Diaries of the World War I

Tagebücher des ersten Weltkrieg / Des armes et des mots is the twin title of a twin multimedia project on the Great War, which originates from a French-German cooperation. We should state immediately why we were particularly convinced by it among the floods of initiatives rising around the Centenary. Both its content and media are really fine and moreover wisely combined with each other, that’s why it enables the contemporary public to have new insights into the WWI, beyond any rhetoric. The project mixes up in fact a film production and a web portal and exploits so different communications techniques and succeeds so to value the documents (especially old photos are nicely integrated in the editing of these documentaries), on the one hand. On the other hand the content is not moved to the background but is the real core of the project so that one immediately perceives a truthful urgency to communicate it. An international team of professional historians and authors has worked many years to research and analyze more than 1.000 diaries and letters collections in order to select at the end a small number of personal fates, 14 touching life-stories of the WWI. And these 14 men and women are not generals or politicians, but simple soldiers or nurses, mothers and children overwhelmed by the war, coming from Germany, Austro-Hungarian Empire, French, England, Russia, USA and Australia. Rather than the battles and political events, the plain truth of human existence emerges thanks to this international choir which sings the common fears and pains, wishes and ideals, in short the concrete and minimal happenings of an everyday life in war time. This enables a deep compassion: according to the etymology of this word, we can share the basic feelings of all these men and women, relying on the common human nature and its essential rules and necessities; at the same time we do not run the risk to abstract these personal histories from their unique existential and historical contexts.

The crucial events and the turning points in the lives of the protagonists – especially in the time span 1914-1918 – are organized in thematic units (ranging from the ruin and the attack, to the anguish and the sadness, from the homesickness, the disaster, the homeland, to the insurrection and the ruins). The time gap between witnesses from the past and reconstruction at the present are not only visualized and summarized in the interactive homepage but also sewed up very well in the documentaries, which were broadcasted by the Franco-German channel ARTE and are now upcoming on the German channel Das Erste. A very interesting project, which shows how to combine multimedia and historical research in a profitable way.
Further information, also concerning the related books and DVDs, here.