W&J German Professor Gives Digital Update to Holocaust Memorial Tracking

Buchenwald Memorial

WASHINGTON, PA (Oct. 25, 2019)—When Professor of German Michael Shaughnessy, Ph.D., noticed a lack of digital resources around the mapping of Holocaust memorials in Germany, he knew it was time for an upgrade.

With funding from the Kenneth M. Mason Sr. Summer Grant for Faculty Research, Dr. Shaughnessy used the summer of 2019 to begin a project to remedy that. The German professor is creating augmented maps with more detailed information and photos than are currently available through major online mapping services. He’s also creating a database to store and analyze memorial data across Germany. He has a three-year plan for the creation and implementation of this database and will employ undergraduate students as research assistants in the project.

“In a world that has access to most all information, it seems odd that the digital world seems to have left the Holocaust behind,” Dr. Shaughnessy said.

Specifically, popular mapping system like Google Maps lack details about most Holocaust memorials. Dr. Shaughnessy has already cataloged more than 2,000 memorials and could identify between 4,000 and 5,000 more in Germany alone. They include statues, plaques commemorating an area or group of people, buildings or sites of former buildings or structures, and more. Much of his work will implement primary sources, including his own travel to monuments to photograph and document information online that currently only exists in physical or print form.

He hopes to go live with his database in 2020 or 2021. The goal is to create a public resource to which others can add information and share that history freely.

“Memorials are meant to engage the public. They aren’t meant to be hidden,” Dr. Shaughnessy said. “Especially in an age of rising antisemitism and hate crimes, Holocaust history is a subject we all need to examine more.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.