museum, take viewers to train stations, concentration camps and other sites involved in horrors experienced by the two survivors and others imprisoned. by the Nazi regime. The films allow viewers to turn their heads to explore the different locations as the survivors narrate, getting a feel for the shape and scope of the sites in a way that would be difficult to convey with traditional video.

“Pretty much everywhere, viewers were touched by this in ways they couldn’t have expected,” said museum CEO Susan Abrams. “They feel like they’re right there having this intimate one-on-one experience with this incredible human being.”

[Photo: Scott Edwards]

The team that created the video experiences wanted to make sure they would stand the test of time, says Chris Healer, founder of Eyelash, a design and production company that worked on the films.

“Our goal is to create a piece that people will continue to respond to for at least the next 10 years,” he says. The production process took more than two years and involved complex techniques to stitch together footage of survivors with drone and other camera footage of Holocaust sites, along with historical artwork and photos. The videos, which will also be viewable on Google Cardboard and other simple VR headsets for offsite displays at schools and other venues, have so far only garnered comments on the stories they tell. and not on the technical aspects, which Healer considers a sign of success.

“When we show it to people, they’re just in the story, and that’s huge,” he says.

[Photo: Emily Mohney]

For the museum, VR technology makes it possible to share the stories of survivors with visitors today and generations to come. As Abrams notes, “I feel like it’s Fritzie and George’s gift to mankind.”

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