For the first time, virtual reality will transport viewers to a pivotal moment in the history of the Holocaust: Kristallnacht.
The Claims Conference (CC) has commissioned the USC Shoah Foundation and XR company makemepulse to create “Inside Kristallnacht, a first-of-its-kind mixed reality experience focusing on the events of November 9-10, 1938. Inside Kristallnacht will feature Kristallnacht survivor Dr. Charlotte Knobloch as she guides users through interactive reconstructions of spaces, such as synagogues, that were destroyed during Kristallnacht, in addition to archival photos, video footage, and authentic audio recordings of speeches by members of the Third Reich—all in service of providing the user with context and information. Using XR and natural language processing technology, users can interact with Dr. Knobloch and ask questions.
Inside Kristallnacht’s engaging approach to history will grant users full immersion into one of the most critical moments of the Holocaust’s early stages. Either as a tool for educators or as a powerful interactive experience for the public, Inside Kristallnacht will offer a deep-dive perspective on the 20th century’s most horrific period.
Inside Kristallnacht will be accessible through VR headset, internet browser, and mobile devices, and can be used as a tool for Holocaust education and the spreading of Holocaust awareness. The project is intended for online, museum and educational distribution.
In the video, Knobloch walks the viewer through the streets of her childhood neighborhood in Munich, Germany just like she did with her father on November 9, 1938. Born in 1932, she remembers the Kristallnacht pogroms against the Jews, the moment when hatred climaxed and became acts of violence, when average citizens turned on their long-time neighbors, roaming the streets in mobs, breaking the glass of Jewish homes and shops.
Holocaust survivor and featured storyteller
It is imperative at this moment in history that we do everything in our power to elevate Holocaust education and to get it into the hands and minds of future generations. Antisemitism is on the rise throughout the world – it exists today as it always has. If we do not continue to keep the memory of the past alive and push the lessons of the Holocaust, they will soon be forgotten, and we will be doomed to repeat our history. As those of us who survived pass on, these tools, this technology will continue to be our voice and our testimony.
Claims Conference President
Kristallnacht was a critical moment in which antisemitic Nazi propaganda and antisemitism turned from words of hate into physical violence against Jews. This Kristallnacht VR project combines cutting-edge technology with much-needed Holocaust education. This important collaboration provides a new lens to Holocaust education by providing an immersive experience that will help users, including future generations, understand the Holocaust from inside the historical moments in a way that has never been possible.
Claims Conference Executive Vice President
The time is fast approaching when we will soon lose first-hand testimonies like Charlotte’s as this generation of Holocaust survivors continues to wane. It is critical that we find new and innovative ways to capture and share their experiences so that future generations can hear and understand the critical lesson of the Holocaust. Survivors often ask me, ‘Who will remember what happened when we are gone?’ With these new virtual reality capabilities, future generations will be able to access these testimonies and experience the lessons of the Holocaust in ways that we couldn’t even imagine until now.
Finci-Viterbi Executive Director of
USC Shoah Foundation, UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education, Advisor to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance
Partnership and adherence to the historical record will guarantee a future for Holocaust memory, and the USC Shoah Foundation is honored to partner with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (or Claims Conference) on this leading-edge immersive project. Technological innovation and cooperation are essential to preserve authentic Holocaust experiences and voices and to honor the wishes of survivors for future generations.
Public Policy Director, Israel & the Jewish Diaspora at Meta
In a world where the memory of Kristallnacht’s horrors are threatened to fade with time, technology stands as our steadfast ally to preserve the voices of Holocaust survivors. As we mark the 85th anniversary of the gruesome events of November 9th, 1938, we congratulate Claims Conference on realizing the Kristallnacht VR project. Meta believes in XR-technology as a vital tool for education and in this context, as an enabler for future generations to bear witness to the past and take on responsibility to prevent such darkness in the present.
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education
The November pogroms revealed the true nature of Nazi policy against Jews. For many, it marked the beginning of the end. Voices like Charlotte Knobloch’s remind us of our duty to remember, learn and educate about the Holocaust so that it will never be forgotten. UNESCO supports this important initiative and innovative use of technology to preserve and elevate the voices of survivors that should always be part of our collective memory.
President of the World Jewish Congress
The haunting legacy of Kristallnacht serves as a stark reminder of the profound implications it had for the Jewish people, leading to the darkest chapters of the Holocaust. Given the recent tragic events of Hamas’ October 7th terror attack, which claimed the lives of over 1,400 Jews, this project is more crucial now than ever. By immersing individuals in Charlotte Knobloch’s experiences, we emphasize the importance of remembering our past and using it as a reference point to combat hate and ensure such horrors are never repeated.
The completed project will include real-life footage and photos of Kristallnacht combined with Knobloch sharing the moments her family experienced before, during and after Kristallnacht in an immersive, interactive and virtual setting, allowing the user to experience Knobloch’s memories. Users will be able to engage in a Q&A, asking questions about Kristallnacht, Knobloch’s family and the Holocaust in general. The full immersive VR experience and accompanying education materials will be released in 2024.
Charlotte Knobloch (née Neuland) was born on October 29, 1932, in Munich, Germany, to affluent Jewish lawyers. Raised by her grandmother following her parents’ divorce, Knobloch knew antisemitism from a very young age. She spent the night of Kristallnacht on the streets of Munich with her father in fear that the Nazis would target their home given her father’s prominence. She remembers the noise, the shouting, the smoke billowing from the windows of her local synagogue, and remembers seeing Nazi Storm Troopers dragging a neighbor from his home, blood slick on his face.
After a handful of years of anguish, anxiety, and fear, an edict was passed demanding that children and the elderly be sent to Theresienstadt. For their family, that meant either nine-year-old Charlotte or her beloved grandmother. Her grandmother told Charlotte that she was going to a health spa for treatment, but the unspeakable truth was apparent: she had taken Charlotte’s place. If it weren’t for her grandmother’s heroism, Charlotte Knobloch would not be with us today.
Shortly thereafter, little Charlotte was confronted with the most difficult moment of her life: saying goodbye to her father, perhaps for the last time. Her father sent her to live on a rural German farm run by a selfless Catholic maid formerly employed by her uncle to hide for the duration of the war as a Christian.
Years of despair and crushing uncertainty followed until one miraculous day at the end of May 1945, her father appeared. She could immediately see the toll that the war had extracted from him: he was battered and weak, but he was alive. Reunited, they returned to Munich where Charlotte learned that so much of her family had perished.
Contrary to what she envisioned for herself, Knobloch remained in Germany, eventually becoming a leader in the Jewish community of Munich and Upper Bavaria and dedicating her life to combating antisemitism. She served as the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Vice President of the European Jewish Congress, and is the World Jewish Congress Commissioner for Holocaust Memory.
USC Shoah Foundation
Munich City Archives
LBI Photograph Collection
Bavarian State Library
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
About the Claims Conference
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), a nonprofit organization with offices in New York, Israel, Germany and Austria, secures material compensation for Holocaust survivors around the world.
Founded in 1951 by representatives of 23 major international Jewish organizations, the Claims Conference negotiates for and disburses funds to individuals and organizations and seeks the return of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust.
As a result of negotiations with the Claims Conference since 1952, the German government has paid more than $90 billion in indemnification to individuals for suffering and losses resulting from persecution by the Nazis.
In 2023, the Claims Conference will distribute approximately $562 million in compensation to over 200,000 survivors in 83 countries and allocate over $750 million in grants to over 300 social service agencies worldwide that provide vital services for Holocaust survivors, such as home care, food and medicine.
All content ⒸConference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference)