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Deaths at the Iron Curtain

Online Manual Developed at Freie Universität Berlin Is Now Available

№ 178/2020 from Oct 02, 2020

A research consortium from Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Greifswald, and the University of Potsdam published a digital handbook with biographies of men, women, and children who perished at the Iron Curtain. With the handbook, which was published on the 30th anniversary of German reunification, it is possible to search online for the biographies and circumstances of death of victims of the GDR border regime at the inner-German border. The handbook also records the biographies and circumstances of death of GDR refugees whose attempted escapes ended tragically at the borders of other Eastern Bloc countries or in the Baltic Sea. In the research project, which was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research since November 2019, researchers at the Forschungsverbund SED-Staat at Freie Universität in cooperation with researchers from former Eastern Bloc countries investigated border incidents at the Iron Curtain in which GDR refugees, and in some cases, citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, were killed. The research team at the University of Greifswald has been conducting research since July 2019 on the failed escape attempts in the Baltic Sea in which GDR citizens were killed.

The findings of the two research teams will gradually be incorporated into the online manual, which will be available on the Internet as of October 3, 2020, with some of the findings already available. The biographies can be researched online using map sections as well as a filter and full-text search. Dr. Jochen Staadt, lead investigator in the research center Forschungsverbund SED-Staat, points out, “With the maps and the filter facets, it is possible to visit the regional locations of the incidents at the Iron Curtain and to understand the origin of those affected and their escape routes.”  The manual is intended, in particular, for schools and regional institutions devoted to political education. However, it is also intended for relatives, friends, and other contemporary witnesses who might be able to contribute additional information or correct the reconstructed biographies. Excerpts from interviews with contemporary witnesses have already been included in the manual. At a later date, additional interviews conducted and processed by the Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS) at Freie Universität Berlin will be made available in a digital interview archive for research and educational purposes.

The Biographical Handbook is an Open Encyclopedia System Application (OES) developed by the Center for Digital Systems of the University Library at Freie Universität Berlin. The OES is a standardized open source platform that can be used to create and publish open access online encyclopedias in the fields of humanities and the social sciences.

Link to the Biographical Handbook: https://todesopfer.eiserner-vorhang.de/

Homepage of the research consortium Eisernen Vorhang – Tödliche Fluchten und Rechtsbeugung: https://www.eiserner-vorhang.de/projekt/index.html

Further Information


Dr. Jochen Staadt, Forschungsverbund SED-Staat, Tel.: +49 30 838-55562, Email: j.staadt@fu-berlin.de