Sightlines: A visualisation of the Holocaust along two blocks in Hamburg

One of the striking things about the streetscape in Hamburg is the Stolpersteine. These are small brass memorials to Holocaust victims placed in the sidewalk outside the door of the house in which the victims lived. Here’s an example of one:

Stolperstein for Gertrud Johanna Alsberg (1895-1942) outside Schäferkampsallee 27, Hamburg, Germany

In Hamburg for the Digital Humanities conference, and staying at the NH Norge Hamburg, I was struck by the number of these stones that I pass. And perhaps more interestingly, how many were within view of each other. From Schäferkampsallee 28 (where Felix, Melanie, and Otto Spiro lived before they were deported in 1941) indeed, you can see every building that suffered a loss represented by the stones.

I once lived in a street where the immigration police raided an apartment next door to ours. Although I had not seen the raid (or known that the apartment was de facto dormitory for illegal immigrants), the raid impressed itself on my consciousness and that of our other neighbours. How much worse must it have been in the 1930s and 1940s in the Schäferkampsallee to see this number of people disappear in the course of approximately a decade.

Since I’m experimenting with use of KML–the markup language used to interface with Google Maps–I thought I would experiment  by visualising this idea of the sightline: what it was like to see your neighbours disappear over time.

View Sightlines: Holocaust and the Schäferkampsallee in a larger map

This is a preliminary attempt, using the Google UI and based solely on the information on the Stolpsteine. In future iterations, I hope to work directly with the underlying markup language, in order to add features like yearly snapshots, more detail about the victims, connections to political and historical events, and the state of the street (which appears to have been heavily bombed judging by the architecture) on a year-by-year basis.


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