Holocaust Remembrance Evolving with Tourism and Technology

Apr 5, 2018

There comes a time when every new generation has to learn about one of the greatest atrocities in world history: the Holocaust. This year's Holocaust Remembrance Day is on April 12, and how we learn about and remember the Holocaust as survivors pass away is evolving.

On this Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe is joined by Jeremy Best, assistant professor of history at Iowa State University, and Dan Reynolds, Seth Richards professor at Grinnell and author of Postcards from Auschwitz: Holocaust Tourism and the Meaning of Remembrance.

"Numbers of people who are traveling to sites like Auschwitz-Birkenau, to the memorial museum there, are actually reaching record numbers still," Reynolds says. "I think part of that is also explained by the awareness that the Holocaust is bound to disappear from lived memory."

Still, some people are wary of mixing tourism with Holocaust remembrance. Reynolds says he doesn't see Holocaust tourism diminishing any time soon.

"Tourism is a way of confronting the hard reality that this is something that occurred in our world, in the space that we still inhabit and that we come too late to have prevented it," he says.

As primary sources become more rare, another quandary emerges: technology. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and even holograms may be used to bring Holocaust survivors' stories to life. 

"The desire to be able to provide students and visitors with an educational experience is driving a desire to use new technology in innovative ways, to recover the sense of immediacy that we're going to lose," Reynolds says. "At what point does the testimony become something less than the direct testimony of the survivor?"

Later in the hour, Iowa City native Emily Maxwell shares her experience mushing nearly 1000 miles in Alaska for this year's Iditarod.