Biographies of Conscripts – testing timeline

From our seminar Biographies of Luxembourgish male and female conscripts in the Wehrmacht and Reichsarbeitsdienst – Research Seminar on studying personal experiences in Luxembourg during the Second World War in the B.A. program “Cultures Européennes – Histoire” at the University of Luxembourg, 20 students researched and discovered the Biographies of conscripts and their war experiences during the WWII in Luxembourg

Link for the course description

In the first lectures, the students earned an overview of the topic and the research literature. In the next steps, the students had to analyse and understand the concept of a biography and the contextualization of the story of the individuals. With Knightlab, an open community of designers, developers, students, and educators at Northwestern University, to share information and digital storytelling projects, the students used a “timeline” for the biographies.

Here is one example for the timeline of a conscript:

The aim was that the student use digital tools and digital sources to express the biography of an individual and to embed his/her story into the context, here the context of WWII in Luxembourg:

The Occupation and the Announcement of the Military Service

The tool is a good practice but has its disadvantages; uploading of own pictures are not possible. The pictures and the images have to be online accessible (via Wikipedia or Flickr) or stored in a data cloud, which is not free of charge.

Links, videos etc. can be embedded in the storyline.

The whole summer semester at the University of Luxembourg 2021 was remote – so I had to develop digital sources and tools. Using the timeline with knighslab was a good practice to research and link sources and personal stories. But the tool lacks of the individual use of images or pdfs.

For the final oral presentation, the students could choose whether to use the timeline or a simple PowerPoint to visualise the biography. No student choose the timeline again. The use is rigid and, in the eyes of beginners, quite complicated. A google spreadsheet has to be filled to “fill” in the timeline (description of event, title and the link for an image or an online article/video). But I see in this little exercise the basics of using digital tools for historians. For project WARLUX, the team and I were using first excel sheets and single statements to build up a database for the biographies of the conscripts. Therefore the experience the students gained in this semester is valuable for the next generation of (digital) historians


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