Reading and studying war letters of WWII. From collecting, digitising, transcribing to reading and understanding of ego-documents of Luxembourgish conscripts – Teaching with War letters and Transkribus in Summer Semester 2022 at the University of Luxembourg

Course Content

The study of the Second World War is not only composed of the public and official records; there are other sources to consider here, the so-called “ego-documents” such as diaries and letters. Letters are a unique source and provide more information about individual fates than administrative records. When the letters are preserved, they can provide insights into the stories of the people concerned. What can these letters tell us from an analytical and scientific point of view?

The letters, written on the war front or in the labour camps, represent only a small section of the war experiences and their fates. To gain insight into our objects of study, i.e. personal and individual views, it is suitable to consult ego-documents such as the field post letters.

For this, however, the historical documents must be prepared for analysis and reading. The meta-data must be recorded, the letter digitised, and the content transcribed. After the preparation of the material and its information, the content must now be examined. What did the author of the letter write and to whom? Under what circumstances did he write about violence, killings at the front or only about harmless situations?The ego-documents are considered unique and additional sources to the official and public records. Nevertheless, they must be viewed with great caution and criticism. These personal documents are an expression of subjective perceptions and undoubtedly require a source-critical reading.


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