News | RTL Group | Potsdam, 07/07/2022

Volumetric Eyewitness Interview For Sachsenhausen Memorial Center

UFA and the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute presented the virtual reality project “Ernst Grube – The Legacy” at the Sachsenhausen Memorial, in the presence of Holocaust survivor Ernst Grube. Using VR glasses, visitors can have a virtual encounter with the contemporary witness Ernst Grube – life-size and three-dimensional – in a room in the former prison laundry.

UFA and the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute recently unveiled the virtual reality project “Ernst Grube – The Legacy” at the Sachsenhausen Memorial site in the presence of Holocaust survivor Ernst Grube. A “volumetric” eyewitness interview with Ernst Grube, produced with elaborate technology, is available to the memorial’s visitors through the end of October. At a cube in a room in the former prison laundry, four people at a time can use VR glasses to experience a virtual encounter with contemporary witness Ernst Grube, life-size and in three dimensions.

“In the multifaceted work of remembrance, our reports as survivors of Nazi persecution remain an important contribution,” said Ernst Grube. “These direct testimonies will be gone with our passing. Can the new volumetric display document and convey our narratives more impressively? I myself am very impressed by the technical realization of this first example, which is about my persecution and that of my family. Now I am curious and eager to see what impact it will have, especially on younger people who engage with the story. Will they be more intensely moved; will they reflect and inquire?”

Conversation with 16-year-old student filmed

Born in Munich in 1932 to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father, Ernst Grube survived Theresienstadt, a concentration camp-like ghetto. In August 2019, he was recorded in the volumetric studio using 32 cameras as he told then 16-year-old student Phil Carstensen about his experiences in Nazi Germany and his deportation to Theresienstadt. As a contemporary witness, Grube has been recounting his family’s persecution for many years at memorials, schools and educational institutions, as well as in TV and radio programs, and advocates tirelessly for active democracy. Grube is, among other things, a long-standing member of the Association of Survivors of Nazi Persecution / League of Anti-Fascists, President of the Dachau Camp Community and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bavarian Memorials Foundation.

“Using volumetric video, we have created a unique way of preserving eyewitness interviews with Holocaust survivors for future generations and making them a true-to-life experience,” explains Oliver Schreer from the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute’s “Immersive Media and Communication” department and technical director of the project. “The powerful and versatile technology that we have developed offers enormous potential for a culture of education and remembrance. We are presenting our VR experience ‘Ernst Grube – The Legacy’ to the public for the first time. A ‘walk-through film’ with a Holocaust survivor in this form is unique worldwide at this point. And in the Sachsenhausen Memorial, we have found the ideal place to show our virtual reality project. Especially at a time when anti-Semitic tendencies are emerging again, this is more important than ever.”

‘Maintaining a culture of remembrance’

Joachim Kosack, Managing Director of UFA and UFA Serial Drama, adds: “There are not many contemporary witnesses left who can tell of the horrific Holocaust. That’s why it’s all the more important to keep these memories alive for posterity. And so the aim of the ‘Contemporary Witnesses’ project UFA implemented together with the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute was to document accounts of the atrocities of National Socialism for future generations and to contribute to Germany’s culture of remembrance. The memories of Holocaust survivor Ernst Grube were captured using volumetric video technology to record him at the volumetric studios of Volucap GmbH, a company  in Potsdam-Babelsberg and producing a ‘walk-through film’ from his life story. We are very proud and grateful that the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial Center is now making our volumetric film ‘Ernst Grube – The Legacy’ available to the public. Especially now, when anti-Semitic tendencies are becoming frighteningly visible again, it is more important than ever to call attention to this, and we are very pleased that our VR Experience can set a milestone in maintaining our necessary culture of remembrance.”

It is the memorial center’s first virtual-reality application

Completed in March 2022 in cooperation with INVR Space, the approximately 50-minute VR eyewitness interview with Ernst Grube consists of five episodes, from his parents’ home in Munich to the Theresienstadt ghetto. Users can participate in Grube’s narrative as if they were standing directly facing him. The photorealistic three-dimensional representation of the contemporary witness is achieved with the technology of volumetric video. The video information is used to calculate a three-dimensional image of Ernst Grube that can be directly integrated into a virtual world. The individual stages of his life are illustrated in a virtual environment, making it possible to experience them in a new way.