Chapter IV: Production Script

|| Return to Table of Contents ||

P R O D U C T I O N   S C R I P T

        Hor. LineLINE


            The project began in the Fall of 1992 with a plan to promote an educational experience centering around the Holocaust. The plan was a play, a videoconference, and a CD-ROM. This complex plan dissolved as funding fell through. Yet the entire project had been based on interacting with the audience. Instead of giving up the project, the entire process became dependent on the audience. This dependence was not simply one of assessing what would be best – since much of the excellent content was beyond the financial realities of the developer – but in generating content at all.


            Content development first began on the Internet, with a collection of black and white photographs depicting the horror of the Holocaust. While this approach was meant to show the atrocity and to implant it in the memory of the viewer, the choice to shut off was easier than the choice of looking at it. Pictures tell a thousand words, but obviously there had to be much more than the visuals.

            The initial attempt to go beyond the black and white photos was the collection of historian interviews in Israel. By sitting down in a room with a video camera and having a dialogue with those who taught and wrote about the Holocaust, the developer began the interactive role of multimedia development. The interviews with Yehuda Bauer of Hebrew University, Shalmi Barmore of Yad Vashem, Ely Ben-Gal of the Diaspora Museum, Uri Aloni of Lochmei Hagetaot (The Ghetto-Fighters’ Museum), and poet/filmmaker Chaim Gouri showed a need for content that didn’t try to explain or specifically teach a lessons. The interviews shared a single viewpoint; that recreating experiences or trying to provide explanation was fruitless; the best means to address the Holocaust on the terms of the individual were the survivor’s testimonies.

            Upon returning from Israel, the developer spent a year and a half pursuing access to such videos. Interviewing survivors was difficult; many had already donated their interviews as a contribution to the Jewish community to remember and did not want to do it again. The year and a half of contacting educational experts on the Holocaust paid off, however. The developer was given access to four videos by the Northern California Holocaust Center in November 1994. These videos were created by Bill Graham’s Oral History Project as a means of preserving history.

            The content developed around their voices, focusing on the stories they shared. Four paths represented the four survivors – Helen L., Walter F., Paul S., and Lucille E. – which composed the main elements of learning. A Path for Historians was created, with QuickTime movies and sound files of the interviews conducted in Israel. A path for Students incorporated the efforts of Chico State students in trying to learn about the Holocaust. The play Genericide was referred to as well through a few video shots and still photographs, as well as the music for the play which was also used as a soundtrack for the CD-ROM.

            The center of the CD-ROM content were the stories of the four survivors. To get materials, a simple request was made to the Holocaust Center of Northern California; provide 4 stories of the Holocaust, a man and woman from Germany along with a man and woman from outside Germany.The results of this simple and unscientific request were the stories of four children, all who lived through the Holocaust while in their teens or even younger. Paul S.’s story of survival was one of hiding from the Nazis. Having been raised in Vienna, Austria, he was forced to flee through Germany to Belgium. After the Nazi’s occupied Belgium, they took Paul’s father, whom he would never see again. The story of Paul’s hiding by Catholics in the hills of Belgium, while his mother lived and was miraculously left alone in Brussels, was a tale of righteous protectors and the threat that always loomed. Paul’s survival was undercut by his later discovery of how his father died. In the 1970s, Paul went back to Belgium and luckily found Nazi records from his time in Belgium, including the cold detail account of his father’s death by a Nazi bureaucrat. His story comes from the memory of a boy who was only 5 years old when his world was torn asunder, when as Paul states, “I grew up overnight.”

            Walter F. was a German Jew from Wiesbaden, whose family was forced to flee to Shanghai in 1939. Walter shared the story of his upraising in Germany, how the Nazis penetrated politics and society, how the Jewish citizens perceived the threat, the arrest of Walter and his father after Kristallnacht, and their experience in the early days of Buchenwald. Although Walter and his father, along with their immediate family, escaped to Shanghai (The only place one could travel without a visa, although it required a visa to get out of Germany!) they were not left alone. The Nazi threat was there as well. But the story of Walter was one of close calls, all of which he luckily escaped. Walter was 18 when Kristallnacht changed his life.

            The two women presented a different viewpoint, both having gone through the camps and survived. Helen L. was born in the former Czechoslovakia and at age 14 was forced into Auschwitz. Her journey through many small camps, her life being threatened as much by Russian soldiers as Germans, and her close friendship with her sister Toby formed the basis of her story. The brutality and cruelty she lived through did not diminish her viewpoint; Helen’s admission that surviving the Holocaust made her a “better person” was the inspiration for the survivor’s secret which students are challenged to discover. Friendship, luck, and a strong will and desire to survive created a survivor who shares the warmth and love that helped her get through the incredible and varied threats on her life.

            Lucille E. is the final survivor, born in Hamburg to Polish Jewish parents. Her world was not affected until 1939, when her family was taken to Poland. Her journey through Auschwitz, Neuengamme, Bergen-Belsen, and eventually to the United States showed the indescribable experiences of one who lived through the heart, and machine, of the Holocaust. Her chilling stories, the loss of her entire family, and her surrealistic meeting with an ex-Kapo in a department store in New York after the war show the tragedy and remarkable will of a survivor. Her best friend and Lucille lived through the Holocaust together, a story which like Helen L.’s displayed the power of support and friendship. Lucille was only a teenager when the Holocaust shattered her life.

            The most compelling part of the Students path was the art of sixth graders from Paradise, California. A teacher, Anne Williams, had encouraged her classes to create art and poetry about the Holocaust as a means of using imagination instead of explanation to learn history. Their efforts were included in this path and formed the illustrations for the survivors’ stories. All of the survivors had been children. By illustrating the stories with the art of children, the metaphor of learning moved from a content centered on horror to one looking at history through a child’s eyes.

            By engaging the audience in what they would like on the CD-ROM, the developer was put into contact with survivors’ videos and childrens’ paintings. These resources were available and provided a rich learning tool that no one had put together before. The audience had provided the materials and the direction of the project. as follows.

        Content Summary

        • Survivors’ videos from the Northern California Holocaust Center included Paul S., Lucille E., Walter F., and Helen L.

        • 38 photos (7.5 MB JPEG) of Holocaust materials from the Internet

        • 30 color slides of children’s artwork from Therisienstadt camp, If I Never Saw Another Butterfly collection

        • 30 slides from Dachau camp

        • Videotapes of leading historians on Holocaust, including Yehuda Bauer, Ely Ben-Gal, Shalmi Barmore of Yad Vashem, and Uri Aloni of Ghetto Fighter’s Museum, taken by developer in the Summer of 1993.

        • Videotape of Yad Vashem – interior and exterior shots

        • Artwork from 6th grade class in Paradise: 55 total

        • Original artwork created by the developer and Art Director

        • Music and sound effects from Genericide, for the CD-ROM

        • Interface and graphic design by developer


            In 1993 grants were prepared and mailed to several organizations. The opportunity to produce a multimedia project about the Holocaust, using student developers, was denied. While several grants were pending for 1995, the outlook for financing was not promising. Work on the play Genericide proceeded for a year and a half. In the Fall of 1993 the HRC was forming; the developer wrote the grants. He was able to get Genericide into the university theatre as the opening event of the HRC year, directed towards students. The first objective was to inform people of the production itself, through a public performance. By asking people questions, bringing them to the play and promoting awareness, the vehicle for interaction became the knowledge that a living project was happening. While the play was not a success, the act of creating it and publicizing it drew attention to the project. The play became the catalyst because it was not just a plan, but a physical reality. Regardless of quality, the audience now had something real to refer to, which helped generate content for the CD-ROM.

            Equipment for the project was purchased in January 1994. The developer’s platform was a Macintosh Quadra 840AV, 16MB RAM, 1 GB hard drive, as well as a SyQuest 105 MB disk drive. For the digitizing of video and audio for the project, a grant from the IMC (Instructional Media Center) provided access to a VideoVision video board.


            Slides were scanned and authoring packages studied in the first half of 1994. The software to present the project was selected: Macromind’s Director for the interactive storytelling, and Adobe’s Photoshop for the artwork. These choices were based on the software that would best handle development for both Macintosh and Windows platforms. In June the project began with the simultaneous production of the play Genericide and the CD-ROM development. While continuing to pursue elusive videos and artwork, the play was cast and rehearsals began in July for August 24-28 production. Music for the play and CD-ROM were recorded onto DAT tape in June 1994 with a local musician/recording engineer, Luis Santos.

            Permissions and survivors’ videos were provided in November 1994. Production testing of interfaces proceeded in January and February 1995. In March 1995, the acquisition of the Paradise children’s artwork changed the scope of the project and the interface. Adaptations were made and the survivors’ videos were digitized in March 1995. Final production of the CD-ROM prototype was completed in the summer.

        Approach to Production

            Given the constraints of time and labor, the project faced a question of how to prepare and deliver materials which were low on quality and frightening. Was there room to interact? The Genericide audience had requested survivors’ stories as the basis; while this was biased given the nature of the play, it had to be trusted. By creating a simple approach to navigation that depended on listening, interaction was based on stories and gathering clues to change the title of the CD-ROM. By breaking down the videotaped interviews into stories, the interactions were designed around the memories expressed by the survivors.

        Interface Production

            The design of the interface used Laurel’s book Computers as Theatre and the production of the play Genericide as influences to contacting the audience. Direct engagement for the audience of the CD-ROM had to begin with the direct engagement of the developer with the public. By talking, interviewing, and participating in the creation of community efforts to explore the issue, the developer drew on more than just a plan to create a CD-ROM.

            The design of this CD-ROM was simplified to six paths. The menorah of the main screen created a quiet, contemplative atmosphere of candles with an appropriate soundtrack. By clicking on a blue word, the person moves through the CD-ROM. A QuickTime shuttle for playing audio and video is also allowed. These are the only two means of navigating, providing a use of color and choice that is taught in the introduction.

            Navigation was centered on the right hand side of the screen, where a list of six to seven stories was available. When clicking on a story, another list appeared in the same place, with the selected story becoming the heading. A simple click on the survivor’s name, located under a picture above the story listing, brought back the initial list. By centering on content and navigating through it, a pattern would emerge. Variables were attached to the stories, and specifically to the clues leading to a change in the title; the pattern of usage leads to an opportunity to discover the secret path to Never Again. This was communicated throughout the experience at the bottom of the screen. When enough clues have been gathered, the user was encouraged to explore a new, secret path, which yielded questions and lit the Never Again candle, while also changing the title of the CD-ROM to Never Again/Stories of Children, Survival, and the Holocaust.

        Audio and Video Production

            Audio and video production consisted of recording interviews with Israeli historians, creating music and sounds for the play Genericide which were used on the CD-ROM, and digitizing the recordings of the survivors. While some editing was required, most of the pieces had to be less than a few minutes to play back. This limitation to sound bites and excerpts (a limitation also of text on the screen) forced a selection process that provided random stories, viewpoints, experiences, and feelings. A total of over three hours of survivor’s stories was made available, with another half hour from historians.


            The interactive design of the project was an ongoing process. The multimedia field is continually changing, making certain technologies obsolete in the course of a few months. At the beginning of this project, the software available was not able to handle many of the chores. Storytelling and narrative were elements of traditional literature and presentations that have changed over thousands of years. This tradition was one often ignored with the illusion that new technologies imply a ridding of the old ways. This project found that going back to tradition and merging it with the limited possibilities of current multimedia technology did not hinder the process.

        Go to the Top of the Page || Return to Table of Contents