Contemporary Witnesses

Online platform "Zeitzeugenbüro"

Historisches Fotos zum Mauerfall 1989In 2009, the Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany, in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media and the German federal states, set up an online platform listing contemporary witnesses. Contemporary witnesses to the Communist dictatorship in East Germany can be contacted through the platform (www.zeitzeugenbuero.de) and invited to speak with young students who did not experience this period in their own lifetimes.

The main objective is to support schools and extra-curricular educational institutions of historical-political education in their work. The contemporary witnesses platform represents a forum in which contemporary witnesses can put a face on historical events. The aim is to bring together the contemporary witnesses’ willingness to speak about their lives and experiences with students’ interest in history.

The platform facilitates reading about the contemporary witnesses’ biographies and even contacting them directly via the contact form. The contemporary witnesses are available for events, presentations, discussion meetings and talks.

Furthermore, the online platform allows for comprehensive research on specific topics and key terms as well as memorial sites which, for example, may be suitable for field trips. In addition, the platform offers relevant materials for preparing classroom lessons or events. The most prominently (but not exclusively) featured central topics include: the construction of the Wall on 13 August 1961, the People’s Uprising on 17 June 1953, the Peaceful Revolution of 1989/90, as well as ‘Germans in the GULag’, ‘Early Resistance in the Soviet occupation zone / GDR’, ‘Young people under the Communist dictatorship’, ‘flight, escape helpers and purchased freedom’, the ‘Women’s Prison Hoheneck’ and ‘The Church under Communist Dictatorship’.

Complemented by a wide range of didactic materials, the platform moreover offers a whole set of classroom lessons.

Announcements of current events and publications, contemporary witness reports and invitations to advanced teacher trainings round out the platform’s content, continuously raising awareness of the relevance and significance of the question of democracy and dictatorship in post-war Germany.

The platform also contains an English section. More than 40 contemporary witnesses are introduced here who are available for discussions and interviews in English. Last but not least, there is a list of suggestions for further English-language materials, exhibitions, documentaries and books for deepening students’ understanding of the subject in the classroom.

The platform can be used free of charge.

www.zeitzeugenbuero.de