In 1992, I conducted interviews with 40 East Germans, most of whom had been leading critics of the East German government, and played an important role in contributing to the bloodless revolution of 1989. The 1992 study was supported by the Max Planck Institute of Berlin. Twenty years later, supported by the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung and the University of East London, I conducted a follow-up study with 15 of the original 40 participants. This group included artists, actors, religious leaders, scientists, and politicians. The same translator, Birgit Schmitt, was used for the 1992 and 2012 interviews. In addition to talking about the changes in their personal lives and their thoughts on aging, we discussed their perception of East German identity, the meaning of forgiveness over time, generational transmission of knowledge, and popular representation of historical events.
We have audio files and transcripts in both German and English for all of the interviews of these 15 participants which were conducted in 1992 and 2012. These materials, along with commissioned portraits and images from the Robert Havemann Archives will be the basis of an exhibition and one-day conference to be held at the German Historical Institute London in October 2014, to mark the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall.