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Bringing German history online

By Kay Oberbeck

Director of Communications And Public Affairs of Germany, Austria, Switzerland

Cross posted from European Public Policy Blog.

It’s a new way of writing history. Today, we are joining with Germany’s public TV broadcaster, ZDF, German weekly magazine "Stern", and other German marquee brands such as Bertelsmann, Robert Bosch, Daimler and Gruner+Jahr, to launch “Memory of the Nation” (“Gedächtnis der Nation”) - a video platform dedicated to presenting the “collective memories” of German people throughout the 20th and the beginning of the 21st Century.

The project takes inspiration from the Shoah Foundation in Jerusalem, which records the experiences of Holocaust survivors. Similarly, "Memory of the Nation" provides more than a traditional historical archive. Thousands of prominent and ordinary people are being interviewed, and their personal accounts turn abstract history into real, emotional experiences. 

This project is special, not just because of its content, but also because it is universally accessible via the Internet. Viewers would be unable to peruse their personal histories via traditional media in their own time, and on their own terms. Here, viewers choose what they want to watch - and are able to add personal details and observations to the stories.

Both young and old are invited to contribute. A ZDF team criss-crossing Germany in a "century bus” already has recorded more than 8000 hours of video interviews with eyewitnesses of historical events. Viewers are encouraged to upload their own videos through a second YouTube channel “Our History” (“Unsere Geschichte”). This interactivity ensures the platform will become a living resource for disseminating and learning about German history.

Google Germany and YouTube are excited to support this unique project. We have created a special interface for this channel that allows users to view the videos on a timeline, as well as search by topic, eyewitness or personality as well as specific keywords.

A non-profit group called "The Memory of the Nation" is spearheading the project. Germany’s Federal President Christian Wulff is patron. The Board of Trustees includes personalities such as former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and literary critic icon Marcel Reich-Ranicki. We’re delighted that so many prominent players in German society have come together and embraced the Internet to increase understanding of German history and culture.