Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


BERLINER GESCHICHTSWERKSTATT (Berlin History Workshop), established in 1981 in Berlin-Schöneberg, is a historic society with focus on oral and micro history: both fields often neglected by the academic historians whose interests tend to be broader.

The society aims to present the past from a more individual, more personal point of view. In the midst of big historic events and the debates about them the stories of private people often get lost and go unnoticed.

That´s why its important to cast the spotlight on them as well. Our empathy for and the understanding of the past tend to grow if we can see it from a simple perspective of somebody directly affected by the events. Especially if we can follow them literally step by step on their journey through that past .

The smartphone app released by Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt focuses on the topic of forced labour in Berlin during the Nazi era. By following the former Nazi slaves along their old paths through the city we are offered a unique chance to learn the reality of their lives in an unfiltered, first-hand way. The voices of the people, often so calm and so matter-of-fact, are a facade behind which the horrors of the last war are lurking.

Those stories are also evidence to what often seems to be overlooked: the war involved the nations but what it destroyed was people like you and I.

Nazi slaves on their way to work (photo: Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt)

Nazi slaves on their way to work (photo: Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt)

Here is how the society itself introduces the “Forced Labour” app (available for free for both IPhone and Android-phones):

Five tours take you through Nazi era Berlin. Witnesses tell of factories and camps. Photos and documents show both victims and perpetrators.

Berlin was a centre for forced labour during National Socialism: Between 1938 and 1945, half a million forced labourers – men, women and children – had to work in factories, services and households in Berlin, more than in any other city in Europe. Kept separate from German society, they lived in over 3000 camps, right in front of the houses of the civilians. In interviews and letters they talk not only of work, hunger, violence and bombs, but also of love and friendship. Now, the memories of these unvoluntary Berliners are brought to life through interview excerpt, photos, documents and maps.

Follow their path with a multimedia guide either on foot, by bicycle or with the S-Bahn! Download the tours in WLAN and experience the everyday life of forced labourers throughout Berlin. You will not only discover places that are not listed in guidebooks, but also find traces of long forgotten stories at well-known spots.

Five tours are available for download:

A Pole in Berlin
Following the steps of Józef Przedpełski. The 23 year old worked for the Reichsbahn and was housed in a school. From S-Bhf. Bornholmer Straße to S-Bhf. Gesundbrunnen

Victims and Perpetrators
Through the centre of the Nazi regime: the ministries and offices that organised the work assignments were in the areas around Wilhelmstraße. From Brandenburger Tor to Lindenstraße

In the Factory
To the factories of the famous Berlin industrial group AEG. Witnesses from Poland talk about forced labour and everyday life in Berlin. Around Humboldthain

Forced Labour was Everywhere
The 500,000 forced labourers were everywhere: in the neighborhood, at the airport and at the cemetery. From Potsdamer Platz to Hermannstraße

Through the City of Camps
Through the city with the S-Bahn: former forced labourers tell of their life among the Berliners. From Bahnhof Zoo to Schöneweide.

The download link is available here.

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