Historical Witness

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The Museum’s signature Historical Witness Project began as a series of recorded conversations with collectors who have donated items to the Wende in order to capture the history of objects. It is integrated into The Museum’s ongoing exhibition Facing the Wall: Living With the Berlin Wall, which traces the personal stories of four individuals intimately associated with The Museum: a West Berlin wall painter, Thierry Noir, (view The Wall Project), an East German border guard, Peter Bochmann, (view Peter Bochmann Collection), a day visitor from the West, Alwin Nachtweh, and a former East German Stasi officer, Hagen Koch. Exploring the complex, interconnected, and often contradictory nature of history seen through the lenses of these four individuals living at the Wall, The Wende’s exhibition and Historical Witness Project recreate the place where the realities of political ideology and personal experience came face to face (view Current Exhibitions).

With support from Fiona Chalom and Joel Aronowitz, the Wende Museum's Historical Witness Project has recently expanded to include the reflections of scholars, artists, filmmakers and average citizens of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, as well as the testimonies of Albanian political prisoners and victims of persecution collected by the Albanian Human Rights Project (see below). Their personal experiences shed light on artifacts in the collection as well as issues and topics that are relevant to the Museum’s mission.  Over the next several years, the Museum plans to significantly increase the number and diversity of these recordings, make them available online and incorporate them into programs and exhibitions.  

We invite members of the community to share memories of their lives behind the Iron Curtain by contacting us at HistoricalWitness@wendemuseum.org.  




Albanian Human Rights Project (AHRP)

Maks Velo
Maks Velo, The Dictatorship, 1990-93

The Wende Museum serves as research repository for the historical witness videos collected by the Albanian Human Rights Project, a U.S.-based non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, filming, and preserving the testimonies of Albanians who were politically imprisoned or interned from 1944-1991 during Albania’s communist regime. These unique primary sources, more than 70 in number and still growing, document a range of individuals’ experiences of political repression. The Wende is working with the AHRP to translate and make accessible to English speakers this vital resource for scholars, students, and the general public.

"I believe that this series congealed over time while I was in prison from 1978 to 1986. They had already become images in my mind at that period.  I had only to put them on paper…When I completed the series I felt liberated. I breathed with relief just as I did the day I was released from the SPAC prison camp. It is a series on the violence of investigation, and the violence of life in prison, for Communism was a system based on crime."

-Maks Velo