VICTOR-E banner European post-WWII ruins

Project of the Month: ViCTOR-E

Posted: 16 November, 2022

Project name

ViCTOR-E – Visual Culture of Trauma, Obliteration and Reconstruction in Post-WW II Europe


Project team

Prof. Dr. Vinzenz Hediger

Project Leader

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Prof. Dr. Francesco Pitassio

Principal Investigator

Università degli Studi di Udine, Italy

Dr Lucie Cesalkova

Principal Investigator

Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

Prof. Dr. Sylvie Lindeperg

Principal Investigator

Université Paris 1 – Sorbonne Panthéon, France

Dr. Andrea Haller

Project Coordinator

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Dr. Rossella Catanese


Università degli Studi di Udine, Italy

Dr. Simone Dotto


Università degli Studi di Udine, Italy

Dr. Ondřej Haváč


Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences

Dr. Andrea Průchová Hrůzová


Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences

Johannes Rhein


Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Dr. Perrine Val


Université Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne, France

Dr. Paolo Villa


Università degli Studi di Udine, Italy

Project online exhibition page screenshot

ViCTOR-E project ‘Frames of Reconstruction’ online exhibition page

Describe your project in 1-2 sentences

ViCTOR-E explores non-fiction films about the rebuilding of local, national and transnational communities across Europe in the period from 1945-1956 and asks how the audiovisual representations of public spaces – and particularly the documentation of war damage and of reconstruction efforts – have shaped the politics, policies and polities of post-WW II Europe.

Program leaflet for the short films cinema „Čas“ (1953)

Program leaflet for the short films cinema “Čas” (1953), with a motive of reconstruction in the illustration at the top of the page. Source: NFA.

Describe your project development to date

General Research, archival and oral history research

Framing post-war culture as a culture of trauma and transition and looking at public space as a privileged site for the discursive construction of regional, national and supra-national communities, ViCTOR-E studies the political iconography of public spaces in non-fiction film from the cessation of hostilities (1944-45) until the Thaw (1956) in a transnational, comparative perspective and with regard to a wider historical visual culture, including photographs, maps or popular culture.

To do so we explored numerous (film) archives where we gathered and analysed filmic and non-film materials. Furthermore, we selected films that have been digitized and made accessible to the public in the framework of the project

In addition to that, over 40 oral history interviews with eyewitnesses from our research period have been conducted in the Czech Republic, Italy, France and Germany during the last two years.

Our research efforts not only resulted in numerous academic publication but in the development of the Online Exhibition “Frames of Reconstruction” designed for a wider audience.

Conferences, Publications

The Czech team of the CRP has organized the mid-term (online) conference “Migrating Archives of Reality. Programming, Curating, and Appropriation of Non-fiction Film” [image 10_]

The final conference” The Reconstruction of Post-World-War II Europe through Visual Arts ” organised by the French unit taken place at the INHA (Institut National de l’Histoire de l’Art) in Paris in April 2022, [image 09_]
Link to CFP:


The CRP has prepared and delivered several joint papers and panels [see list] and is currently preparing the final volume Non-fiction Cinema in Post-war Europe. Visual Culture and Reconstruction of Public Space, a collection of essays from members of the CRP as well as other experts that will be published by Amsterdam UP both in print and in Gold Open Access at the beginning of 2023.

Apart from that, a publication of the proceedings of our mid-term conference “Migrating Archives of Reality” has already been published as a special issue of Iluminace. The Journal of Film Theory, “History and Aesthetics, Migrating Archives of Reality. Programming, Curating, and Appropriation of Non-Fiction Film”, 1/2022, has already been published. OA at

Virtual exhibition and film collections, film screenings

The units organised several film screenings on various topics in the framework of the project in museums and cinemas and workshops with partners from the cultural, archival and pedagogical sector. Most recently a retrospective at the 25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival about the Karlovy Vary film festival: „Karlovy Vary as the Documentary Rupture of the Iron Curtain“

Workshops and seminars with history teachers and high school students, i.e. “Non-fiction cinema for public history. Postwar Italy between audiovisual sources and collective memory” (Oct 2020), were held by the Italian unit.

The most important outcome of VICTOR-E is the Online Exhibition “Frames of Reconstruction. Realities and Visions of Recovering Europe. Documentary Film in Postwar Visual Culture” ( which presents archival sources, including film clips, photographs, written sources and witnesses’ interviews and introductory texts and information about important persons and events. The exhibition addresses researchers, teachers and students in secondary and tertiary education as well as the broader public

Amateur photo from the volunteer brigade during the reconstruction of Brno in 1954. Source: National Archive CR, fund Ministry of Local Economy.

How did the pandemic impact on the project and how has the project adapted

One major complication caused by the pandemic was the closure of almost all public (film) archives in Europe. The researchers were not able (or only under adverse conditions) to continue their archival explorations. The oral history research was equally affected by the pandemic and interviews with the elderly protagonists had to be moved to almost one year later.

While the pandemic complicated most of our important tasks, it nevertheless gave us the idea and opportunity of virtual teaching, i.e. to offer a joint international online MA seminar “Visual culture of Reconstruction in Post-WWII Europe” for students from our four universities.

Project Paris conference poster

Interesting collaborations / partnerships

  • Associated (archival) partners of the project: DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut und Filmmuseum Frankfurt, the National Film Archive (NFA) in Prague, the Archivio Nazionale Cinema Impresa in Ivrea, and the Association des Cinémathèques Européennes (ACE) as well as EFG- European Film Gateway
  • Our collaborations with numerous international archives to research films and non-film materials are the most fruitful, such as Cineteca Nazionale (Rome), Archivio Audiovisivo del Movimento Operaio e Democratico (Rome), Historical Archives of the European Union at European University Institute (Fiesole, Florence), Home Movies – National Archive of Family Films (Bologna), Ciné-archives, INA and CNC (Paris), Cinémémoire (Marseille), Médiathèque SNCF (Saint-Denis), National Film Archive in Prague and Slovenský filmový ústav (Bratislava), the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive (Jerusalem),the Landesfilmsammlung Baden Württemberg and the Sächsische Landesbibliothek – Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, among many other
    A large number of the archives mentioned above contributed films to either the thematic collection on EFG – European Film Gateway, one of our associated partners
  • Historiana (, a transnational platform that offers free historical content, ready to use learning activities, and innovative digital tools made by and for history educators across Europe, were we publish the interactive activities of our educational toolkit
  • Other institutions and Associations in the fields of Public History and Preservation of Cultural Heritage include the Istituto “Antonio Gramsci” in Turin, Associazione “Progetto Memoria” and “Istituto Romano per la storia d’Italia dal fascismo alla Resistenza” in Rome, and the “Magnus-Hirschfeld-Stiftung” (Berlin) and the “Koordinierungsstelle für schulische Gedenkarbeit und Zeitzeugenbegegnungen” in Mainz which collaborated in identifying oral witnesses and gathering their memories. With “Istituto Parri” in Bologna and the “Digital Storytelling Lab” at the University of Udine we collaborated for the toolkit. The Národní muzeum and the “International Documentary Film Festiva”l Ji.hlava, cooperated in workshops and hosted curated film screenings and discussion.
Program leaflet for the short films cinema „Čas“ (1953)


Selected conferences/panel presentations (international)

  • Workshop at the (all-virtual) XXVII FilmForum International Film and Media Studies conference entitled “Eyewitnessing the Past. Questioning Film and Media Agency in Collective Memory and Public History” (November 10th, 2020). The panel featured contributions by the CRP group members and by invited scholars (Andrea Peto, Dagmar Brunow)
  • Panel at the (all-virtual) NECS conference on “Shifting Borders, Moving Bodies. Non-Fiction Cinema as a Space for Transition(s) in Post-WW II Europe” (June 9th, 2021)
  • Panel “The Memory of the European World War II Reconstruction Era as Mediated by the Plurimedial Visual Network” at the (all-virtual) Memory Studies Association annual conference, Warsaw (July 8th, 2021)
  • Panel “Rubbles and Vaults. Making Use of the Non-Fiction Film Heritage for Reassessing Trauma and Reconstruction Culture” at the (all-virtual) “MemWar – Memorie e oblii delle guerre e dei traumi del XX secolo” (December 10th, 2020)
  • Presentation: “I recall it almost as a film sequence” at the conference (all-virtual): Oral History and the Media Oral History Society (UK) Annual Conference 2021 (Friday 9th and Saturday 10th July 2021)
  • Presentation “… And from the ruins we arise. Ruins and/as the dawn of a new early in the early post-WWII Czechoslovak and Italian documentaries.” Paris: International symposium “Ruins of the war” (14th – 16th October 2021)


Selected Publications (in English):

  • Edited volume Non-fiction Cinema in Post-war Europe. Visual Culture and Reconstruction of Public Space, Amsterdam University Press, 2023 forthcoming
  • Special Issue of Iluminace. The Journal of Film Theory, “History and Aesthetics, Migrating Archives of Reality. Programming, Curating, and Appropriation of Non-Fiction Film”, 1/2022
    OA: (Proceedings of the mid-term conference)
  • Pitassio and P. Villa, “Mediating Memories. Bridging Gaps Between Non-fiction Film Heritage, Public History, and Media Studies”, in MemWar. Memorie e oblii delle guerre e dei traumi del XX secolo, Genova University Press (forthcoming)
  • Catanese, “Nastri d’acciaio and Vita di un porto. Industrial Poems of Post-war Reconstruction in the Italian Non-fiction Cinema”, OA journal East of Eden/La valle dell’Eden, n. 38 (forthcoming)
  • Val, “From moving images to archival films: contemporary uses of non-fiction cinema in the development of rebuilt cities” in MemWar. Memorie e oblii delle guerre e dei traumi del XX secolo, Genova University Press (forthcoming)
  • Praetorius-Rhein: “Ubiquitous Treasures. Digitization, ephemeral film and local memory”, MemWar. Memorie e oblii delle guerre e dei traumi del XX secolo, Genova University Press (forthcoming)
  • L. Česálková, “Tanks among Lilacs, Uncertain Icons, and the Audiovisual Memory of the End of the WW II in the Czech Republic,” Memory sStudies (in review)
  • A. Průchová Hrůzová & M. Kurz, “Moving Cultural Heritage: The Relationship of the Czechoslovak Short Film and Cultural Heritage Policy from 1946 until 1956”, Journal of Contemporary History (work-in-progress)
  • Haváč,”I recall it as a film sequence. Memory and non-fiction Films.”, Oral History Journal, (work-in-progress)


Project outputs

  • Conference page
    of our mid-term conference
    “Migrating Archives of Reality: Programming, Curating, and Appropriation of Non-fiction Film”,, The website contains recording of all the keynotes, papers and round table discussions
LeHavre reconstruction 1955

Filmstill from „Le Havre 55, Journal Les Actualités Françaises“, 11 novembre 1955, Source and ©: INA

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