Archive of the GDR-Opposition at the Robert Havemann Society
10437 Berlin Schliemannstraße 23 , Germany
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Provenance and cultural activities
In November of 1990, multiple members of the ‘New Forum’ (Neues Forum) civil rights movement including Bärbel Bohley and Jens Reich founded the Robert-Havemann Society. Two years later, the Archive of Opposition to the GDR was opened. The purpose of this institution is to provide political and civic education utilizing a differentiated approach to the past. The collections preserved in the Archive should not only be regarded as important to the cultural legacy of the GDR but also as essential for the construction of a corrective historical narrative standing in sharp contrast to the official documents of the state and party organs of the GDR.
The papers of the New Forum movement as well as the estate of Robert Havemann, a physicist and well-known GDR dissident, formed the basis for the archive’s original collection.
In 1993, the Matthias Domaschk Archive was incorporated into the Archive of Opposition to the GDR. This Archive consisted of materials from the East Berlin environmental library. The environmental library was located in the basement of the Zion Church. From 1986, it quickly developed to one of the most important meeting places for leftist dissidents within the GDR. This can be attributed to the only printing press not controlled by the state existing on the premises of the Church. Two of the most well-known Samizdat publications, 'Environmental Leaflets' (Umweltblätter) and ‘Borderline Case’ (Grenzfall) [Grenze = border, Fall = case, thus "Grenzfall" can be understood most plainly to mean 'borderline case'. Nevertheless, as fall can also be used as a verb in German analogue to its use in English, 'Grenzfall' can allude to a border falling or being torn down] were produced using this press. The East Berlin environmental library received international attention after state security services raided and briefly arrested activists there in 1987.
A fourth important source of archival material, in particular for the History of the East German Women’s Movement is the 'Grey Zone Archive' which until 2003 was held by the Robert-Havemann Society before full integration into the Archive of Opposition to the GDR.
From inception, the Archive of Opposition to the GDR has sought to integrate smaller estates and collections. Presently, nearly 200 prominent and lesser-known figures have contributed collections and estates, touching on all aspects of opposition and resistance within the GDR. The Archive seeks to encourage public engagement with its collection as well as exhibitions on significant anniversaries such as those commemorating the 'Wende' (the end of the GDR) and the Peaceful Revolution in the GDR in 1989/90.
Description of content
The collected documents cover all aspects of opposition and resistance within the GDR. In addition to the four collections described above, the archive also houses numerous posters, banners, audio files, films and Samizdat literature as well as a collection of museum objects, press reports and documentation detailing repression in the GDR.At inception, the Archives’ collections focused on the social and political movements of the 1980’s, but over time have grown to include source material from earlier decades as well. Presently, material from throughout the entire lifespan of the GDR can be accessed. Owing to its collections from Roland Jahn or Jürgen Fuchs, the Archive also uniquely offers material concerning forced migration.
In total, the Archive of Opposition to the GDR has 700 meters of documents with a further 200 meters of records awaiting processing.
- clothing: unknown quantity
- graphics: unknown quantity
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 1000-
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
- memorabilia (posters, flyers, stamps, etc.): 1000-
- music recordings: unknown quantity
- paintings: unknown quantity
- photos: 1000-
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
- video recordings (including oral history recordings): 1000-
- voice recordings (including oral history recordings): 1000-
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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- Federal Agency for Civic Education
- Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship
- Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media
- German Federal Cultural Foundation
- German Lottery Foundation Berlin
- Regional Commissioner for the Documents of the State Security of the former GDR
Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Baumann, Christine. 2006. Das Literaturzentrum Neubrandenburg 1971- 2005. Literaturpolitik zwischen Förderung, Kontrolle und neuer Gesichtslosigkeit. [The Literary centre Neubrandenburg 1971-2005. Literary policy between promotion, control and new facelessness.] Berlin: Schriftenreihe der Robert- Havemann- Gesellschaft.
Florath, Bernd. 2007. Opposition und Widerstand in der DDR 1961-1990. Ein archivübergreifendes Bestandsverzeichnis. [Opposition and resistance in the GDR. An overall inventory of records] Berlin: Robert- Havemann- Gesellschaft.
Kowalczuk, Ilko- Sascha., and Sello Tom. 2006. Für ein freies Land mit freien Menschen. Opposition und Widerstand in Biographien und Fotos. [For a free country with free people. Opposition and resistance in biographies and photograpies.] Berlin: Schriftenreihe der Robert- Havemann- Gesellschaft.
Krone, Tina (Hg.). 1999. Sie haben so lange das Sagen, wie wir es dulden. Briefe an das Neue Forum September 1989 bis März 1990 [They will be in charge as long as we tolerate it. Letters to the New Forum September 1989 until March 1990] Berlin: Schriftenreihe der Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft.
Pingel-Schliemann. 2004. Zersetzen. Strategie einer Dikatatur. [Breakdown. A Strategy of a dictatorship.] Berlin: Schriftenreihe der Robert- Havemann- Gesellschaft.
Author(s) of this page
- Sonnenberg, Uwe
Krone, Tina , interview by Sonnenberg, Uwe, April 28, 2016, January 24, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection