Contact with contemporary witnesses is important to the work of the Berlin Wall Foundation. This oral history work sheds light on everyday life with the Berlin Wall and the German-German division and makes it more understandable. It is also a way to give victims and their relatives a voice. The memories of contemporary witnesses are collected, preserved and made accessible to the public in our archive. We are currently broadening our understanding of subjects related to flight, the Wall and division to include a wide range of historical experiences and topics. These include previously marginalized perspectives, such as the experiences of migrant communities or queer people. We would like to help make these experiences more visible within the culture of remembrance.
We want you
We are collecting memories of the Berlin Wall, German-German division and exodus to the West from the time of Cold War and continuing into the 1990s. We would like to preserve these biographical stories and make them visible and accessible to the public. We are not (only) interested in dramatic events and experiences, but also in everyday experiences that are not usually portrayed. If you want your story added to our archive, we would like to hear from you.
We conduct biographical interviews with contemporary witnesses whose personal experiences are connected with topics related to the Berlin Wall and the German-German division. The focus varies depending on the site. The Berlin Wall Memorial’s collection contains interviews with people who experienced flight and escape, everyday life in East and West Berlin, and life during the period of transformation. The Marienfelde Refugee Center Memorial also focuses on experiences of flight, emigration and German repatriation, as well on people’s experiences after they arrived at the refugee center. Biographical interviews make it possible to take the entire life of an interviewee into account.
Collection & Research Opportunities
Our extensive archive is based on some 500 interviews with contemporary witnesses. They provide access to topics related to the work of Berlin Wall Foundation from an everyday historical perspective. Our archive is open by appointment to journalists, academics, students, pupils and other individuals who are interested in conducting research. Please complete our research form so that we can process your request. If you are interested in speaking to a contemporary witness, you can also send us the completed form and we will explore the possibilities. We are happy to assist you.
You can also conduct your own research on contemporary witnesses on the following websites:
- DDR-Zeitzeuge (in German)
Website of the Coordinating Contemporary Witness Office, a joint service of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial Foundation, the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship and the Berlin Wall Foundation
- Arbeit mit Zeitzeugen (in German)
Working with Contemporary Witnesses, portal of Zeitpfeil e.V., the Bildungswerk der Humanistischen Union NRW and the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Research Potsdam (ZZF)
- Archiv der anderen Erinnerungen (in German)
Oral history project of the Federal Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld on the history of LGBTIQ* in Germany
- Archive of Flight of the House of World Cultures (HKW)
Video interviews with contemporary witnesses who came to Germany between 1945 and 2016
- Berliner Kindheiten (in German)
Online video project by Johannes Zillhardt, interviews with Berliners born between 1915 and 2001.
- Berlin in Bewegung (in German)
Oral history project of the FFBIZ - the feminist archive on the women's lesbian movement from 1968 onwards in East and West Berlin
- Jugendopposition in der DDR (in German)
Online project of the Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft e.V., including interviews with contemporary witnesses
- Online-Videoportal der Beauftragten des Landes Brandenburg zur Aufarbeitung der Folgen der kommunistischen Diktatur (LAKD) (in German)
Interviews with contemporary witnesses on repression and opposition in Brandenburg 1945 to 1989
- Zeitzeugenportal des gemeinnützigen Vereins Zeitzeugenbörse e.V. in Berlin (in German)
for the period from National Socialism to the fall of the Berlin Wall
- Contemporary Witness Office
Online portal of the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship with biographies of contemporary witnesses on the history of the GDR
- Zeitzeugen-Portal (in German)
Online video portal of the Foundation House of History of the Federal Republic of Germany
Work with contemporary witnesses at the Marienfelde Refugee Center Museum
The Marienfelde Refugee Center Museum works closely with contemporary witnesses. Their accounts of their everyday life in the emergency reception camp or in the Marienfelde transitional home, their personal experience of the process, but also the views of residents or employees are important sources.
Work with eyewitnesses at the Berlin Wall Memorial
Since the end of the 1990s, the Berlin Wall Memorial has been conducting life story interviews with contemporary witnesses. Working with them is an essential part of the memorial's work.