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By Weston Gaylord, StoryFile Associate Creative Director

On June 6th, StoryFile previewed a one-of-a-kind project: Tell Me, Inge…An Interactive Conversation with a Holocaust Survivor at Meta in Berlin.

We joined with Meta to create this curated exploratory case study centered on the Holocaust, combining Conversational Video AI technology with the immersive impact of VR & WebXR. The experience contains live-action 3D video of survivor Inge Auerbacher, along with hand-drawn 3D animation. The project is 100% free and will be available for audiences online, experienced in headset, desktop, or on a mobile device, in both English and German.

Tell Me, Inge… centers around Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher’s experience and memory as a survivor of the Theresienstadt ghetto and transit camp, where she survived as a 7-year old girl with her parents and her doll, called Marlene – named after Marlene Dietrich. The curated experience features memories from Inge’s childhood, including her time in Theresienstadt, and later memories in her adult life reflecting upon her survival.

Viewers will have the opportunity to speak to Inge and learn about an array of objects and artifacts from her life experiences. Our two-day interview in October 2022 was an extremely collaborative process and the crew often quipped that Inge was the “true director.”

While creating the experience in the post-production phase, we remained in constant communication with Inge herself, checking details and confirming recollections. We relied on photographic reference whenever possible, both historical photographs and 3D scans of Terezin as well as Inge’s own personal photos from childhood and post-war.

While creating an XR experience with Holocaust-related subject matter, we considered very carefully the level of immersion to impose on the viewer: creating a dynamic, engaging 360-degree experience, but without making it feel as if the events depicted are happening to the viewer. Even when some animated scenes surround the viewer in 360 degrees, a persistent floor and safe radius keep the viewer grounded in their present reality. 

We chose to pair Inge Auerbacher’s video testimony with hand-drawn 3D animation because we felt this would be a poignant and effective way to engage the viewer in the 360 XR environment, despite the difficult subject matter. The illustrated style is inherently subjective, and so matches the personal nature of Inge’s recollections, rather than imposing a burden of perfect photoreal accuracy.

The experience was launched at an invitation only preview event in Berlin on June 6th, and will receive a wider release in the United States later in the summer. Along with Meta the World Jewish Congress has joined with us as partners on the project. 

The ultimate goals of this project are to 1) share about the Holocaust experience through the personal lens of Inge’s memory and reflections; 2) explore the possibilities of a social impact project utilizing emerging technologies like Conversational Video AI and WebXR within the metaverse; 3) support ongoing efforts to counter antisemitism by sharing and making accessible Inge’s story to a German and a wider, global audience.