Contextualising Data: Case Studies

A database is an incredible tool – a digital space whose sole purpose is to organize huge amounts of information. That information can be made accessible, or it can simply be kept in its recepticle for safe keeping. However, as its name makes quite clear, a database deals with ‘data’. It is not space for the presentation of the data’s meaning. Storing data, the stories behind the data often are lost. Without contextualisation, the potential for data remains unlocked.

But how do you make the stories the data tell accessible on a technological platformfor those outside specific research groups? How can we prepare the data in a way which ‘breathes life’ back into the digits and equasions?

We decided to try to open the data up by writing ‘Miniaturen’ – short “biographies” of companies and the people involved in it. Of course, theses case studies cannot possibly do justice to the complexity of development that comes with any enterprise, let alone a life. However, the ‘Miniaturen’ aim to shine a light on something or someone that no longer exists, with the hope that this light helps create some sort of shadow of that which was systematically and aggressively destroyed by the Nazi Regime. At times the miniatures are “special” cases that caught our eyes; but quite often we were asked about a company by the families of their owners who then provided us with extra material such as photographs.

The database is a research tool, but research in itself stems from many motivations. In our case, where the data relates to persecution and murder, the motivation to research is rooted in the need to understand the intricate relation between violence and bureaucracy, and how segregation worked in economy – and in city space. Another important motivation, and one often expressed by descendants of the affected, is to create a face and a space for those who the perpetrator (in this case the Nazi state) tried to erase.

It is unfortunately impossible for our small research team to create these ‘miniatures’ for every affected person and business in the database, but by creating as many as possible we hope that not only will these lives be given face and space, but also that other researchers will be able to use the database as a tool to shine a light on the many other Jewish businesses in Berlin which suffered the consequences of National Socialist antisemitism.

Bethan Griffiths

Cite this blog post
bethangriffiths (2022, April 19). Contextualising Data: Case Studies. Database of Jewish-Owned Businesses in Nazi Berlin. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from

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