“The Light in the Darkness,” a groundbreaking project designed by Luc Bernard and published last year, immerses players in the harrowing experiences of a Polish Jewish family in the years leading up to and during the Holocaust. The game, although morbid, is intentionally realistic, portraying each character’s tragic demise at the hands of the Nazis.
Bernard, a 37-year-old French-English developer who believes in the power of video games to educate players about one of the darkest periods in Jewish history, embarked on his quest to bring Holocaust education to the masses 15 years ago, having come up with the game when he was 21. However, funding challenges hindered the realization of his vision until two or three years ago. He used his own savings to create a virtual Holocaust museum named “Voices of the Forgotten” for the Fortnite platform and released it for free.
The museum provides general information about the Holocaust and includes stories such as the Dutch resistance and the Tripolitania riots, shedding light on one of the bloodiest attacks against Jews in North Africa. While the content is not exhaustive, it aims to spark interest among young players, encouraging them to delve deeper into historical narratives. Due to Fortnite’s Teen rating, Bernard faced limitations on including explicit details in the game.
When the museum was announced on Fortnite, Bernard faced backlash from online Holocaust deniers and white supremacist Nick Fuentes. He was targeted and received a lot of hate and antisemitic comments online, which made him even more motivated to get his game out to the public.
“I want to make Holocaust education available to everyone free of charge,” he said. “Eighty percent of Americans have never visited a Holocaust museum. They are not accessible for most of the population because you can only find them in big cities.”
Bernard didn’t know much about his Jewish roots until he was a teenager. He was raised in a poor area in France and, while in high school, discovered his grandmother was a British Jew. “She helped rescue Jewish children on the Kindertransport,” he said. “I only discovered we are Jewish after a cousin reappeared.”
From then on, he was fascinated with the history of the Jewish people and the Holocaust in particular. He was especially affected by “Schindler’s List” after watching it in school. That is when the idea to create a video game first popped into his head. What better way to get young people to learn about the Holocaust and the Jewish persecution than that? “Video games are bigger than music and movies combined,” he said. “They are a bigger shaper in culture nowadays.
“When people ask me if I do this because I’m Jewish, I say I create games because they’re important. I can’t get over the 6 million lives that were lost, because to me it wasn’t just that they were Jewish but they were also European citizens; it was European culture that got destroyed. The Nazis were successful because there’s no more Jewish life in Poland, no more Jewish life in Europe apart from France, but those are mostly Sephardic Jews.”
There was a poll, Bernard said, that revealed five out of six young people think the Holocaust was exaggerated. “People think the solution is to spend more money on Holocaust museums. They say, ‘Let’s put a million dollars into a Holocaust museum that only 5,000-6,000 kids will see a year,” he said. “One thing that I think is shameful, is how was I able to take over the entire video game space with a game in a Holocaust museum, inside the biggest video game of all time, Fortnite, and how come no one else was able to do it? It doesn’t mean I’m special at all, it just means how on earth we have failed.”
“The Light in the Darkness” and “Voices of the Forgotten” have garnered significant attention, boasting millions of views and thousands of daily visitors. Bernard proudly claims to have surpassed the impact of traditional Holocaust museums, advocating for a shift towards innovative approaches in education.
Despite facing challenges and initial skepticism, Bernard remains committed to his mission to bring a change in Holocaust education to reach a broader audience. He views video games as the future of storytelling and a powerful tool for education, urging others to embrace innovation in this space.
Looking ahead, he shared his plans for his next project in 2025, focusing on the Holocaust in North Africa.
Looking ahead, he shared his plans for his next project in 2025, focusing on the Holocaust in North Africa: “Tears of Libya,” a love story about a young Jewish couple in their early 40’s falling in love in the Tripoli region of Libya, during the Fascist Italian regime. The story follows Neta, a beautiful dancer, and her husband, Sharon, who must traverse the trials of not only building a life together, but enduring the Holocaust, and surviving a world at war.