Writer and director Luke Holland, who sadly passed away a year ago, was a great friend of the Library. He was a regular visitor at the Library and our events and always advocated our work. I was fortunate enough to meet Luke in 2018 when he came to our Russell Square building to continue our discussion about Final Account, the project which would be his last. Luke’s documentary project resulted in the collection of rare testimonies taken from elderly Germans who either participated or witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust. He wanted to bring the Library on board to act as a repository so these voices would be preserved for future generations.

Luke had not known that his Viennese maternal grandparents were Jewish and had been murdered in the Nazi concentration camps. The need to explore his family history and the urge to better understand what had happened to his own family, took him on a journey to interview everyday German and Austrian citizens who had been members of the SS, Wehrmacht soldiers, concentration camp guards, and other witnesses. People opened up to Luke’s camera; more than 250 men and women.

Professor Mary Fulbrook, University College London, commented that the documentary:

“Would leave viewers with no doubt that, even in the early moments when prejudice was expressed via those little microaggressions in everyday life, Nazis knew what they were doing.”

This collection of testimonies is as difficult to listen to as the reports the Library collected immediately after Kristallnacht in November 1938, or during our 1950s project to collect eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution.

Mother and child passing by smashed shop windows after Kristallnacht in Magdeburg, November 1938
Mother and child passing by smashed shop windows after Kristallnacht in Magdeburg, November 1938.
Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.

We often think of perpetrators as those who directly commit violence, those who murder innocent people. However, with only his camera in hand, Luke wanted his audiences to understand the role of passive bystanders – those who justified to him their decisions to turn a blind eye.

Wehrmacht soldiers filming
Wehrmacht soldiers filming the Lvov pogrom of 30 June to 3 July 1941.
Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
A Jewish man is paraded through a street among a crowd of spectators
A Jewish man is paraded through a street in Vienna, Spring 1938, among a crowd of spectators.
Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.

Using testimonies from the Final Account collection, Compromised Identities explores this very question. The online exhibition at University College London investigates discrepancies between individual motives and behaviours and how the postwar political circumstances reframed the perpetrators’ own past. The exhibition points out that: “with a recent rise in racist and antisemitic acts, continued instances of collective violence, and renewed calls for reckoning with violent pasts, these reflections remain all too relevant today.”

The collection of interviews will be available at two places in the UK: at The Wiener Holocaust Library and University College London. Both institutions will provide free onsite access to all the video testimonies through a brand new online platform built by the French Institut National de l’audiovisuel.

Access to the Final Account collection at the Library

Access to the Resource is provided exclusively via a dedicated computer available in the Reading Room. The computer must be reserved in advance to avoid disappointment – please email us at [email protected] and we will try to accommodate your request. However, please note that this may not always be possible; hence, we will give you alternative dates.

Headphones will be provided, however feel free to bring your own if you prefer. 

Please note that access to the collection is controlled, conditional on the signature of a User Declaration, and restricted. Terms and Conditions for Access and Use apply. Select interviews remain closed until further notice. 

In addition, copy, photographs, audio or video record, download, edit, share, upload or otherwise distribute the video recordings, are NOT permitted at any time. Researchers will only be allowed to take notes.

Lastly, a hard-copy Finding Aid will be available to researchers.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the Collections Team at [email protected]

The Wiener Holocaust Library Subject Guides: War Crime Trials

The Library’s holdings on war crime trials largely pertain to those crimes committed by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Second World War. We do hold a small but growing section on war crime trials relating to other genocides.

Black and white photographs showing people in a courtroom
The accused at the Nuremberg Trial. The Nuremberg Trial was a trial that prosecuted the major Nazi war criminals for their crimes throughout the Second World War, including the Holocaust, in October-November 1946.
Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.

Suggested further readings

For more related sources, try a search for any of the following keywords in our Collections Catalogue: Postwar; Racial persecution; Third Reich (1933-1945); War crime trials; Memory.