World War II, retweeted

By Theresa Mallinson 10 November 2011

Want to brush up on your knowledge of the Second World War, but don't have the time? No excuses, these days it's as easy as following the @RealTimeWWII Twitter account. By THERESA MALLINSON (@tcmallinson).

On 31 August 2011 a replay of World War II began – on Twitter. Alwyn Collinson, who studied history at Oxford, launched his @RealTimeWWII account with a tweet stating: “SS troops dressed as Poles are attacking radio transmitter in Gleiwitz, to provide pretext for Germany to attack Poland.”

Since then he’s posted more than 800 tweets, and there will be thousands more to come, as Collinson attempts to document World War II in real time – albeit 72 years later. “I’m hoping to use Twitter to help bring the past to life, helping people understand the past as people at the time saw it, without the benefit of hindsight,” he told the Telegraph. “I want them to see that people then were just like they are.”

Collinson prepares the Tweets a few days in advance, and they are posted via tweet-scheduling service SocialOomph. “This lets me tweet events at the actual times they happened”, Collinson told the Next Web. “I have no particular desire to tweet at 4am – most major attacks during the Second World War started at dawn. It also lets me space non-time-specific events out through the day, so as not to overwhelm people with a massive dump of information.”

This September, The Guardian tried a similar but different Twitter project to mark ten years since 9/11. However, the @911tenyearsago account attracted a barrage of criticism and was swiftly closed after only 16 tweets. Distance brings perspective though and Collinson’s project, which “reports” on events that happened decades rather than years ago, has so far escaped censure. DM


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