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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - bologna.lab - Neue Lehre. Neues Lernen

The Berlin Wall – Visual narratives in history and memory

Taught by Elena Demke

Starts 24.10. / Monday, 12:00 - 16:00, Hausvogteiplatz 5-7, Room 0323-26

Language requirements: min. English B2



Course Description

The course focuses on images of the Berlin Wall and the access they provide to the history of the Cold War as experienced and represented from various perspectives: Eastern and Western media, private photographers and agents of the production of collective memory. They ways in which the symbolic power of the Berlin Wall has transcended its historical context will be studied as well. Students will get acquainted with the history of the divided city and the struggles over the legacies of the SED dictatorship. Methodological learning objects concern the analysis and contextualization of visual sources and usages of photography as a tool in social science.


Course Requirements

  • Active participation in class discussions.
  • 2 written assignments:

a. An analysis of historical images of the Berlin Wall (3-5 pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman) due one week before class 6  to me by e-mail.

b. An illustrated essay on symbolism and memories of the Berlin Wall, using a photo-interviewing approach. To be submitted one week before the last class to me by e-mail (in English or German), due one week before class 8 to me by e-mail.

  • Attendance Policy: You may not miss more than 2 sessions. If you do know you have to miss a class, let me know in advance and we can arrange a make-up task, if necessary. In the case of illness or other unforeseen situations, do e-mail me as soon as possible. I would also require some written confirmation of the emergency. Do become familiar with public transport in Berlin and work out in advance how to get to the Berlin Memorial (Class 2). Transportation difficulties are not an excuse for an absence.
  • Plagiarism Policy: The presentation of another person’s words, thoughts, ideas, judgements, images or data as though they were your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally, constitutes an act of plagiarism. The penalty for this is failure of the course. 


  • Aleida Assmann, Cultural Memory and Western Civilization: Functions, Media, Archive, Cambridge 2012.
  • Hope Harrison, Driving the Soviets Up the Wall: Soviet-East German Relations, 1953–1961, Princeton 2003.
  • Hans-Hermann Hertle, The Fall of the Wall. The Unintended Self-Dissolution of East-Germany’s Ruling Regime, In: Cold War International History Project Bulletin, pp. 131-164, retrieved from: http://zzf-pdm.de/Portals/images/mitarbeiter/2009_04_08_CWIHP_Bulletin_12_Hertle_Fall_Wall.pdf
  • Alf Lüdtke, The History of Everyday Life: Reconstructing Historical Experiences and Ways of Life, Princeton 1995
  • Peter Schneider, The Wall Jumper, London 2005
  • Jens Schöne, The Peaceful Revolution – The Path to German Unity, Berlin 2009.
  • Julia Sonnevend, Stories without Borders. The Berlin Wall and the Making of a Global Iconic Event, Oxford 2016.