Behind the scenes: digitisation of East German WW2 propaganda films

Ramona Salzgeber from the Centre of Eastern German Studies is working with us at Special Collections as an intern. For research purposes she is working to digitise propaganda films from WW2 and films from the DDR from the CEGS archival collection which will later be transferred to Special Collections for storage.

VHS tapes Ramona is working to digitse here at Special Collections

Working with old film material can be very interesting. Most of the films that are dealt with at the Centre of Eastern German Studiesare propaganda films and films from the DDR time. The propaganda films show mostly the “happy and fun” time from WW2 and would not make you think of war time or pre-war time. Additionally, films from the DDR can be under censorship which did not allow any references to the war at all.

As the films are on old video cassettes, they have to be digitized in order to save the. Most of those films in the Archive were recorded in the 80s and 90s when people still had to process a lot from the past century.

What a lot of people may have forgotten about those old video tapes, is that every time you play the cassette it gets slightly broken. Therefore, a cassette cannot be played forever. That’s when my part in the Archive starts. I copy the films in real time, which means I also watch every film I archive. If you are interested in history this is definitely a dream job!

Many of those cassettes are not working properly anymore and digitizing them can be quite difficult. The sound can change sometimes and pictures start to flare occasionally. It is important though to keep going as this might be the last chance to save all this old film material. This is part of history and it should be available for later researching purposes.

It is to say that there are also many documentaries which might be depressing sometimes, as they are from WW2 times. But this is why we work with history, to learn from it and hopefully to prevent it from happening again!

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