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Source: Koerber Foundation In the 2018/19 call for proposals »It can’t go on like this. Crisis, Upheaval, Awakening «, Michael Schmitzer’s contribution was awarded a state prize. He researched the consequences of the construction of the Wall for the students of a West Berlin school in the immediate vicinity of the border.

The 17-year-old’s enthusiasm for history is unbroken, as demonstrated by his participation in various award-winning activities and currently his voluntary cultural year in the Nuremberg School Museum. Lisa Querner spoke to him: “Berlin crisis – life crisis for students?” Michael’s former school, the Canisius College in Berlin-Tiergarten, was right on the border in West Berlin at the time of the German-German division. The construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 finally separated Berlin and with it the student body of the then all-boys school. With the help of yearbooks and conversations with former students, he investigated the specific effects this had on students from both parts of the city. The search for clues brought personal stories to light: Some students from the East fled to West Berlin in order to be able to continue going to the same school. For the mostly West Berlin students, everyday life quickly returned. Contact with classmates across the border was often broken. What was irritating for Michael was the indifferent reaction of the school at the time: “Class starts again after almost six weeks of relaxing vacation.” “Personal consequences often go unnoticed” Looking back, he describes the writing of the final text as very challenging. “Doing justice to history” and correctly reflecting perspectives was new territory for the then 15-year-old. It was definitely worth it, because his view of his school has changed for him. Many a dent in the banister is now a relic of bygone days. Michael found the conversations with contemporary witnesses to be particularly formative. Asking them questions and being able to listen to their stories open up new access to the past – and it’s a lot of fun. “School lessons are more about the big story. Personal consequences often go unnoticed. «Only through the perspectives of contemporary witnesses did this aspect become visible and made the time of the building of the Wall more tangible for him. e-Commemoration Campus “Beyond the crisis” Eustory, the network of European history competitions, organized a project in the autumn in which around 40 award winners from all over Europe met digitally with guests from various European institutions. In view of the corona pandemic, they asked themselves questions about how people deal with crisis situations in various workshops. Michael was one of them and grappled with his grandparents’ childhood during World War II. He received support and tips from employees of the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo, who reported on their experiences. »At the history competition, I conducted the interviews as it came into my head – very instinctively. With the advice, the interviews could now be conducted more confidently. «Michael was particularly impressed by the exchange with young people from different European contexts. “Getting to know new perspectives and becoming aware of them is made possible by such a project. It would be enough for one or two people to take it with them for thought. ”Because the question of how we are today and where we are today determines perceptions of the past. The fact that digital formats are becoming increasingly important in times of a pandemic is also evident in historical topics . Michael sees a great advantage in the fact that digital museum exhibitions can be visited regardless of location. “It’s also worth taking a quick look.” However, the challenge with objects is to transfer the spatiality of these onto a two-dimensional screen. Reality and digital means should fertilize each other, because both have strengths and weaknesses. “Museums as we know them will not become superfluous.” A contribution to the series: “Commitment and impact on site”: Award winners report on the year after their participation in the Federal President’s history competition. “In this series we present award winners More about the history competition


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